For many in Marshall County and North Alabama, Michael St. John has been the face of Fun 92.7 radio.
Even the casual listener may associate him as the Voice of Arabian Knights Football, while countless others recall St. John as the voice of information during the 2011 tornadoes that left much of the entire region without electric power for a week, including most other radio stations.
The broadcast was a bright light during a dark time that led to local honors including the Business of the Year award from the Arab Chamber of Commerce and the Earth Angel award from the B-Team Angels.
But St. John's 53-year career has gone well beyond the local area, including major markets like Phoenix, St. Louis, Nashville, Hartford and Birmingham.
He interviews coaches Lee Ozmint and Keith Garner most Fridays now as well as other sports figures, but his interviews in the past were more about the music, including a then-rare interview with Paul McCartney.
He rubbed shoulders and talked regularly with practically all the artists everyone else was listening to on the radio.
He was recognized for his efforts recently by being named to the Alabama Broadcaster’s Association Hall of Fame.
It all started, interestingly enough, when WAAY owner M.D. Smith III heard Michael making an announcement at Bruno’s Grocery Store, where he was a checkout clerk in his hometown of Huntsville.
Smith asked St. John to stop by after school and that led to a 6 p.m. to midnight shift where he learned the basics of radio.
After high school, St. John attended Vanderbilt University, where he earned degrees in both psychology and English.
But, he also volunteered at the campus station and worked the midnight shift at WMAK, where he was hired by National Hall of Fame radio programmer Scott Shannon.
Shannon appeared at the HOF banquet via video to congratulate St. John from his current home at WCBS in New York City.
“This skinny kid with a real squeaky voice walked in one day and I gave him a job,” said Shannon. “He wanted to know everything about radio. He drove me crazy. So, I put him on from 6 to midnight so I wouldn't have to talk to him so much.”
When the company bought a station in Birmingham, Shannon selected St. John to take over WERC.
“Within six months the station was number 1 in the ratings,” said Shannon. “He kicked off WSGN that had Rick Dees (who went on to national fame in radio, tv and with his recording of Disco Duck) and went on to take two startup Nashville stations to number 1.”
Locals may recall the popular “Love Hour” program with St. John that ran on Sunday nights on WERC. The show scored a 72-percent share of the audience, the largest Arbitron rating ever in Alabama, a record that remains unbroken to this day.
Along the way, he became involved in broadcasting wrestling events, particularly in Memphis, and is also a member of the NWA Wrestling Hall of Fame and the Memphis Wrestling Hall of Fame.
In fact, St. John is the voice of the original “Hulk Hogan” video. After crisscrossing the country in major market radio, St. John returned to his roots by purchasing 92.7 FM in Arab from Tony Williams Broadcasting in May 1997.
He operates the station with his wife, Melanie, who serves as vice-president and general manager. The company has expanded in recent years and the FUN Media Group now includes WRAB AM/FM in Arab, AM 1310 and FUN 104.9 FM in Decatur and WTNK AM/FM in Hartsville, Tenn.
As the only living inductee this year, St. John told the audience, "we have a doctor here just in case."
He was nominated for the honor by the 2014 Broadcaster of the Year, Sylacauga City Councilman Lee Perryman, a personal friend of St. John’s who owns Radio Alabama that includes nine radio stations.
Perryman once served as the deputy director of the Associated Press Broadcast Division in Washington.
“Anytime that you are recognized by your peers or by an organization in the field you’ve been in for 53 years, it’s a great, humbling honor,” said St. John.
Still excited and passionate about the industry, St. John continues to encourage young people to consider broadcasting.
“I have no plans of retiring from my love because it is changing. I’m learning new tricks of the trade, new ways of doing things every day,” he said. “I just want to get into the hearts, souls and minds of these young people by urging them to get into a wonderful field that not only provides a means of survival in life, but also, a lot of happiness and a lot of reward personally.”
In accepting the award, St. John thanked the many people who he worked with over the years, including in particular his wife Melanie, the current staff at 92.7, and personal friend and Knights football sidekick Ronny Shumate.