(Note-When I wrote this in 1998, I wondered how I could talk about this place, without telling where it is. Selfishly, I wanted to keep it to myself, like a favorite fishing spot. In the end, though, I decided it wouldn’t be fair to keep it from you. After all, you’re my friends. So, read on…..but if you tell anybody else, I’ll have to kill ya.)
“I could live here,” I thought as I left the only food market on the island. I placed the 5 pounds of shrimp and other goodies in the floor of the car. The parking lot was covered with crushed stone and shells, no nasty asphalt or concrete. Palms and oleanders, their bright red blooms shining against the luxurious green foliage, divided the lot from the adjacent gift shop.
Driving up the island’s main road, I noticed that the tallest buildings on the island were single houses. Condo commandos who needed a view from the fourteenth floor would have to go elsewhere. What the island might lack in dubious amenities, it made for up in beauty and space.
I heard a familiar tune on the radio, and turned it up. “Take it Back” was playing. In just a few days on the island, we’d heard more Buffett than we’d heard on other stations in years. And, they were songs that were never played elsewhere. I decided I had to meet the person with such superior intellect.
It was only a short drive across the causeway to the studios of the radio station, WOYS, Oyster radio, 100.5 FM. Tucked in at the back of a strip of small shops, it might be easy to miss if not for the oyster in sunglasses painted on the front window. The collection of antennas and satellite dishes were a subtle clue, too.
Inside I was quickly greeted by the afternoon’s DJ, a pretty and friendly blonde who made me sigh for days gone by (LONG gone by). I told her that my family and I were staying on the island, and that we were glad to hear a station play so much Buffett. I handed her a Lake Lanier Parrot Head Club card, and she began to enthusiastically talk about the job, the station, and Buffett music.
Soon, the station general manager, Howard Wesson, joined the conversation as the young lady excused herself to go back on the air. While I didn’t want to take too much of his time, and I wasn’t prepared to do an in-depth interview, it was a very interesting conversation. It seems the station has the complete JB catalog, and plays just about all of ‘em. Being a tourist area, Howard tries to keep a beach theme to the play list and a Buffett song airs at least once an hour. With sign-on at 5am, and off at midnight, that’s 19, or more, of Bubba’s songs a day! They play other tropically flavored artists, too. And he favors lesser known acts. Quite a switch from the stations we hear back home.
I’d heard a short tag line on the radio, “This is Jimmy Buffett, and when I’m traveling down Highway 98, I listen to Oyster Radio.” During our conversation, Howard revealed that Jimmy has been known to visit the area, and he was able to get JB to record some liners for them. Those recordings are highly valued. Jimmy can be seen wearing an Oyster Radio T-shirt in the short video that accompanies the “Don’t Stop the Carnival” enhanced CD.
So, where do you find this pearl of a station? Go to St. George Island, Florida, a beautifully slow paced spot below Tallahassee (and Jimmy’s sometime home, Thomasville), and next door to Apalachicola. A few years ago, the region gained the moniker, ‘The Forgotten Coast.’ Thank God. There ain’t a Wal-Mart in sight! The featured attractions are uncrowded white beaches, fishing, and fresh seafood. The natives are definitely NOT restless, and are happy to see you. It’s a welcome change from the more touristy spots around.
Not that St. George isn’t hip! After all, there’s the chili cook-off, and the mullet toss (yep, throw a fish and win a prize). Peter Fonda’s movie, “Ulee’s Gold” was filmed nearby. Perhaps most importantly, Apalachicola is the birthplace of the ice machine! We even saw German tourists trying to make the beach clothing optional. But, if you need lots of garish neon, the sounds and stink of jet skis, and depend upon airplanes pulling banners to make your dining choices, then you’ll need to go somewhere else. Please.
It’s unfortunate that the station only has a broadcast power of 10,000 watts (a sister station with a country format will boast 100,000 watts). It just won’t reach to North Georgia. Therefore, if you want to hear Bubba radio, you’ll have to make the short trek south. And maybe, when you leave the Market Place with your bag of shrimp, daiquiri mix and fresh bread, you’ll decide that you, too, ‘could live like this.’