For 25 years Mid-Shore devotees of classic country music have been calling Randy Tucker early each Saturday morning, requesting a personal journey down memory lane. Tucker, better known by his DJ moniker, Rockin’ Randall, has been more than happy to oblige, forming lasting bonds of friendship with local listeners who never knew, and didn’t care, what his last name was. They just appreciated his voice at the other end of the line and on the air at the end of their week, bringing a magical connection to cherished memories of people and times gone by.
Following a sudden two-month hiatus in November and December 2020, he’s especially happy to be able to keep right on doing it, at a new home, on WHCP, Cambridge Community Radio (“A Great Place to Be”), 101.5 FM and streaming online at whcp.org.
As a high school student Tucker “fell in love with” radio after his older brother Bob began working at WQVA at the Quantico marine base in the 1960s. Eventually enlisting in air force, Bob had a 20-year career in broadcast journalism, stationed at remote locations like Greenland and Guam.
“I watched him do that, and thought to myself, I think I’d like to try that too,” Tucker related. While his first amateur audition tape didn’t land him a job, it didn’t deter him from continuing to pursue his dream. In December 1978, he got a shot at Caroline County’s first radio station, WCTD (the call letters standing for Caroline, Talbot, and Dorchester) at 107.1 FM, “built from the ground up” by Phil Adams.
Featuring a “Current Country” format, Tucker regularly spun 45 singles and albums of artists then riding the charts including Charley Pride, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, and Mel Tillis.
Tucker wore the hat of Sports Director, enabling him to meet area high school athletes he still maintains connections with today.
The station only strayed from playing current Country hits on two occasions–each Saturday afternoon, when it broadcast the Metropolitan Opera from New York, and on Christmas Eve.
“My first Christmas there Phil asked me to come in from 6 PM to midnight, as I was the only single dj; the rest of the guys had families. So, I went in and found myself playing Mitch Miller Christmas songs,“ he recalled with a fond chuckle.
He stayed with the station after Adams sold it to Ernie Colburn in the early 1980s, when it was known as “Super Country 107.1.” In 1988 he moved to Hurlock’s WAAI (the tower is still located there), still spinning a modern country music format.
In 1997, MTS Broadcasting purchased WAAI and WTDK, and the new program director suggested Tucker start a live call-in radio show each Saturday morning. “I could mold it into whatever I wanted it to be, as long as I played classic country music and took listener requests. “He told me, if you don’t get any requests from the listeners, just keep with the format and play the classic country,” Tucker added. He still remembers the first song he played, Patsy Cline’s Walking After Midnight; “wherever I’ve gone after that, I always played that song the first day, including here at WHCP” he said.
Tucker also credits the program director for his adopted radio name. Referencing rowdy country legend Hank Williams Jr, whose first name is Randall, he always teasingly greeted Tucker with a “hey, its Rockin’ Randall.” The catchy nickname appealed to him, and he’s stuck with it ever since.
Grateful as he was for the opportunity to do the show, and though he’d been working with a country music format throughout his radio career, Tucker, who was born in Cheverly, Maryland, moving to the Shore at age 17, hadn’t been raised in a family steeped in classic country.
“Most of what we had around the house growing up was Mitch Miller, my dad’s favorite, and of course we watched Laurence Welk every week, so that’s the background I came from,” he recollected. “I didn’t have a knowledge of country music much from the beginning. But I remember distinctly watching crossover artists like Roger Miller and Glen Campbell on TV, and listening to another crossover artist, Eddy Arnold,” Tucker noted
Feeling the need to educate himself, he began reading a ton of country music star biographies, and he still tries to learn as much as he can. Tucker cites music historian/author Joel Whitburn’s annual Billboard magazine book as being his “go to, because you can go back and see every song that made it to number 1 in the top 100 of any given week.”
In addition to the Ken Burns PBS series documenting country music, Tucker listens to vintage CD recordings of icons like the Carter family, some dating all the way back to the 1920s. Although his show roughly covers approximately the period from 1944 through the mid-1980s, “sometimes I do go back farther,” Tucker related. “I love the roots music, and how it evolved into what we have now.”
His accrued knowledge accompanied a growing love for the genre, particularly Tammy Wynette, whose body of work he especially admires for its authentic emotional honesty. Wynette is one of the many artists he’s featured weekly on his show, along with duos like Conway and Loretta and groups including Alabama, the Oak Ridge Boys, and Statler Brothers (“one of my absolute favorites.”).
He’s also especially proud of specialty shows, such as the recent Memorial Day tribute. But it also means a lot, each week, when callers share their personal stories with him when asking him to play a particular tune, admitting to being so touched he’s broken down and cried on the air.
Over the years he and wife Diane, who met while both working full time at the State Highway Department, experienced the thrill of meeting country music legends including George Jones, Bill Anderson, Alabama, Stonewall Jackson, and Charley Pride, as well as Loretta Lynn, who he chatted with “like a neighbor” when introducing her at the Delaware State Fair.
He credits Diane for unwavering support in staying anchored to home via the radio show every weekend, and in deciding which fork in the road to follow when his show was suddenly discontinued by new radio ownership last November. Considering several options, she advised making a pro and con list, and with WHCP “there were only pros, no cons,” Tucker added. He can’t say enough about station founder and GM Mike Starling for accommodating the call-in classic country format, even installing a phone line into his studio, and for doing “more than anyone ever” to promote the show.
Bruce Patrick, host of the station’s 6-9 weekday “Midshore Wakeup” show, also worked with Tucker during the MTS Broadcasting days. Everyone else, including student engineering interns, has helped him feel right at home.
Along with getting the word of his new radio whereabouts out to his loyal listeners, who flooded his Facebook page with notes of gratitude and despair in November, Tucker is also working on setting up a studio in a home bedroom to enable occasional recording of shows. While he treasures the live broadcast, he’s also eager to enjoy a bit of post retirement travel, postponed by Covid coming right on its heels last December.
For more information visit Rockin’ Randall’s Classic Country on Facebook, and on WHCP 101.5 FM Saturdays 6 to 9 A.M. and at www.whcp.org. Call the studio request line at 443-637-6000, or email rockinrandall@whcp.
Debra Messick is a retired Dorchester County Public Library associate and lifelong freelance writer. A transplanted native Philadelphian, she has enjoyed residing in Cambridge MD since 1995.