I have just learned that Charlie Douglas, one of our long time friends, and one of the great legendary DJ’s of our time, has passed away this past Thanksgiving Day.  I do not have cause of death or age at this time but I will have that information forthcoming.  It is a sad, sad day in our country music industry. 
Speaking on a personal note, when Charlie was on air at WWL New Orleans, and then when he was the all-nighter on WSM here in Nashville, he always had an open door policy for playing new artists records, and I believe I am speaking for many, many artists in our country music industry.  What a sad loss of one of the great pioneers in our in country music radio.  His personality and friendship were for a lifetime for me personally.  Several years ago I spoke with Charlie and he reminded me of two of my records that he played many times, and was always there for so many of us back then.
I cannot count the nights that me and my band would be traveling the roads and listening to Charlie as he kept us awake while driving with the great country records, interviews, and great stories.  He will be missed, but he has left an great mark in our country music industry.
Charlie was residing with his wife in Picayune, MS at time of death.  There will be a memorial service Saturday, December 3, 2011, but I do not have complete information at this time.
I will miss him as we all will.  I ask you to keep Charlie’s family in your thoughts and prayers at this time of sorrow in their life.
If there is a passionate love affair between country music and truck drivers, one of the Cupid figures in the scenario would be Charlie Douglas, a disc jockey who realized it might be worthwhile to act as if his entire audience consisted of truck drivers — which it probably did, since nobody else would put up with such nonsense. Feeling the palpable excitement at the idea of country & western created specifically for truck drivers to enjoy, Douglas both heavily promoted any material of this sort and even made some records of his own on a subject that is the source of many classic country songs. The disc jockey even teamed up with one of the greats of country for truckers, Dave Dudley, creating a delirium of white-line fever entitled Diesel Duets. 

 Douglas, who was inducted into the Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame in 1994, began his radio career in 1953 at KLIC out of Monroe, LA. He moved on to Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Buffalo, Hartford, San Diego, and Miami, but only became a huge force in the country radio wars in 1970 when he started a new five-hour show each weeknight on New Orleans station WWL. This was the Charlie Douglas and His Road Gang show, eventually heard nationwide and involving humorous fictional characters of Douglas‘ creation, such as the imbecile Wichita Beaker. If his decision to pitch a show at truckers was a gimmick, then it was certainly safer than some of the previous escapades he became involved with while trying to make a name in radio. In Texas, he broadcast from a hot air balloon but lost control of the navigation and wound up drifting over the Gulf of Mexico. He is also the first person to broadcast while parachuting from an airplane, although not the first disc jockey who listeners wanted to have thrown out of an airplane. Similar thoughts would accompany Douglas‘ promotional broadcasts while standing in a lion’s cage or riding on the back of an enraged brahma bull. The WWL show ran for a lucky 13 years, and the honors were many. 

Overdrive magazine named Douglas its Trucking Disc Jockey of the Year in 1973, and there were also awards from the Country Music Association. In 1975,Douglas himself went on the road, sending out music to road hogs from 40 different locations in just 50 days. Douglas replaced Chuck Morgan on Music Country Radio in the early ’80s, and from there garnered a spot at WSM in Nashville. He kept the latter position through 1995, at that time focusing full-time on his Compact Disc Xpress company. Recordings Douglas made on his own during his road show era represent this radio genius at the height of his creativity. The collaboration with Dudley has received the gold vinyl reissue treatment from Sun, but the country comedy cassette entitled Me and Dammit Ray, which Douglas created on his own, might only be found by scouring flea markets. The title routine, involving a talking outhouse, is worth sitting through. ~

Eugene Chadbourne, All Music Guide

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One Response

  1. I was in high school and college in the upper midwest when Charlie took over nights at WWL in New Orleans. A number of us were involved in studying broadcasting and several of us spent many nights listening to Charlie’s program. He was one of the greats in terms of building and keeping an audience. There were many greats over the years but in my mind Charlie and Bill Mack were the best.

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