Ellington's voice familiar in Brewton
By By LYDIA GRIMES – Features writer
The face may not be familiar to everyone, but the voice is one that is heard by radio listeners around the Brewton area every day.
Hugh Ellington is a quiet-spoken man who comes alive in front of a microphone at WKNU, located on Ridge Road. His voice rings out and his humor shows through when he sits down to do his “Rod and Gun Show” early in the morning during the week. His guests are usually local people who have a story to tell or a view to express and they get that chance with Ellington. They may discuss something that happened in the woods while hunting or they may discuss the new Medicare prescription drug program, as was the case one morning recently. Whatever is current and timely may make it to the discussion table on the program. Or it may end up as just a conversation between the guest and the host.
Ellington has been coming into the homes of Brewton and East Brewton since 1979 and his voice is easily recognized. Not only has he been broadcasting and talking to the locals for all these years, it has brought him into contact with some very famous names in the sports and entertainment fields. Some of those he has met or sat down with are Johnny Unitas, Billy Casper, Bob Colbert, Billy Martin, Yogi Berra, Lou Brock and Gov. George Wallace. He has played golf with Arnold Palmer and had Clint Eastwood join him at his dining table.
Things have changed in the years that Ellington has been ‘on the radio.' In his early days of broadcasting, things were a lot more low-tech than they are now and in some cases, much less complicated than they are now.
Ellington was born in Montgomery during the Great Depression years of the 1930s. His father was a Church of Christ minister and the family moved from church to church. He was reared with three brothers and he graduated from Evergreen High School in 1953. He was the typical rural kid growing up. He spent many hours in the woods and when he got the chance, he played sports. After graduation from high school he wanted to go to Auburn University, but went instead to David Lipscomb College in Nashville, Tenn., which was affiliated with the Church of Christ. He graduated in 1957 and his years in Nashville were not wasted. He found that hanging around Nashville made it easier for him to get to be with people in country music. He met some of the ‘greats' of the 1950s and got the opportunity to get to know them.
After graduation from college he came back to South Alabama and got a job with Chemstrad in Pensacola for a few years. He had a friend who worked at a radio station in Evergreen and he was told he had a good radio voice, so he took a job at WBLO in Evergreen.
He worked in Evergreen about 10 years and then went to Jackson where he worked for several years.
In 1979 he bought WKNU from John and Frances Shipp and began to initiate some new ideas. He started one program that has been copied by many other stations. The Friday Night Scoreboard was his idea, one that has lasted all these years. His office at the station has a large posterboard with most of the high school football teams listed along with all their games. He keeps up with who wins what every Friday night so he can keep the listeners informed about football games in the state.
He believes radio is much like television without the pictures. Radio broadcasters have to paint pictures with their descriptions so the listener can picture things in their minds.
Sports play a big role in the schedule of WKNU. The station gets direct feed from the University of Alabama and the Atlanta Braves during the season and they cover Jay, Fla. football.
The radio station is made up of several rooms. Some are offices and some are control rooms. There is one very special room that houses the transmitter, which is one of the most important parts of the station.
Ellington married his wife, Carol, in 1976. He has three children from a previous marriage and she has a son. The children, all grown now, are Stephanie, Joe, Wendy and Clay. Most of the children have worked in the broadcast business at least for a short while and his wife works at the station every day.
The Ellingtons have six grandchildren, five boys and a brand new baby girl. He says he loves spending time with them. He also likes to fish and go on dove and duck shoots.
Ellington seems to love what he does. For someone who never thought about being a radio personality, he does pretty well. He hasn't forgotten his roots either. His dad was a preacher and these days Hugh Ellington can be found speaking at various churches in the area, filling in where he is needed.