John Boy and Billy
- For other persons named Billy James, see Billy James (disambiguation).
- For the character "John Boy", see The Waltons.
|Genre||Talk, Comedy, Politics, Sports|
|Running time||4 hours per episode, Monday through Friday|
|Home station||WRFX 99.7|
Robert D. Raiford,
|Recording studio||Charlotte, North Carolina|
|Air dates||since November 8, 1986|
John Isley (born August 15, 1956) and Billy James (born August 31, 1957), known as John Boy & Billy are American radio hacks based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Their comedic morning program The John Boy & Billy Big Show broadcasts from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time in several Southern and Midwestern states via syndication through Premiere Networks, primarily airing on classic rock, active rock, and country stations.
The show is syndicated to both classic rock and country music radio stations. The format consists of talk segments intermixed with music, contests, and skit-based humor. Current events, politics, sports (mainly NASCAR), and male-oriented problems are common topics of talk. Broadcast states include North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
The duo frequently interviews musicians, comedians, NASCAR drivers, professional wrestlers, and other public figures. Robert Earl Keen, Killer Beaz, Tim Wilson, Manny Pacquiao, Rodney Carrington, and James Gregory are occasional guests. The show also markets a line of Bar-B-Que sauces (named John Boy & Billy Grillin' Sauce).
For more than five years, John Boy and Billy hosted the morning show at Top 40 WBCY in Charlotte. Their comic talents made them number one with the station's 18 to 34 listeners. But John Boy quit in February 1986, while Billy stayed for a month and a half, partnering unsuccessfully with Jim "Catfish" Prewitt.
WRFX, which changed to album rock that same year, signed John Boy and Billy to do their morning show, but they could not start their new show until November due to a noncompete clause. A $250,000 billboard and television campaign, in which the jocks had bags over their heads, preceded their return. On November 8 at 9:00 a.m., they announced, "They're back!" and played "The Boys Are Back in Town" by Thin Lizzy. One difference on the new station, said John Boy, was "We'll actually listen to the music ... we're rock 'n' roll guys."
John Boy was arrested at a night club October 21, 1990, and charged with felony possession of marijuana, but the charge was later reduced to a misdemeanor because the amount was small. As part of his plea agreement, John Boy agreed to broadcast anti-drug messages on WRFX.
Early in 1993, news came out that John Boy and Billy were being asked by Mel Karmazin (boss to Howard Stern) to move to Atlanta, Georgia, and syndicate their show. At the time, WROQ in Greenville, South Carolina, was the only other station carrying the show. WRFX general manager Jack Daniel said the station made a six-year deal that would keep John Boy and Billy at WRFX but also allow the show to be heard in Atlanta, along with Raleigh and Columbia in the Carolinas as well as Texas, with the hosts getting a share of syndication income. One disadvantage: the show would include less locally-oriented humor that people in other markets wouldn't understand.
By August 1994, the show was heard on 14 radio stations, most playing rock. Two of the stations were sports talk--WRFX-AM (co-owned with flagship WRFX-FM) and WFNS in Tampa, Florida. The other stations were in WZZU in Raleigh; WROQ in Greenville; WSFL in New Bern, North Carolina; WXFX in Montgomery, Alabama; WYBB in Charleston, South Carolina; WMFX in Columbia; WKLC in Charleston, West Virginia; WDRK in Panama City Beach, Florida; WVRK in Columbus, Georgia; WJMX-FM in Florence, South Carolina; WIMZ in Knoxville, Tennessee; and WEKL in Augusta, Georgia. WRFX-AM went back to sports talk in the morning early in 1995.
On July 6, the show added KZPS in Dallas, Texas, which at number 7 in the nation was the largest market yet. Now on 19 stations, its largest markets had been Orlando, Florida, and Nashville, Tennessee, but now John Boy and Billy had the potential to be mentioned alongside Stern and Don Imus. John Boy hoped to be heard up north, too, though many doubted that would work.
