The voice of Ralph Black tells stories so that we may see

Published 10:12 pm Friday, January 24, 2014

By Dan Smith, TPRD director

Before a majority of the people in Pike County have awoken, before the first light of dawn has cut the darkness, before Hardee’s has pulled their second batch of biscuits from the oven, Ralph Black is settling into his chair behind the microphone of WTBF Radio at 67 Court Square in downtown Troy.

Since 1947, only a select few have held the distinction of host of WTBF’s “The Morning Show,” greeting early morning listeners who are preparing for their day.

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In the last 67 years, only three men have sat in the chair behind the main microphone on a regular and consistent basis, including Pappy Tolbert, Jim Roling and currently Ralph Black.

WTBF is more than playing Oldies, giving local news, weather and current events of our community. WTBF is an institution, a daily glimpse into the small-town life of Troy and Pike County, in a time when small-town, local-owned radio stations are few and far between.

One historical constant are the golden voices of Pappy Tolbert and Jim Roling, and the voice of Ralph Black. As smooth as a Byrd Drug’s milkshake, people will tell you they associate Ralph

Black’s voice with the many athletic contests they have heard him call over the decades.

This is the 50th year Black has been in radio. It was in Auburn that Black worked as an audio engineer at WAUD radio, was encouraged to get behind the microphone, and in 1971 moved to Troy.

Black’s early recollections are of working Troy State basketball in 1976 when David Felix, Carl Hollis and Marvin Sales were lighting up the scoreboards.

Over the years and decades to follow, whenever a local recreation, high school or Troy State athletic team went to the championships of their respective sports, the people of Troy and Pike County could guarantee they could listed to the play by play of WTBF and Ralph Black, and through his words, they could see.

“I have had a really, really blessed career as far as sports is concerned,” Black said. “I have been able to call two national championships in Troy State football, two national championships in Troy State baseball, a large number of high school baseball and football state championships, and many of the Dixie baseball World Series.”

Black could also be considered a good luck charm, as in the 20 championship events he has covered, those teams have gone 16-4 with Ralph Black giving play by play over WTBF.

Black contributes much of the opportunity to the locally-owned radio station.

“WTBF is Pike County’s voice, no question,” Black said.

The quality that best describes Black is his personality and character in the community.

Whether you were born in Troy or have lived here less than a month, Black is a positive and approachable gentleman, the consummate professional and local sports historian, and that reflects in his broadcasting.

“The first thing to always remember,” Black said, “Is that I am not the story. If you are broadcasting a game, you must check your ego at the door. You need to describe the ballgame, and tell people what is happening. The public – the listener – deserves to know what is happening.

“I have also been blessed to work with some great talent, including guys like Jerry Miller, Phil Paramore, Brent Bedsole, Bo Gaylard, Dave Laliberte, Cot and Chip Wallace.”

In a day and time when social media such as Facebook and Twitter are so accessible to so many, Black believes there will always be a demand and a place for radio.

“I think radio can be the fastest medium around,” Black said. “When TV came around they said radio was going out, and they said the same thing when computers and internet and social media came around. But radio can be faster than any of them, and if you are a journalist, you must be accurate, and you certainly cannot say that about social media. That’s why I think radio will last forever.”

At age 72, Black’s voice is as clear and golden as the days of the state and national championship games he has painted in the minds of those that could not be there.

The climb up the stairs to the press boxes of high school stadiums is not getting any easier, but Black has no plans to retire anytime soon.

“I do not want to stop. They’ll probably have to push me away from the mic.”