NOLANVILLE — Gaylon Christie stood in front of his speech class and proclaimed, “I’m going to be on the radio.” His peers joked it would take Christie 15 minutes to give the weather forecast.
Christie, who had a stutter at the time, eventually overcame the psychological handicap.
“It was sort of a gradual thing,” said Christie, 76, who lives in Nolanville. “My teacher told me it was a matter of confidence.”
His teachers encouraged him to pursue a career that required him to speak in front of an audience. He didn’t feel qualified to be a preacher, and didn’t like school enough to be a teacher.
A huge fan of local hosts, he built a career around radio. Christie spent more than 50 years in the radio industry, eventually owning his own station, KOOV, which he sold when he retired in 2001.
He will be inducted in the Country Radio Hall of Fame in an induction ceremony at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Nashville Convention Center.
It is dedicated to recognizing individuals who made significant contributions to the radio industry over a 20-year period, 15 of which must be in the country format.
George Strait also will be recognized for his significant contribution to the development and promotion of country music and radio with a career achievement award.
Christie landed his first gig with KTEM in Temple at age 17 after applying for a part-time position while attending Holland High School.
“I went down and auditioned and I knocked them out because they put me on the air 15 minutes a day,” Christie said. “Boy, I impressed ’em good.”
Soon, the music-lover decided he wanted a career in country radio.
From when he first turned the microphone on in 1954 until now, he’s watched the country music industry change from a time when honky-tonk tunes were considered “hillbilly music” to those western songs being widely accepted as a genre of its own.
“We were blessed because this business was growing up right in front of our eyes,” he said. “I was able to do something I dearly loved to do and enjoyed doing and made a reasonable living. That to me is the highlight (of my career).”
Christie conducted hundreds of interviews with well-known musicians who came through the area, including Strait, and spent thousands of hours on-air.
“I was one of those silly morning (hosts). I always loved to cut-up with the audience,” he said. “If a woman was turning 50, I would ask ‘How does it feel to be half (of) 100?”
Sitting in the studio with Christie was an intense learning situation, said Joe Lombardi, who worked with him for 22 years at KOOV.
Christie, a seasoned radio personality and station owner, was well-versed in everything from programming and sales to management.
With the popularity of country music surging, Christie’s innovation kept up with the industry and he passed that knowledge to Lombardi.
“He was very inventive and very creative when he was on the air. He’s very community-minded, just an absolutely great guy,” Lombardi said. “He had a great voice, no question about that.”
Christie also taught Lombardi to be humble on the job when meeting the public and making appearances.
Christie’s wife, Jane, said she is proud he’s being recognized, especially because Christie used his position as a popular radio host to give back to the community through service projects and awareness of different causes.
“He used his talent to do things like that,” she said. “He’s been very involved in the community.”
Although Christie doesn’t know who nominated him, he’s grateful for the opportunity to be inducted to the County Radio Hall of Fame and be recognized for his contribution to the industry. The couple will leave for Nashville this morning.
“All of us in the business realized we had the opportunity to advance something that was really good,” Christie said. “If you ever felt like you deserved the Hall of Fame, then you didn’t. It’s not something you can set out (for). It takes so many people’s efforts and so many people supporting you.”