Bill Anderson keeps it pure

Thursday, September 20, 2007
Bill Anderson is right at home behind the microphone as Cousin Carl on KWKZ 106.1 in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

Watch a video of Bill Anderson

Walk into the offices of Bill Anderson's station, Pure Country C106 in Cape Girardeau, and the old-school philosophy that defines the man and his station is clear. Old-time radios adorn the front waiting area of the Pure Country offices and deeper inside the station's confines, photos of traditional country artists line the walls.

For 15 years Anderson has run his station with a simple idea in mind: "If it's good music, we'll play it," Anderson says as himself, not his famous Cousin Carl character, the lovable hillbilly with a huge Southeast Missouri following.

Anderson is probably most well-known for Cousin Carl, a character he's been doing on air five hours a day for 49 years, starting in the western swing country of Oklahoma, home of Bob Wills.

It was the sounds of that western swing -- a hard-to-describe genre that mixes big band and country sounds -- that got Anderson interested in music, and it's the sound that still captivates him today.

Bill Anderson, left, listened to Rick Jones mention an article in the Southeast Missourian while doing the morning show at KWKZ. (Fred Lynch)

Anderson said the last thing he wants is for the Nashville, Tenn., record company establishment to dictate what is played on his radio station. And it's been that way since day one.

"I didn't want to be like cookie-cutter radio," Anderson, now 67, says of his days starting Pure Country. "If you do any traveling ... you can go from here to Montana ... and you hear the same songs over and over, Top 40 country songs. I didn't want to be like that."

Anderson's commitment to the traditional country sounds -- and his Cousin Carl character -- have gained him a devoted following that has allowed Anderson to keep his renegade country station in business while bucking the trends of the music charts and modern country's metamorphosis from its roots to its current rock- and pop-based sound.

It's also made Anderson an advocate for traditional American music forms, especially the western swing that planted its roots in his home state back in the days of Wills.

Anderson's love of western swing, and his ownership of C106, have put him in the perfect position as a promoter of the Western Swing Society of the Southwest's annual showcase that takes place in Cape Girardeau.

Bob Dolle, the society's lead man in Missouri and organizer of the local showcase, says Anderson's assistance -- endlessly promoting the music and the showcase on his station -- has been invaluable in keeping western swing alive. Anderson's contributions were so important, Dolle nominated him to the society's hall of fame, to which he was inducted in July as a promoter of the art form.

"He plays probably almost 50 percent western swing music," Dolle said. "He says, 'I was brought up on it.' He's just a really big asset to our organization."

Dolle said C106 is one of a dying breed -- a radio station that plays old-school country music instead of just putting chart-toppers on its playlist. Anderson says the competition gets confused by his success.

C106 has developed a devoted following, not just because of the music it plays, but because of Anderson's public appearances as Cousin Carl. Anderson said he has a philosophy about live radio remotes that has helped cultivate that following: "The people is the star of the show."

Anderson doesn't try to downplay his success -- he openly admits his career has been lucrative. But he says even more rewarding than financial success is the reaction of listeners.

"I like it," Anderson says of broadcasting and his success. "But ... if you went to any place with me in public and hear somebody say 'I like what you do with that station' ... that makes it all worthwhile."


Pure Country gives its listeners a taste of something different with its programming. Here's some of what's on the air.

5 a.m. to 7 a.m.

"Wake Up With Rick Jones"

7 a.m. to noon

"The Cousin Carl Show", with the following

Noon to 6 p.m.

"The Doug Owens Show"

6 p.m. to 5 a.m.

"Pure country music" non-stop

Wednesday 6:05 p.m. to 7 p.m.,

"New Music Nashville", this is one hour per week to preview all the new material from Nashville

Wednesday 7 to 10 p.m.

Heartland Bluegrass with Randal Lee and Janie Brown

Saturday

6 a.m. to 6:30 a.m.

Oldies Show

6:30 to 7 a.m.

Orion Samuelson's "Farm News"

7 to 8 a.m.

Oldies Show continued

8 a.m. to noon

"Legends Radio Show with Jim Loosburg"

Noon to 4 p.m.

"Country Music Greats with Jim Ed Brown

4 p.m.

"Pure Country Music"

Sunday

6 to 10 a.m.

"Mid Americas Best Gospel" with Rick Jones.

Voted number one by listeners.

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