ROGERSVILLE — Phillip Beal, the longtime voice and face of Rogersville’s WRGS Radio, passed away in December of 2015.
On Aug. 3, 2019, the veteran community broadcaster’s legacy will take its place alongside of other legendary radio personalities, past and present, when Beal is inducted into the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame.
Along with Beal, other “Class of 2019” inductees include Ken Berryhill, Philip Gibbons, Bev Johnson, Gene Lovin, Larry Perry, financial advice giant Dave Ramsey, Donna Brake, Ott Devine and Jim Eikner.
Charlie Chase, a Rogersville native who got his own start in radio as a teenager at WRGS, told the Review when the announcement was made late last year, that the honor is well-deserved.
“Phillip was radio in Rogersville,” Chase said from his home in Nashville. “He lived and breathed it. And that’s exactly why he is being honored, because of his commitment to his community through the radio station that is today still so very much a part of Hawkins County.”
Beal told the Review in 2014, as the station was preparing to celebrate its 60th anniversary, that he became involved with WRGS in 1972.
He was working at two radio stations in Johnson City while attending school at ETSU.
“I came back here in 1972 and bought out the family and been here ever since,” Phillip said at the time. “We’re involved with everything that goes on in the community. We’ve been a sponsor of Heritage Days since the very first one, the Fourth of July Celebration since it began. We’re very much involved with anything that goes on in the community. Churches and civic organizations want the radio station to be involved in their event and anything that they’re doing and that’s great for us. It keeps us in touch with what’s going on in the community.”
From the popular Swap Shop to local news to play-by-play coverage of Cherokee High School sports, Beal believed that the station’s hands-on involvement in the community was the key to its continued success.
Chase, who today, with Lorianne Crook, hosts the popular nationally-syndicated show, “Crook and Chase”, is himself a 2013 inductee of the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame, and called WRGS to make the announcement live on the air.
“Phillip was a comforting, trusted voice to those who listened to WRGS,” Chase told the Review at the time of Beal’s death. “He led and taught by example. He didn’t have to preach or badger people. He was a professional from head to toe and I appreciated that. I watched him and I learned so much from him.”
As a teen, Chase recalled Beal sitting high atop a glass-enclosed broadcast booth at the former Rebel Drive-In where Sonic is today located on East Main Street.
“He would play songs that people wanted to hear but the only way you could get a message to him was to drive by and hold up a sign, get a note to him or just yell up at him the name of the song,” Chase laughed. “I remember getting my brother to drive me by to see him because I was so fascinated by this DJ in the glass booth!”
Chase said he believes the success of WRGS was largely because of the “personal” touch Phillip brought to the station.
“He could have easily totally automated everything, like so many of the larger stations are doing, but he learned early on that the key to good radio is keeping that human touch, a real live person as DJ to announce news, weather, and community events, and paying attention to what the people want,” he said. “I hope the people of Rogersville truly understand how much importance Phillip Beal placed in just being a part of that community.”
Chase at the time called Beal’s death a “tragic loss” for Hawkins County.
“He dedicated his life to that community,” he said, adding that he, personally, is “very, very grateful to the Beal family” for everything they did to boost his own career in the country music business.
Other friends and former co-workers were also quick to praise Beal’s legacy.
“My years working for Philip — 23 of them! — were the best,” said Steve Waller, now retired SVP and Regional President of First Community Bank of East Tennessee, and a former news announcer and DJ at WRGS. “There was always laughter around the radio station. In fact, I don’t recall a cross word between us in all those years. Well, there was the time someone asked me if Philip was my father .. and I simply said, ‘yeah’. I don’t think he was too crazy about that! I recall another time that I was on the air one Saturday morning and my lung collapsed! I called Philip, and with no questions asked, he hurried to the station to relieve me. Boy was everyone nervous when Philip, my wife Shirley, and the Rescue Squad all pulled into the radio station driveway at the same time! But that’s just one of many examples of how well we worked together. I said it when he passed, and I still say it today ... I miss my friend.”
When inducted, Beal will join a host of fellow radio personalities as Chase; Charlie Monk (the host of Willie’s Roadhouse, on SiriusXM Radio); Wink Martindale; WSM legend Ralph Emery; Grant Turner, the longtime “Voice” of the Grand Ole Opry; Rick Dees; Pat Sajak; Tennessee Ernie Ford; Hairl Hensley; Bobby Denton; and others.
The induction ceremony will be held at Embassy Suites, in Murfreesboro on Sat., Aug. 3, beginning at 5 p.m. (central time).
Reserved tickets ($90 per person) are required and may be ordered online at http://tennesseeradiohalloffame.wildapricot.org/.
Rooms at Embassy Suites are available at a special rate ($139 using promo code “RHF”) by calling 615-216-5383.
Today, WRGS is managed by Phillip’s widow, Debbie Beal.