(October 4, 2016) For the first time in 18 years, Marky Billson has his own sports talk radio show. An STAA member, Billson has been hired to host a daily show on 1420 NBC Sports Radio Tri-Cities in Johnson City, TN.
“I was always interested in the genre,” says Billson. “I would listen to some shows and just think ‘I can do better than that,’ and I always felt I had something to say.”
Ironically, Billson’s new station is one at which he worked nearly 20 years ago when it was WEMB. He’s lived in the Tri-Cities market off and on since 1986. “I know the market, but I also know how much more it can be sports wise, which the nation saw with the huge crowd at ‘The Battle of Bristol’ football game,” says Billson, referring to the recent Tennessee-Virginia Tech football game that drew roughly 150,000 fans to the Bristol Motor Speedway.
Though Billson last hosted a regular sports show in 1997, he hasn’t been away from sports broadcasting. Over the past 20 years, he’s been doing play-by-play for everything from high school and semi-pro football, to indepenent minor league baseball, junior hockey and freelance college soccer. Billson is also a freelance sports writer.
For Billson, the greatest challenge in getting back into sports talk was the lack of fresh demo material. “I hadn’t hosted an actual sports talk show since 1998. So many of my old tapes — yes TAPES — were dated,” he smiles. “To an employer it would make me seem like yesterday’s sportscaster.”
Billson’s workaround was to write and produce one and two minute commentaries to feature on his STAA Talent Page. “They showed I could make direct points that were intriguing and humorous,” he says.
The story of Billson’s new opportunity is an uncommon one. It started when he befriened station owner Maria True on Facebook. When one of the station’s hosts needed time off, Billson was asked to fill-in for a week.
“On the very first day, I had on [former East Tennessee State University player] Keith ‘Mister’ Jennings, who is probably the greatest player ever to play basketball in the Tri-Cities,” Billson says. “I remember when 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh started and their first guest was Dan Marino, so I knew I had to have on a legend to get things kicked off.”
After Billson’s week of fill-in was up, he was offered the permanent position.
One person who has been especially helpful as Billson has knocked off the rust is station consultant Jamie Osborne.
“I consider myself an old pro, but Jamie has really helped me,” says Billson. “Keeping subjects short in the first hour, for instance, because so many listeners only tune in for a short period of time from Noon to one.”
Billson has been an STAA member since the company’s inception in 2006. “Where else would I find out who is hiring,” Billson wonders.
He also cites STAA’s support as a reason for his longevity with the team. “Back in 2013 I was the play-by-play broadcaster of a minor league baseball team that went out of business in mid-season. You can imagine there were all sort of frustrations and hardships during this period of time. But [STAA was] always there for support, even if I needed someone just to listen to me rant on the situations and circumstances that I was enduring. It really helped me keep my head!”
(Visit Marky’s STAA Talent Page).