Jolly Charlie Hill

I was born in 1952 and grew up on a family farm in Dooly County. Like most folks in our neck of the woods we listened to WCEH Radio based in Hawkinsville, Georgia. It was 610 on the AM dial and had a strong signal.

Mr. Charlie Hill was their longtime announcer. He had a deep, rich voice and a bigger than life persona. He seamlessly blended humor and candor with music and news. He showed a tender side each morning when he would dedicate a song to Annette. His loving gesture was meant for his wife, but offered a lesson, perhaps unintended, for husbands throughout middle Georgia.

My earliest childhood memories include waking up to music with Charlie Hill. He would be on the air well before I reluctantly rolled out of bed. I wondered how he could be so cheerful before the sun came up. Neither darkness, nor rain, nor cold weather, seemed to have any effect on his attitude. His radio moniker was Jolly Charlie and was well deserved.

There was a lot to enjoy about Charlie Hill. He had a call-in show where listeners could air problems they had with local governments or businesses. He had a knack for separating what needed attention and what didn’t. Sometimes he would resolve the situation during the show. Other times he would close the segment by committing to personally follow up.

Charlie also hosted The Swap Shop for a long time, a segment where callers could let others know what they had to sell or wanted to buy. It was a busy market place that he handled with flair. He didn’t just announce a list of items. He entertained us with his ad libs and laughter. He was an extraordinary matchmaker of people and goods.

WCEH was a country station. As I grew older many of my friends were listening to pop music being broadcast out of Perry. Our home, however, remained steadfastly aligned with Jolly Charlie Hill. Mama turned the radio on in the kitchen each morning. We knew not to touch the dial.

My memories of Jolly Charlie and some of the songs that he played have lasted over six decades. Those memories are where I continue to find inspiration and sometimes amusement.

The chorus of one song went “Do what you do do well boy. Do what you do do well. Give your love and all of your heart, and do what you do do well.” That was a good message to hear in childhood. I still sing that chorus today. There’s a lesson in those lines that’s worth remembering.

The Kingston Trio had a song called Desert Pete that Charlie enjoyed playing. It was about a man traveling through the desert and running out of water. He finds a pump with a note from Desert Pete. The note tells where to find a bottle of water that was hidden under a rock, water that could be used to prime the pump. It cautioned against taking the easy route by drinking the water from the bottle. “Drink all the water you can hold, wash your face, cool your feet. Leave the bottle full for others. Thank you kindly, Desert Pete.” Sometimes it’s tempting to drink from life’s bottles and be on our way. I’m glad that Desert Pete still reminds me that it’s best to leave the bottle full.

Whistle While You Work was another of my childhood favorites. The words were simple. “Whistle while you work.   Whistle, whistle, always whistle, whistle while you work.” Whistling was interspersed with the lyrics. I heard whistling from my parents, plus from watching Andy and Opie walking by a fishing hole near Mayberry. I still enjoy whistling and think maybe we should teach it in school. Another trip to Mayberry wouldn’t do us any harm.

Charlie played one song that my mother did not approve of. It was about “the girl wearing nothing but a smile and a towel in the picture on the billboard in the field near the big old highway.” When that song came on, Mama would say that she wished Charlie wouldn’t play it. Sometimes she would quickly turn the volume way down low. I stared at my scrambled eggs and wondered in silence what highway that sign was on.

I never did see that billboard that Del Reeves sang about. That probably worked out for the best. I’d love to know if the fellow who painted that lady’s picture was whistling while he worked. I don’t think I’ll ask Mama’s opinion on that, but I sure do wish that I could call Charlie Hill.

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4 Responses to Jolly Charlie Hill

  1. Scott Cason says:

    Like you Neal, we listened to AM 610 in our house. I had a chance to work with Charlie for a couple of years at WCEH. Charlie gave me a piece of advice that forever changed the course of my life. I grew up wanting to be the next Rick Dees or Casey Kasem. One afternoon I was lamenting my plight of not finding much success as a DJ to Charlie. Charlie told me he noticed I had a knack for fixing things (that’s not what my Mamma called it, but stick with me). He said that one day, DJs would be a dime a dozen but a good engineer would be worth his weight in gold. I left Hawkinsville for the bright lights of Ocilla afterwards. And after that job fell through a few months later, moved back to Vienna. On Charlie’s advice I enrolled at South Georgia Tech taking communication technology. After graduating in Americus, I took a job at Channel 10 in Albany and I’ve been an engineer ever since.

    They hosted a 60th anniversary on WCEH a few years back and had Charlie on the air (he had long since retired). My friend Jay Braswell was working with Charlie on the air and called me to put me on the air with him and I related that story to Charlie. In his humbleness, Charlie said “that wasn’t me, that was all you making the decision. I just showed you a road sign that the Lord was showing me”.

    Charlie died about the time I took over the little FM station I have now in Vevay Indiana. So when I’m on the air, my name is Charlie Hill to try and honor him for the influence he had on me.


  2. Ann K. Nutt says:

    Thanks for reminding me about this great fellow. I too, listened to him. He was very good.


  3. Judy says:

    WCEH had a strong signal. It was always on our radio in Crisp County when I was growing up. My granddaddy had it blasting when we were working in tobacco, and when I hear the name Charlie Hill, I immediately think of those days at the tobacco barn. Thanks for sharing!


  4. Mrs Annette J. Hill says:

    Mr. Joiner, thank you for the kind words concerning my beloved Charlie. We were married for almost 62 years . We have two beautiful daughters. Their dad made sure they were “raised right”.Thank you again for your kindness. Thanks also, for all of the kind comments.


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