The pair be­hind the mi­cro­phone

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

When Wil­fred But­ton started host­ing the 800 Coun­try Show on VOWR in 1999, his wife Stella thought her role would be dif­fer­ent from the one she has now.

Stella fig­ured she’d shop af­ter drop­ping off Wilf at the sta­tion at­tached to Wes­ley United Church on Pa­trick Street in St. John’s. Fate had other plans, it would seem. It wasn’t long be­fore Stella was an­swer­ing phones and field­ing song re­quests from lis­ten­ers.

“When he de­cided he was go­ing to try it out, I had no idea I was go­ing to be in­volved. That was go­ing to be a day out-and­about for me,” said Stella. “Now, I drop him off around 9:30, walk around the mall for a bit and then head back to the stu­dio.”

For the past 16 years, the Lead Cove couple has trav­elled the high­way in or­der host the show ev­ery sec­ond Satur­day from 12-3 p.m.

Work for the show be­gins long be­fore Wilf en­ters the stu­dio and starts pulling the vinyl and CDs. It starts in the fam­ily home dur­ing the week lead­ing up to the show. He tin­kers with the lineup mul­ti­ple times be­fore the big day.

“I’ll do a lot of prep for my pro­gram at home,” said Wilf. “I’ve got my sheet done up. I’ll go over my files and write in my records so that when I go in I just have to go find it, check it out and make sure it’s there.”

Stella makes sure her hus­band gets all of the re­quests for songs, birth­days and an­niver­saries for the day. It can get hec­tic at times.

“There’s a lot of phone calls and it’s a busy pro­gram,” she told The Com­pass. “Some­times you can tell by the time of the day when some­one is go­ing to call and re­quest a song.”

Giv­ing it a go

Be­fore tak­ing over in the stu­dio, Wilf was an avid lis­tener to the 800 Coun­try pro­gram. He’d plug in his head­phones and lis­ten when­ever it came on.

“I used to get on Stella’s nerves,” said Wilf. “I’d be walk­ing around the house and Stella would speak to me but I wouldn’t hear her.”

At the rec­om­men­da­tion of his wife, Wilf called John Tessier, the sta­tion man­ager, to see if there were any open­ings. VOWR was full at the time, but Tessier pledged to give him a shout if some­thing be­came avail­able.

He didn’t think any­thing of it un­til in Septem­ber when his phone rang and on the other end was Tessier offering Wilf a po­si­tion.

“He won­dered if I’d like to go in and try out,” said Wilf. “I went in for an in­ter­view and Stella went too. He asked if she’d like a po­si­tion too and that’s how it started.”

Long dis­tance cor­re­spon­dence

In the early days of his show, Wilf was reach­ing lis­ten­ers who could tune in to the ra­dio sta­tion on the is­land.

Nowa­days with VOWR stream­ing pro­grams on the In­ter­net, the host sud­denly has a larger, broader au­di­ence. Tucked in a pocket of his brief­case is a beige folder with the ev­i­dence peo­ple far­ther away are hear­ing his voice over the air­waves and cy­ber- space.

The folder con­tains emails from lis­ten­ers. They’re New­found­lan­ders away in Alberta, Amer­i­cans from Alabama and oth­ers send­ing him well wishes and other com­pli­ments on things like song se­lec­tion.

“It’s pretty amaz­ing,” said Wilf.

Keep­ing it fresh

Speak­ing of song se­lec­tion, Wilf en­ters the stu­dio with a plan. He likes to make sure ev­ery show is dif­fer­ent from the last.

Some of the artists may be the same as the pre­vi­ous week, but the songs are usu­ally dif­fer­ent.

“I try to make it a va­ri­ety,” said Wilf. “I have a book, its wore out now, that has a list of artists and their songs. I try to make it dif­fer­ent. I’ll do a lot of the same artists be­cause th­ese are my favourites, but I’ll do dif­fer­ent songs.”

If it’s a song with a more mod­ern sound, Wilf will give it the once over be­fore slot­ting it in the pro­gram.

“I’ll give it a lis­ten to see if it fits my style be­fore air­time and see how it goes,” he said. “Ev­ery­one has their own style of mu­sic.”

Wilf ’s style is old coun­try and ma­te­rial from some of the genre’s clas­sic artists like Johnny Cash and Ge­orge Jones.

“It’s not very of­ten a Johnny Cash song isn’t played,” he said.

Then there is the lo­cal con­tent like Wayne Mor­gan, Lloyd Snow and oth­ers.

Over the course of 16 years be­hind the mi­cro­phone and at the phones, the couple has en­joyed in­ter­act­ing with the peo­ple and play­ing some of their favourite tunes. They don’t mind the drive. “Some­times we go in Fri­day night and visit our daugh­ter in CBS,” said Stella.

“We’ve loved ev­ery minute of it,” added Wilf.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Wil­fred But­ton sits be­hind the mi­cro­phone for his 800 Coun­try ra­dio pro­gram on VOWR.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Stella But­ton takes the re­quests for the 800 Coun­try ra­dio pro­gram on VOWR.

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