Michael St. John credits the start of his 53-year broadcast career to a spot that many North Alabamians drive by on a daily basis.
It's possible you've even stopped there over the years, though it might not have been for the same reason St. John did.
Like most teenagers, St. John got a high school job to pick up a little extra spending cash. At age 15, he was hired at Bruno's Supermarket on the corner of University Drive and Memorial Parkway in Huntsville.
"I was a sack boy for one day, and then they put me behind the cash register," St. John said.
Like any job, the boss eventually added on some extra responsibility.
For St. John, it was announcing sales on the store intercom. From savings on sardines to cuts in cabbage costs, if St. John stepped up to the mic, shoppers knew they were going to save some cash.
Then, one day in the 1960s, St. John landed in the right place at the right time. Former WAAY Radio and WAAY-TV owner M.D. Smith III was grocery shopping and heard St. John's announcement. Hearing potential, he offered St. John a part-time job at WAAY Radio.
"Mr. Smith and WAAY Radio, they all allowed me to — when I came home from spring break or Christmas break or summer — to fill in and make a little money," St. John recalled.
After a long career covering everything from news to professional wrestling, St. John turned his focus to radio ownership.
In 1997, he bought Arab-based FUN Radio Group.
There's five sets of call letters, covering eight counties and reaching 350,000 folks.
FUN Media Group stations include:
WAFN-FM 92.7 Arab/Huntsville
WRAB 1380-AM and 107.1-FM Arab
WAFN-AM and 1310-AM Priceville
WTNK 1090-AM; 93.5-FM & 93.9-FM Hartsville/Lebanon/Gallatin, Tennessee
FUN Radio is true local radio, which means a big investment in the community. For St. John, that means giving back to kids.
"I love to go to a career day," St. John said. "One thing that we as being broadcasters today have to get through to the young people is that this is a great career, and this is a great life."
Whether it's encouraging kids to pursue careers in broadcasting or covering high school football games, St. John has a real passion for helping kids in this area.
He asks them the same question Smith III asked him: "Have you thought about a career in radio?"
That passion recently earned him a spot in a place every Alabama broadcaster wants to be: the Alabama Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame. St. John remembers when he got the call.
"She said, 'You have been elected to join the Alabama Hall of Fame — the Alabama Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame,' and I just lost it. I had tears in my soup," he said.
Other inductees this year are "Tall Paul" White and brothers Bill Brennan, Cyril Brennan and Dan Brennan.
St. John is the only living inductee. He calls it an honor.
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