Joe Rumore was probably the biggest radio personality Alabama has ever known, and it seems likely there will never be another like him.
Born and reared in Birmingham, at the family’s Southside home, and on their Huffman farm, Rumore seems to have been set on a career in radio from the very start. At age seven he nailed a tea strainer, his fantasy microphone, to a cigar box, and began “broadcasting” on Station WJOE. He even wrote himself a fan letter, indicating strong and weak points of his performance.
After graduating from Ramsay High School in 1941, Rumore went to work at WJLD in Bessemer, then briefl y at WSFA in Montgomery before returning in 1943 to Birmingham. At WAPI Joe talked, announced, played music, gave weather, even talked with whatever live audience might be in the studio. Joe hosted “Round-Up Time” and “The Yawn Patrol,” an early morning favorite.
Joe had the common touch. In 1947, he wished all listening mothers a Happy Mother’s Day and received 2,347 thank you notes from Alabama and Mississippi mothers. In his time at WAPI, Rumore received around 2,500 pieces of fan mail per week and sometimes answered 250 letters a day, usually with a photograph.
Obviously doing fine at WAPI, Joe nevertheless accepted an offer from the new, powerful 50,000-watt station WVOK, the Mighty 690, where he remained for 30 years. Rumore’s business arrangement with WVOK was truly unusual. Joe bought air time from the station, time he then controlled. He spoke ad-lib, said and played what he pleased, Country or Crooners, and chose his own sponsors — but no tobacco or alcohol accounts, as mothers and children were listening.
A hard-working man, Rumore for a while had three shows daily: 9-10, for housewives; 12-12:30 for farmers at lunch; and another for teens from 3-4:15, all live, plus an inspirational music show on Sundays.
Rumore’s listeners, many of them rural, were legion and faithful. One Christmas Joe received 42,000 cards!
Because he had control of his air time, Rumore could choose not only what he put on the air, but also his own studio arrangements. In 1964 Joe had a studio built in the basement of his home, complete with teletype machine. Drop by fans were welcome there, too.
Rumore broadcast on WVOK until 1982, completing a career of more than 40 years on the air in Alabama. He also ran the beloved store Rumore’s Record Rack, first on Second Avenue North and then in Homewood, from 1954 to 1979.
Rumore has been honored by induction into the Country Music DJ Hall of Fame in Nashville in 1999 and by the Contemporary Achievement Media Award from the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 2003.
Joe and Angie were married on April 6, 1948, and had four children, Frank, Donna, Phillip and Joe Jr.
For his groundbreaking work in radio and a lifetime of connecting to and serving listeners in the state of Alabama and beyond, Joseph John “Joe” Rumore fully deserves to be inducted into the College of Communication and Information Sciences Hall of Fame, class of 2012.