Chambers hangs up his rock 'n roll shoes

Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Chambers proudly displays his new guitar, a gift from Sudbury Broadcasting, in Blytheville. (Town Crier photo/Nan Snider)

After 40 years in the radio broadcasting business, Robert Chambers of Monette is looking forward to being a listener and enjoying his retirement.

Chambers has lived in Northeast Arkansas all of his life, born near the Highbanks Community, graduating from Monette High School in 1961, and calling Blytheville and Monette home.

Chambers is the son of Dell and Geneva (Wallace) Chambers. Siblings include James (deceased), Glenda Sue DeSlavo, and Robert.

Chambers has worked for the Sudbury Broadcasting Group for 36 years and is a familiar voice on all stations. Sudbury consists of five stations, all located in Blytheville, which consist of KHLS-FM, KAMJ-FM, KQDD-FM, KLON-AM, and KOSE-AM.

A special reception was held in Chambers' honor on Aug. 29 at the First Baptist Church in Monette. On Monday, Aug. 30, the Blytheville Chamber of Commerce held a drop-by reception for Chambers. Mississippi County Judge, Steve McGuire, declared Aug. 31, as Fred Chambers Day in Blytheville. The Sudbury Broadcasting Group held a banquet in Chambers' honor on Aug. 31, at the Blytheville Country Club.

Chambers received several retirement gifts from co-workers and friends. A slide presentation was prepared, depicting Chambers' long history with Sudbury Broadcasting. Jean White presented Chambers with photo and memorabilia keepsake albums.

"The slide presentation began with background music from the Beatles "Yesterday," and closed with "Memories" by Elvis Presley," Chambers said. "There was a lot of work that went into the slides and the albums, and they will be something I treasure.

"One big surprise gift from the station was given to me from Ed and Jean White, which was a beautiful new guitar autographed by D.J. Fontana and Scotty Moore, who worked with Elvis at Sun Records. Other signatures included all members of the Jordanaires and Boots Randolph. Even though I do not play guitar myself, I couldn't have been given anything that I would have enjoyed any more."

Chambers'long broadcasting career started out as just a dream of a young high school student, who wanted to be a disc jockey when he grew up. He worked as a soda jerk at the Watkin's Drug Store in Monette while in high school. He went to St. Louis for a while and did all types of work, consisting of washing cars, selling fireworks and a short stint doing factory work.

He returned to Monette and attended college at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro for a while. Finally Chambers enrolled in announcing school in Memphis at Keegaris Technical Institute. After finishing his six month study course in 1964, he accepted a disc jockey job at KBIB in Monette.

Chambers married the former Janis Howell that same year, and they made their home in Monette. Chambers remained at KBIB until 1966, when the family moved to Searcy. Chambers stayed in Searcy about a year.

He started working for Sudbury in 1968 as a disc jockey for the 9-10 Club, at the KLCN-AM station, with no record playing. He went on to play rock and roll records in Blytheville in 1969. He got out of announcing and doing disc jockey work after about two or three years and went into sales, doing writing and recording, as well as live broadcasting.

Chambers wore many hats at Sudbury, working in sales and on the air.

"I have loved it from start to finish," Chambers said. "I feel most fortunate to be in a job that I have loved for 40 years. In sales I would visit 10 to 15 customers a day. I just love to be out and communicate with people. We have built some special relationships throughout the years, and I'm going to miss that. I'll also miss working with the morning crew, as they are always a lot of fun."

When asked what he plans to do after leaving the station, Chambers said, "I would love to learn how to do fly-fishing, something I have always thought would be enjoyable. I also plan to go through my vast collection of records and try to sort them all out."

Chambers is an avid collector, going in several directions. He has a home office full of vintage and collectable records, and has added and extra storage units in his back yard to house his collection. He likes to look for Indian artifacts and has a large collection of relics. Old books are also a fascination for Chambers, and he has one dating back to 1864. No disc jockey would be complete without a collection of radios, so Chambers adds this to his list also. Being a collector, Chambers finds it hard to resist a flea market or auction.

"I have always enjoyed cooking and plan to whip up some tasty meals now that I have more time," he said.

Chambers and his wife have two children, Perry Chambers, of Houston, and Julie Lee, of Monette. They have two grandchildren, Shawn Chambers and Tegan Lee.

"I look forward to spending more time with my family," Chambers said. "All of a sudden, time seems more important to me than money."

Sudbury Broadcasting is not going to let Chambers spend all his free time pursuing his hobbies as they plan to use him to do commercials and voice tracks from home. With the use of technology and the Internet, Chambers will be connected with broadcasting for many years to come.

"I have found technology to be a very interesting thing," Chambers said. "It is so fast and so extensive. I can do research, keep up on my mail, and shop on E-bay, all from my home computer. I don't anticipate getting bored, or not having anything to do. I'll still have to make choices when I get up in the morning, but they will be much less demanding. I'm sure I am going to find lots of things to do. I plan to always keep in touch with the people I have worked with at the station as they are a big part of my life also, just like family."

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