Woody Talks About Bill Currie
Have just read with a great deal of interest your recent articles on Ray Reeve and Bill Currie, which brought back a lot of fond memories. I grew up listening to their coverage on the Tobacco Sports Network, and then as a student at Carolina and young broadcaster, I got to know both of them personally.
Bill appointed Ray "The Squire of Wake County" long before they broke up and went their separate ways, and Bill became the "Mouth of the South". The split to which you referred, or at least Ray's comment, came in January , 1961 when Carolina slipped past Notre Dame 73-71 in Charlotte. The next game was in Woollen Gym against Wake Forest, and following the Tar Heel's 83-74 victory, the UNC students gathered under the radio booths, which at the time were located under the wall of the east end of the gym. The students started chanting "Go to Hell, Ray Reeve, Go to Hell!" Currie had a great time kidding Reeve about it, but I'm not sure just how much Ray enjoyed it.
When Currie left the Fletchers and WRAL, he went to work for Harry Severance in Wilson, and that was the beginning of the Carolina Sports Network. He did compete with Ray Reeve for a while as each of the schools began to assemble their own networks with Currie and Reeve doing separate broadcasts of Carolina, Bill Jackson and Wally Ausley handling N.C. State and Ad Penfield and Ed Higgins doing Duke.
By the time Ray Reeve retired--and you're right about some of his epic alcohol struggles--Currie had moved to Charlotte , but not WBT/WBTV. He was the Sports Director of WSOC Radio/TV in Charlotte, and General Manager George Henderson kept the network going. It's interesting that when Harry Severance and Currie first started their venture, I was contacted as a student by Athletic Director Chuck Erickson about doing the color with Currie, but before I could return his call, Jim Heavener--who was working with WCHL--was accepted for the position.
That arrangement lasted a very short time. When Currie moved to Charlotte, Jack Calahan became his "color" announcer and "Rowdy" Richard Raley was his engineer and photographer for the coaches' TV shows.
I was really more interested in TV than radio at that time, and after finishing Carolina, I eventually wound up in Greensboro. My goal was to work the ACC regional TV games, and I got that opportunity from 1968 through 1971. It was during the 1968 ACC Tournament in Charlotte that the famous 12-10 Duke- State unfolded in the semi-finals. We actually ran commercials during the TV coverage while State's Bill Kretzer was dribbling the ball at the top of the foul circle. That's also the game which prompted Currie to utter his most famous line when he cracked, "This game is about as exciting as artificial insemination!"
I never gave any thought to doing the Carolina games on radio even though I had grown up a Carolina fan and gone to school in Chapel Hill. I thought Currie would do them until he died or retired. Then in February, 1971, he shocked everybody when he accepted a TV sports job at KDKA in Pittsburgh. They wanted him on the air immediately, so Bob Lamey, who was Currie's backup in Charlotte, came on and finished the season.
It was during the spring Athletic Director Homer Rice called me to ask if I would be interested in dong the Carolina games on the radio for the new rights holder, G.H Johnston, Inc. a New York advertising agency. After thinking about it for a couple of days, I decided it would be a great move for me. I called Dean Smith and Bill Dooley to get their support, and it was the best career decision of my life.
Jim Heavener and the Tar Heel Sports Network acquired the rights for 1974-1975 and held them until October,1999 when the multi-media rights were sold to Learfield Communications of Jefferson City, Missouri. The UNC contract is the largest of the 13 sports properties which Learfield controls.
I hope this is helpful and I'm sorry you didn't contact me when you were trying to get in touch with Bill Currie. I could have saved you a lot of time. I do have your e-mail concerning audio tapes. There's not much available with Currie on it because permanent air checks were not done on a regular basis until the early 80's. A faithful listener once sent me a ragged cassette of Ray Reeve doing the 1957 championship game between Carolina and Kansas, but it may take some time for me to put my hands on it. Then there will probably be a question about NCAA rights, but I'll get back to you.