ATHENS, Ala. - Like television, radio has changed the past 50 years. We found one exception in Limestone County. The sound of Jimmie Davis singing “Someone to Care” fills the airwaves six days a week. Like the line from the song says, “When you need a friend,” radio listeners in North Alabama and southern Middle Tennessee don’t have to look any further than WKAC 1080 AM in Athens.
As the song ends, Corey Hudson moves closer to the studio microphone and says, “Good morning. It’s 8 o’clock and time for another Sick Call program.” Since 1953, “Sick Call” has been a part of mornings like a good cup of coffee. Corey continues, “I believe we have 39 funerals and deaths to announce this morning.”
The half-hour broadcast started on WJMW and later moved to WKAC. It’s been a family affair from the beginning. “I started doing it with Grandmother. I had learned it since I was a little boy sitting on my Granddaddy’s lap. And he used to come on the air and say 'Good morning, it’s eight o`clock. Time for a Sick Call program. We got this many deaths,” Corey said, “And when it went to a commercial, me and Granddaddy would get up and leave, we’d go eat breakfast. He’d leave Grandmother there to do the program.”
Corey’s dad, Jay Hudson started in 1973. Corey joined him in 1999. It’s old time radio. “It is,” Jay said. “That’s all it is.” It’s keeping folks up to date on what’s going on in the community. The mic opens and Jay says, “Happy Birthday to Jackson Bailey and we got one anniversary and I believe it`s number 50 for Jimmy and Sadie Clay. Good friends of ours. Hope you have a good day.”
One thing has changed over the years though. They have to get written permission before they can talk about somebody’s health on the air. “When you’re admitted to the Athens Hospital, they say, 'Do you want your name on the Sick Call?' So we’re still important enough,” Jay said.
So important, that earlier this year, Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks honored Corey and Jay with a key to the city and a certificate of appreciation for being classic southern characters. That they are.
“I ad lib most everything and I just let whatever falls out, falls out,” Jay said with a laugh. It’s kinda like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. “I was doing Hometown’s ad one day and instead of snack cakes, I said they got snake cakes,” Jay said. “Well, Darrell said that everybody come in down there and said, 'Where’s them snake cakes?' So it shows people listen. Even if you mess it up, it don’t make no difference. And we’ve had fun.”
Sick Call is celebrating 65 years on the air. And the next generation of broadcasters will be ready to take over the mic down the road. “His son is already learning it,” Jay said pointing to Corey. “No, it’ll never go away until they just say, 'Leave!' You know, they’ll have to throw us out.”
And with people listening here and across the country thanks to the station live streaming on the internet, that's not going to happen. Sick Call is on the air Monday through Saturday from 8 to 8:30 a.m. The only day the boys take off is Sunday.