"Hey Fox!" he says while answering an incoming call to the radio station. We've had the same caller pocket-dialing us for 20 minutes.
"Hey Bo!" an actual voice over the phone replies, "Can you put something on the radio for me?"
The caller proceeds to give instruction on what he wants the afternoon personality to repeat on live radio. But Bo Dalton does it a bit differently.
"Can you put that on the radio?" the caller asks.
"You just did!" Bo says as he records the caller, edits the soundbite and makes it ready to playback during the next break.
Bo Dalton, the afternoon personality for The Fox 104.9 FM, a station of the Jonesboro Radio Group, likes to let his listeners take center stage on the air. And his ability to become the listener has given him an arsenal of stories and experiences that he freely shares. I've met Bo during the middle of his broadcast on a Friday evening. He's getting wrapped up in the stories he's telling me, but suddenly spins around in the chair, hits an assortment of buttons on the mixer board and effortlessly controls the faders while beginning to speak across the airwaves. After the break we have a good laugh, listening to another caller he previously recorded describing her road rage, and I ask him how he got started in the industry.
I was in drama…and I ended up doing the [PSA] for our high school senior drama play. I did it all over the phone. I still remember it.
He rambles off the quick spiel.
After they said my name, after it started running, people were like, 'Hey man! I heard you on the radio!' and I said, 'I like this radio thing!'
Bo has a passion for working in radio. Right out of high school, he was in search of any job that would get him in the station. But he was quickly told, much to his dismay, that he needed to have a college degree to enter the field. So, off to school he went, in search of his dream job. It wasn't easy though. He finally begged and pleaded enough to get a one-day-a-week gig at Real Country 104.9 in Fayetteville, 45 minutes away from his hometown of Siloam Springs. It wasn't much, but it paved the way to moving up the ranks, transitioning into a full time job.
My first official full-time gig was a morning show sidekick that paid $400 a month. I was only supposed to be there during the morning show, and it would be four in the afternoon, and I'd be doing commercials.
One day my boss says, 'What are you doing here?'
And I said, 'Doing commercials.'
'You're not supposed to be getting commercials! I'm only paying you 100 dollars a week!'
I didn't care. I was happy to be doing it. I was happy to be relied on and have my name requested. You can just tell if somebody has a passion for it or if they don't. The people who have the passion for it don't ask about the pay or about the hours, they just say, 'Yeah! I'll do it!'
That dedication has stayed with Bo since he started work in 1995. Over these 18 years, he's embodied multiple personalities. If you knew Bo in his earlier years, you might have heard the name Craig Michaels, Wally or even Joe Nasty. Eventually, the name Bo Dalton stuck and has been his on-air pseudonym for 13 years.
Beyond his name, the music has changed a bit as well.
Music is a lot more crossover now. It's no surprise for any song with the exception of George Strait or someone to cross over to The Mix (a pop station). At one time every station in the building except for one, we have 5 stations, was playing Kid Rock 'All Summer Long'. The Eagle played it, The Mix played it, Hot 107.5 played it and The Fox played it…You're not going to hear Nicki Minaj on the Fox, so it doesn't cross over both ways, but Taylor Swift - she's everywhere! You can't hold her down. She's going to be on every station practically.
I was in Texas a couple weeks ago, they're big on Texas country, red dirt country - all of the stations play these songs. Even if you're a country fan, you're flipping through and you're saying, 'What is this? I don't know this song…or this song…' It's all local Texas country artists. I think [with the Internet] you've got a lot more people who were not being discovered before, getting discovered. You have those YouTube artists that are starting to make a splash. It's nothing for someone that has never been played on the radio to have sold albums. Radio doesn't necessarily make and break every artist, but still, most of them that are charting are usually played on the radio. Even if you're able to sell downloads without radio, you can ask any artist, you never have that feeling of respect or acceptance.
I was actually on a CMT special when I was in Greenville [SC]. It was called Kenny Chesney: Total Release. He was on the afternoon show with me and it was right when he got big and was selling out every show. I said, 'You're one of the only A artists that comes to radio stations.' Alan Jackson, George Strait, they don't really go to radio stations even in big markets. They just call in to do interviews. [Kenny] said he asked Randy Owen of Alabama one time, 'Man, when can I stop doin' all this radio stuff?' And Randy said, 'Well, that's easy…when you want to stop selling records.' That's the reason he still comes in. He gets a bad rap, but he's actually a pretty nice guy.
Even with the technology of music changing with satellite radio, iPods, Spotify, etc., radio still plays a large part of our aural culture.
[Radio] is a good gig. People talk about how XM and satellite are going to kill us…well, it hasn't killed us yet! Listenership is still where it needs to be. People still like local radio.
I have to admit, I don't listen to local radio much. But I still see the magic of calling into a radio station and requesting songs, delivering local news and being connected to the community through music. The on-air personalities are the hub of that connection through stories and on-location remotes where the fans meet the voices behind the airwaves. They respond to total strangers that treat them as celebrities, friends and even family. When Bo moved from his morning show on The Mix to an afternoon slot on The Fox, my wife's hour-long commute changed. To her it's just not the same. She felt a connection with Bo as he delved into Hollywood gossip and moderated games of trivia. It's like suddenly having a different passenger in the car. The same 30 songs may play on rotation for a week, but it's the job of people like Bo to inject that element of surprise and novelty that keeps people tuning in day after day.
When not in the radio booth looking over Union street in Jonesboro, Bo continues to push himself personally.
I love doing stuff with the Foundation of the Arts, whether it's on stage acting or behind the scenes helping with sound. I try to keep in shape, I like to run and I'm obsessed with pull-ups. I've got a 178 pound dog that keeps me pretty busy. His name is Big Ric, he is a Fila Brasileiro, the official dog of Brazil. He is affectionately known as 'The Beast'.
Seriously…his dog is straight out of the movie "The Sandlot"…but I digress.
Hopefully, I'm still cranking it out in radio in 5 years. I've been branching out a little more in to some acting stuff. Who knows, in 5 years, maybe I'm man #2 in a convenience store in Mark Wahlberg's next film. (Call me buddy). Radio is still just as exciting to me as it was when I stood outside the door of that country station in Fayetteville, begging for a job 18 years ago.