If you have lived here for any length of time, this lady’s voice has been in your car, your home, your workplace and possibly even in your head if you exercise while listening to classic rock. Jeri George is undeniably one of the most recognized voices in our radio market.
I have had the honor of enjoying her friendship for more years than either of us will admit at this point. Her heart and her personality are a part of the tradition of our region and her family roots run deep here. If you have a minute, here is the story behind a remarkable person and how she ended up with a remarkable career.
BRIAN: Jeri, thanks for taking time to talk with me. Tell folks who don’t know you very well about where you grew up and how it shaped who you are.
JERI: I grew up an Air Force brat, born in Mississippi and lived in Florida, Massachusetts, Texas, Alaska, Germany and Michigan before moving to Tennessee as a teenager. As you can imagine, I have the utmost respect for our military and pride in our country. If the National Anthem comes on in the middle of the night and I’m the only one in the room, I stand up!
BRIAN: We share a common attitude that we really like it here and you have built your career in this market because of that. What is it about this region and the people that make you love it here so much?
JERI: This is home to me. My parents were both from Kingsport, so when my Dad retired, we came back here to be near family. My parents used to go parking on a hill in Colonial Heights when they were younger and while visiting between moves, they went to check it out. There was a house sitting there for sale, so they called and bought it without even going inside, because of where it was located, and then rented it out until we came back here to live. I love the mountains and the caring spirit of the people who live in this area.
BRIAN: Classic rock is truly the music of our generation. How did you end up in radio and why have you chosen to stay at one station for so many years when most people in radio tend to move around throughout their career?
JERI: My friend, Bill Beason, was working nights at AM 16 WJSO and invited me to visit while he was on the air. He made a tape of me, told me what to say, how to say it and made me sound really good, but I thought it was just for fun. The next day, while working at Red Pig BBQ, I got a call from Don Dale, the Program Director at WJSO and he offered me a full time job working overnights when the station got their license to stay on 24 hours a day. I was in broadcasting at ETSU and had taken every television class they offered, but knew nothing about radio. He said I had six months to learn, gave me a key to the station and after they signed off at dark, I would go in and learn how to run the equipment. I started working there full time at the age of 20, in October of 1979.
One morning right before 6am while on the air, I got a call from Don Gibson, the Program Director at AM 79 WETB and he offered me a job working weekdays from noon-3pm making more money. I had never even met him, but I accepted the job and started working for him two weeks later. FM started taking over AM stations and WQUT was where I wanted to work, so I called the Program Director Jay Christian and asked him to critique my air checks to help me improve. I didn’t work for him, so he had no reason to be nice to me, and he wasn’t, but that’s how you learn and it really helped me. A year later, on April 2, 1983, I came to work at WQUT and never left. Over the years I’ve had offers to move to other markets but I love it where I’m at.
BRIAN: Family is a huge part of life for everybody. I know you have a grandbaby you are so very proud of. Will you tell us a little about your family and why family matters to you so much?
JERI: I come from a small family. Fortunately I still have my parents, Bill and Jean George and they live about two minutes away from my house. I’m 12 years older than my brother, Darby, who lives in Fort Mill South Carolina with his wife, Christy, and kids Bo and Hanna. Bo is 21 and Hanna will turn 21 right after Christmas, they were born in the same year. My daughter Amber Rae lives five minutes away with my grandson, Lake Clendenin and his dad, Michael. Lake is only two years old but it seems like he has been around forever. He has been a blessing to our family!
BRIAN: I always turn you on during midday on WQUT because of the music and because it is like visiting with a dear friend to listen to you, John and the other DJ’s on there. How can people who might not already listen find WQUT on the dial and learn more online?
JERI: You can hear me weekdays from 10am-3pm at 101.5 FM or you can listen online at wqut.com. Please tune me in!