Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Remembering Bob Fulton

Posted to OGR on 11/07/2010

If you are a fan of college sports in the Southeast, you are probably familiar with an icon of sports broadcasters, Bob Fulton, better known as “The Voice of the Gamecocks,” for his long tenure at the University of South Carolina. Bob’s booming, well modulated voice was stilled with his passing last Wednesday.

I first met Bob back in 1965 when I was just a young pup of a DJ starting my first job in radio. At that time he was broadcasting the Georgia Tech football games and was the morning drive DJ on WCOS radio in Columbia, SC. I was doing the all night program that preceded his show. Bob did not operate his own console so I covered the first hour and the mid day DJ covered the rest. While the music was playing, Bob and I got to know each other pretty well. He was gracious enough to take me under his wing and give me advice that helped me over my career, and my life. One story that I like to tell about Bob was his help with the word “regularly.” There was a live commercial for a bank that I had to read every morning. There were several different versions of the commercial but they all contained the word “regularly.” For some reason, I had problems pronouncing that word correctly all the time. Bob heard me struggling with it and made a simple suggestion; split the word up. What a great idea! “Regular-ly” was much easier to say than “regularly.” In 1967, Bob came back to the University of South Carolina and left the radio station to devote himself to sports-casting full time. About the same time, I moved from the all night show to the evening show, broadcasting from a drive in restaurant. I will always remember those early mornings with Bob as some of the best in my life.

Fast forward 10 years and Bob and I cross paths again in 1977. I was working at WIS radio, which was at the time, the flagship station of the Gamecock Sports Network. Bob was still broadcasting the football and basketball games for the University. One of my responsibilities was to be the engineer / producer for the football games. It was like “old home week” when Bob and I met for the first time in 10 years. We spent a nice couple of hours reminiscing as I set up the equipment and he prepared for the game. Tommy Suggs was the color analyst for the core broadcast team and we traveled all over the southeast or met at Williams-Brice station every fall weekend. Julian Gibbons was the Sports Information Director at USC during those games. He would meet us at the airport on away games and drove us to the stadium or the hotel when we arrived on the team plane. The relationship between Bob and me was now collegial, we worked hard together to bring quality to the games we broadcast. Of course, I still learned from Bob’s experience, but now he was learning some of the new technology from me. Those were good days!

After the 1979 season, I left WIS to go to SCETV and that was the last time that Bob and I actively worked with each other. But we would see each other around town from time to time. Bob finally retired in 1995. A few years later, I joined a group of veteran broadcasters that met the first Thursday of each month at a local restaurant for breakfast. Bob was there, regaling the rest of us with his stories. Last Thursday, the day after Bob died, the group met as usual. Despite the presence of a television crew there to record our comments and thoughts about Bob, the room was a bit quieter than normal without his rich baritone. On Friday, I had lunch with Bob’s daughters and a small group of sports writers/broadcasters that I eat with regularly. It was the first time I had seen them since they were girls in the studios at WCOS up there with their dad and doing a “Teen Aged Disk Jockey” show. All of a sudden, I was back in the “air chair,” a twenty-something DJ playing the “Top of the pops and the cream of the crops.” Life has come full circle, and Bob is still there. Only now he is calling plays for all those sports greats in that big stadium in the sky. Oh MY!

Copyright 2010 Rick Wrigley

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