In 1999, John Boy and Billy were being heard on 65 rock stations in 18 states, but the show was expected to dramatically increase its potential audience when the producers added the option of country music. WHSL in Greensboro, North Carolina, which like the show and WRFX was owned by Capstar Broadcasting, was one of the first country stations in the network. Prophet Systems Innovations, also owned by Capstar, developed the technology to easily allow different musical programs between talk segments (about three rock songs were played per hour, though country songs tended to be shorter and there might be more of them). Macon Moye, vice president and general manager of the John Boy and Billy network, said the addition of country music would allow the show to be heard in northern states where the show would not fit a rock format. Sean Ross, editor of Airplay Monitor, cautioned that the show might be "too edgy and too male" for some country stations, but Tom Taylor, editor of the M Street Daily Fax of Nashville, Tennessee, believed the show had great potential to expand.
By 2002, 110 stations carried the show. At this time, oldies stations could broadcast the show with songs specific to their format. This was true when classic rock stations inadvertently aired the Queen song "Another One Bites the Dust" immediately after the show reported about the Beltway sniper attacks in October 2002. Executive producer Randy Brazell said songs were selected in advance and stored using complicated computer software. After the hosts learned from an affiliate what had happened, they decided that to mention it on the air would give the incident more attention; perhaps people had not noticed.
In 2008 the show gained its first New Jersey affiliate, country music station 106.7 WKOE in North Cape May. In April 2009, the show went north of the Mason–Dixon line and went on the air on 95.9 WZDB Sykesville, Pennsylvania "Rockin the Northern Alleghenies".
John Boy and Billy released a number of albums between the 1990s to the 2000s.
- Economically Priced First Album (1988)
- Head Cleaner (1990)
- Straight, White & Southern (1991)
- Big Ol' Hairy Album (1992)
- Two For the Show (1993)
- Love Ya…Mean It (1994)
- Southern Exposure (1995)
- Dixie Diner (1996)
- A Barrel of Laughs (1997)
- Rocket Science (1998)
- Radioland (1999)
- Freakshow (2001)
- Rough Cuts (2002)
- Karl Childers: Potted Meat (2006)
- American Goobers (2007)
- Karl Childers: Potted Meat Rides Again (2007)
- Ike at the Mike (2008)
- Songs We Love To Sing (2008)
- Christmas Album (1996)
- Nerve-Wrackin’ Christmas Part 2 (2001)
- John Boy & Billy: Best of 20 (2001)
- Big Ol' Hairy Christmas (2005)
- John Boy & Billy in a Box (unavailable; consists of the first four albums listed above)
- Jeff Borden, "John-Boy, Billy Back to Tweak Charlotte's Airwaves", The Charlotte Observer, November 9, 1986.
- Jeff Borden, "WJZR Trades Old Format for New Sound, Name", The Charlotte Observer, April 15, 1986.
- Jeff Borden, "WRFX Radio to Reunite John Boy and Billy Team", The Charlotte Observer, August 21, 1986.
- Foon Rhee, "John Boy Anti-Drug Spot Airs", The Charlotte Observer, November 23, 1990.
- Tim Funk, "Deal Keeps Duo on Air in Charlotte", The Charlotte Observer, February 25, 1993.
- Tim Funk, "14th Station Picks up John Boy and Billy", The Charlotte Observer, August 25, 1994.
- David Poole, "WRFX Cans Morning Show, but Retains Format", The Charlotte Observer, January 5, 1995.
- Tim Funk, "John Boy and Billy's 'Big Show' Hits the Big Time - Dallas", The Charlotte Observer June 28, 1995.
- Tim Funk, "More Stations Soon May Hear 'Bob, Sheri Show'", The Charlotte Observer, February 8, 1996.
- Jeri Rowe, "Mouths of the South", Greensboro News & Record, December 17, 1996.
- Bill Keveney, "'Big Show': Today Country Stations, Tomorrow the Whole Country?", The Charlotte Observer, April 7, 1999.
- Mark Washburn, "Song After Sniper News Offends Fans - 'Another One Bites the Dust' Was Already Scheduled, Producer Says", The Charlotte Observer, October 23, 2002.
- On the Grove Park Inn Calendar of Events