The pair behind the microphone
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.
Wilfred Button sits behind the microphone for his 800 Country radio program on VOWR.
Stella Button takes the requests for the 800 Country radio program on VOWR.