published Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Award-winning US-101 personality remembers his early days

US101 personalities Melissa Turner and Bill "Dex" Poindexter hold the CMA Award they won last year for Personality of the Year. The duo host "The Dex and Mo Show" at the station.
US101 personalities Melissa Turner and Bill "Dex" Poindexter hold the CMA Award they won last year for Personality of the Year. The duo host "The Dex and Mo Show" at the station.
Photo by Contributed Photo.

BILL "DEX" POINDEXTER

Hometown: Fort Oglethorpe.

Education: Rossville High, Radio Engineering Institute in Samford, Florida.

Age: 59.

Vocation: Music director and on-air personality at WUSY-FM 100.7.

AWARDS

Country Music Association

• Personality of Year: 1999, 2005, 2010.

• Finalist: 1995, 1996, 1996.

Marconi Awards

• Personality of Year finalist in 1998

Academy of Country Music

• Winner: 2010

• Finalist: 1999, 2001, 2005

As a kid, Bill Poindexter practiced his radio voice in the bathtub at home in Fort Oglethorpe.

When he was a student at Rossville High School, a classmate who had a job at WFLI told him about an overnight disc jockey at another station who was known to pass out during his shift. He said if Poindexter played it right, he could step in and take over.

And that's just what he did.

His first paid job was doing the 6 p.m. to midnight shift at WRIP, a small FM station out of Rossville that played acid rock. He was paid $1.25 an hour.

For the last 15 years, "Dex," as he is now known, has been an icon at WUSY-FM 100.7 and in the country radio business in general. He's as comfortable hanging out with listeners as he is country stars like Kenny Chesney and Blake Shelton, both of whom Dex considers friends.

Dex, along with co-host Melissa Turner, is on the air weekdays from 3 to 7 p.m. with the award-winning "The Dex and Mo Show."

Q: You attended the Radio Engineering Institute out of high school. Does that mean you've always wanted to do this?

A: This is the only thing I've ever wanted to do. I started my first radio job at WRIP in Rossville when I was in high school.

Q: Those were heady times weren't they?

A: Oh, I loved it. I had a friend in high school named Jimmy Bird. He was not even 18 years old and was the afternoon guy at WFLI, the No. 1 station in town. I thought, "Jimmy isn't that smart, so if he can do it, I can too."

Q: What year was that?

A: 1970. I started hanging out with Jimmy at WFLI and the nighttime guy was Gene Lovin, who is still in the market. I got to know Gene real well. Gene lived in an apartment up on Missionary Ridge and after Gene would get off the air at midnight, Jimmy and I would go up there and listen to all these AM stations from around the country.

From up there he could pick up Chicago, St. Louis, stations out of Nashville. Everybody else would be out smoking, drinking or carrying on and we'd be up there drinking a coke or ice tea listening to the radio.

Q: What was the appeal?

A: I don't know. I guess I wanted to be heard. I just loved it. When I was a kid taking a bath, 10 or 11 years old, I would practice my radio voice. I would use a cake of soap like it was my microphone.

Q: You mentioned just hanging out at WFLI. That's sort of how it worked back then wasn't it?

A: Yeah, I suppose it was. Jimmy and Gene told me about this old man that worked overnights on weekends. [He] was bad to drink. They told me if I just went up there and hung out till he passed out, I could fill in.

One Saturday night, sure enough, I went up there and about 2 o'clock in the morning, [he] said "Are you ready to take over? I need to lay down." I wasn't but about 14.

Q: How was that when you went back to school? Were you a minor celebrity?

A: No. I used a fake name. I didn't tell anybody because I was horrible. Only my mom was listening.

Q: What name did you use?

A: Jimmy Martin. Then when I worked at WFLI, I used Ron Ding. Jimmy Bird was the program director and he offered me a full-time job in 1974 and he said "You ought to use the name Dexter." That was what everybody called me anyway.

Q: How did you get on at US101?

A: I got out of radio for about 12 years and worked in the record business. I worked at ABC Records for three years, then at United Artists for a couple and at RCA for about 7 years.

Q: What did you do?

A: I was a pop promotions guy. Basically going around to radio stations to try and get them to play our records.

I couldn't handle the lifestyle anymore, so I got out of it. A buddy asked if I could tend bar and I said I'd seen it done, so I went to work at the Choo Choo. I wanted to get back into radio so I called Sammy George [at WUSY]. He said people seldom leave and he didn't have anything on-air, but he needed an engineer to set up remotes.

I told him I'd take it and I did that for about a year. David Earl Hughes was going through a divorce and she got the car, so I drove him to remotes. I found out I could make David laugh. He'd say, "Man, you've got to get on air with me." I could make stuff come out his nose.

Anyway, the traffic person went on maternity leave and I filled in. When she came back, I stayed on the air.

Q: What year?

A: Winter of '93.

Q: Do you still like it?

A: I get up every morning and can't wait to get to work. Plus, they've been over-the-top good to me.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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