Karl Meek is a familiar figure at the DeMotte Avenue ramp in Daytona Beach Shores, sitting in a lawn chair at the end of the beach approach many evenings, smoking a cigar, reading a book or drawing, and watching the waves.
Retired since 1979, the 87-year-old Port Orange resident was a well-known figure in the radio broadcasting business for more than 48 years, and willingly shares some of his stories.
The West Virginia native joined the U.S. Marine Corps at 17. When he got out in 1954, he worked at a pawn shop, until a gentleman came in and said he needed some help with a radio station.
“I started out sweeping floors and selling ads,” he said, but then he got into broadcasting, a career that spanned many years and multiple stations.
“I listened to radio all the time,” he said, “And I met a lot of personalities in country and rock and roll.”
He also worked part time at a Sears store, when another gentleman, Wayne Geyer, came in and offered him a job. Mr. Geyer had just bought a radio station, WKEE, in Huntington, W.V., the first rock and roll station in the area, and another station in Evansville, Ind.
“Wayne wanted to get more women and young people to listen,” Mr. Meek said. “I worked for him 20 years, and worked my way up to general sales manager. It was one of the greatest experiences in my life.”
Then Mr. Meek went out on his own. He says he knew a lot of people by that time. He had been a sales consultant for many radio stations in Kentucky, Ohio, Maryland and Florida. He bought a radio station, WGTW in Mount Dora.
“I was owner, general manager, sales, and janitor,” he laughed. “When you own it, you do everything.”
“In those times, you learned a lot in the promotion of the music business,” he said.
He helped promote many entertainers by getting their records played on the radio, and said, “I met every one of the entertainers I promoted.”
The list of entertainers he knew and helped promote is impressive, including Elvis Presley, Conway Twitty, Bernie Higgins, the Eagles, Bonnie Tyler, Rod Stewart, Kenny Loggins, the Carpenters, the Beach Boys, Roger Miller, Glen Campbell, Loretta Lynn, and George Jones, who was one of his favorites.
“George was a former Marine who served at the same time I did,” Mr. Meek said. “He always did a concert in a small Kentucky town and in Huntington, W.V. I got to know him. He was a good person.”
Mr. Meek’s radio career involved a lot more than promotion and sales. He also did news. When a plane crashed near Marshall University in Huntington, he said, “I lost a lot of good friends. I had to go to the airport and help identify them, and get all the names on the air after the plane crash.”
He also presented the news bulletin when President John F. Kennedy was shot and said, “I still have the original Associated Press wire tapes of the assassination.”
Mr. Meek worked for a Daytona Beach radio station for many years. “Bob Weeks owned WMFJ. It was the number one rock and roll station in town. He turned it into a Christian radio station called Sunshine Radio,” Mr. Meek said. “Bob was a good friend. Everyone in Daytona loved him.”
Mr. Meek helped promote concerts for the Daytona Civic Center. He sailed the islands in the Caribbean and played golf all over the United States, including the Master's tournament. He lived a full life.
He and his wife, Lois, bought a condo near the Sunglow Pier in Daytona Beach Shores and retired here in 1979. They have two children who live in Port Orange, son Andy and daughter Kelly Bragg. He said his wife loved to come to the ocean. She died in 2012, but he still enjoys coming to the ocean, saying, “I can communicate with my savior here.”
Among the books he brings to read while sitting by the ocean is a Bible. He has since moved to Port Orange and is a member of the First Baptist Church of Daytona Beach. But he drives to the beach four or five nights a week, not far from where he and his wife of 54 years sat. He still carries business cards in his wallet from the many radio stations where he worked, and Channel 13 television in West Virginia where he also worked.
“I still dabble in radio,” he said. “I get calls all the time. Over the years, I made a lot of (station) owners a lot of money.”