The sun’s not even up yet when Dallas Wayne slips on his earphones, boots up his computer and reviews eight or so pages of notes. A quick puff from a smoldering cigarette, followed by a gulp of strong coffee, then he’s on the air.
“Howdy, folks, this is Big D here on the O.C., Sirius 63,” Wayne drawls into a big, black microphone. Beneath his swivel chair, a tabby cat saunters by Wayne’s bare feet and sniffs a nearby suitcase that’s lying open on the floor. Downstairs, a telephone jangles, and breakfast dishes clatter in a sink.
Forget a fancy sound room at a big-city radio station, where most disc jockeys spin their albums. This laid-back guy broadcasts from home.
“A few years ago, if you’d told me I’d be sitting in my house in Bastrop County, doing a coast-to-coast show, I’d say no way,” Wayne muses after finishing his country music program that broadcasts daily on Sirius Satellite Radio. “Working with the O.C. has turned into my primary job.”
O.C. is short for Outlaw Country, one of more than 160 channels available to Sirius subscribers around the world who pay $12.95 and up a month for the commercial-free service. Genres appeal to a wide range of tastes: rock, pop, classical, comedy, talk, sports, kids and Latin, to name a few.
On the country music side, listeners can choose from classic favorites, hits from the ’80s and ’90s, current hits and bluegrass. Outlaw Country dishes up a raw honky-tonk style made famous in the 1970s by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.
“We play everything from Jimmie Rodgers, Milton Brown and Bob Wills all the way to the Marshall Tucker Band, George Jones and Dolly Parton,” Wayne says in his rich, deep voice. “Our parameters for picking music are if it’s real, we’ll play it. NO Shania Twain! This channel is edgy!”
Wayne knows his music. That’s because the Missouri native started in the business as a teen, when he learned how to play guitar and toured with a bluegrass band on summer breaks. “That was quite an education,” he says. “Later as a young man, I dabbled in radio. I’d always liked radio because it was a conduit to the music I loved as a kid.”
In the ’80s, a move to Nashville furthered Wayne’s professional career. In 1990, he released his first two albums. The next year, he toured Europe and signed on with a record company in Finland. The deal—which produced six albums—also inspired Wayne and his wife, Jo, to live in Scandinavia for four years.
In 2000, they returned home and settled in California. There he signed on with HighTone Records and toured with the Twangbangers, a popular honky-tonk band. When Wayne lost his booking agent and Jo lost her job, the couple decided to move to Austin, where he jumped back into the country music scene. Two years later, they moved a final time into a two-story house that’s nestled among towering pines near Bastrop.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Tepper—founder of the Diesel Only Records music label and a music format manager with Sirius—invited Wayne to deejay for Outlaw Country from home. “We’re already playing your music,” Tepper pointed out.
Wayne, though, hesitated at first. “I was still touring a lot, and I was concerned that it would interfere with the radio work,” he recalls. “But Jeremy said my traveling around would make good radio. Then he showed me how to do my show from the road.”
At home, Wayne converted an upstairs bedroom into a studio for both his music and radio work.
“It’s fascinating technology,” he says, nodding toward his split-level desk outfitted with a computer keyboard, flat-screen display, dual speakers and sound-processing board. I record the show, then transmit it via Internet to New York.”
However, working from home is not without its frustrations. Lucky, the family cat, occasionally crawls on his keyboard. “I’m in trouble if he hits the ‘send’ button,” Wayne cracks. And every Tuesday morning, the garbage truck thunders by at precisely 9:15. “I’d better be done with whatever I’m doing because you can always hear it coming,” he says.
Taping while on the road sometimes calls for creativity, too. “I’ve done my show on Interstate 95 in my truck while driving through South Carolina,” he says. “I’ve done a show at 3 a.m. in a hotel room and taken the cushions off the couch to make a soundproof tent around the desk. I’ve even done a show in bed with room service bringing me breakfast. Radio is spontaneous. It’s a lot of fun.”
The love Wayne has for his work resonates in his on-air, down-home chitchat. He’s real and relaxed, ever the outlaw rebel. “Sometimes I get political, sometimes I get offensive,” he admits.
Mostly, though, he comes across like a neighborhood good ol’ buddy.
“Proud to have you here today on the O.C., folks,” he declares before sharing a recent happening in country music or maybe a news story with a moral. “Never use a shotgun to loosen a lug nut, no matter HOW tempted you are,” Wayne chuckles. “That’s what a man up in Washington state did the other day …”
Hear Dallas Wayne weekdays from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Outlaw Country (Sirius channel 63); “Deep in the Heart of Texas” runs Saturdays from 8 p.m.-midnight. On The Roadhouse (Sirius channel 62), Wayne airs weekends from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Check out his newest album online at www.dallaswayne.com. His broadcasts from home are powered by Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative.
Sheryl Smith-Rodgers writes essays and feature articles for Texas Co-op Power.