Harley Drew will be stepping away from the mic this Friday for the last time. To even type it out feels weird. Harley has been a fixture on Augusta radio for 58 years. How many people can you recall staying in the same line of work for 58 years? Not many, I’m sure. In radio, it’s almost completely unheard of.
Radio has got to be one of the strangest occupations when it comes to people leaving jobs. We don’t get to leave when we want. It’s almost always in a sudden, unceremonious manner. No goodbyes, no well-wishes, just “hey, we gotta let you go,” and you head straight for the door, do not pass go, do not collect $200. It’s the ugly side of the business. We all joke about it. But the sad reality is that it’s a constant black cloud over each of our heads. Maybe that’s why radio is always listed in the top 10 most stressful careers.
The way it usually works is: You’ll have your morning chit-chat with a friend in the building, maybe catch up about each other’s weekend over a cup of coffee, maybe discuss an upcoming promotion, then five minutes later an email pops up saying that person no longer works with the company. Maybe it’s a budget cut, maybe it’s a business decision or maybe it’s because of bad performance. I’ll never forget laughing with Jordan Zeh over the fact that radio is probably the only occupation where you can get fired because you suck: “Hi, no one likes to hear your voice.” “What? In the building?” “No, in the city. We gotta let you go.” Some say that you’re not really a radio vet unless you’ve been fired at least three times. I’ve been fired four, yet I keep coming back. What is that saying about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? It really is an unstable career, but we can’t seem to stay away. A sane person would probably find something more secure and lucrative. But that proves to be more difficult than it sounds. Radio gets in your blood. The longer you stay in the game, the more you feel like you’d be lost without it.
Still, there are some that manage to get away on their own terms and stay away. 95 Rock’s Matt Stone left years ago, before the station was pulled off the air. He is still at the job for which he left — recording videos about the fun things to do around Jacksonville, Fla., for the Jacksonville Times-Union. The Joe Show left HD983 last year to move closer to his girlfriend and took a social media director job in Orlando. Those are really the only two full-time radio personalities that I can think of that left by their own choice and stayed out. And, now, there’s Harley Drew.
Matt and Joe weren’t in radio nearly as long as Harley Drew. Over 58 years of broadcasting, he is woven deeply into the fabric of Augusta’s radio history. Ever since I was old enough to realize what I was hearing, I’ve heard Harley Drew on the radio. Back then it was “Handsome” Harley Drew. Those were the days that I would sit and listen in amazement because the voice I was listening to was all over the entire city at the same time. Perhaps this gave me my first little taste of the radio bug. My older brother and I would sit and pretend we were talking in-between songs using cassettes and a radio. But Harley was on the air long before that. So long that he actually worked with my dad’s dad, Don “Shep” Shepherd, back when my dad was a teenager.
There’s not many people that give me that kind of awestruck feeling, the same feeling as if you were to meet a big celebrity. The first time was when I got to work with Dickie Shannon when I first began my career. Also, Richard Rogers, Laurie Ott and Bob Smith when I briefly worked for WRDW/News 12. Then, of course, there was Harley Drew. Truth be told, I interviewed for a promotions job with Harley long before I made my Augusta radio debut. It was probably 2003ish. I completely blew the interview because I was so nervous. It was Harley Friggin’ Drew! I had looked up to this guy since I was a child.
To say he’s respected would be an understatement. He’s got piles and piles of awards and accolades. It’s a radio career most people can only dream of. I feel lucky to have worked with him. I wish him the best in his retirement. If anyone’s earned it, he most definitely has.