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Willy hosts deliver hometown news

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Radio personalities Kenny Graves and Andre Perrard recently celebrated their second anniversary at Navasota’s Willy 1550 and 98.7. This past year, the duo made “friends” all over the county, delighted their classic country listeners with an expanded music library as well as fun, informative interviews. But when it comes to the importance of Willy’s presence in Navasota, there’s no doubt how Graves and Perrard feel.

Graves said, “Every small town this size should have its own station. If you want to hear about Navasota and what’s going in Grimes County, you won’t really get it in Bryan-College Station (B-CS). It may be at the end of the newscast if it’s a big story. You’re not going to get the day-to-day stuff. You certainly won’t get it in Houston.”

Listeners can count on Graves and Perrard to provide accurate and solid information, thanks to the relationships they’ve built with city and county staff, elected officials, and law enforcement.

Graves described the level of accessibility afforded Willy as “top tier, without fail.”

Prime job of radio

According to Graves, publicizing community events is “the prime job of radio.”

Perrard added, “We’re always looking for stuff for the Community Calendar.”

Behind the scenes, Perrard’s recent changes allow nonprofits or civic organizations to submit directly to the website and include a user-friendly calendar format for viewing.

Graves has been the public face of Willy emceeing numerous events and enjoys the current joint venture with the Navasota Examiner, “Grilling Stafford.”

Graves said, “Two years in a row emceeing the Texas Birthday Bash is a real pleasure. I got to do the Freedom Festival. It was hot, but it was great. The courthouse 125th birthday was a lot of fun. I like getting us out there. We still meet the occasional person who says, ‘We have a radio station?”

So, what’s new?

This past year Graves and Perrard rolled out The Small Business Spotlight, Miranda’s Musings with Miranda Ashley from the “home office,” This Day in History, and artist interviews.

Classic country lovers have enjoyed even more of their favorites because Graves and Perrard can select the music instead of playing from a prescribed list of an artist’s top 10 hits.

Graves said, “That was the trouble with radio, corporate stations started buying out all the local owned stations 25 years ago and they started using one format of songs on all their stations. Therefore, somebody who didn’t know music was in charge of music.”

Graves said, “We’ve added 400 songs this year. It’s a lot of time but it’s well worth it!”

Interviewing country royalty

Anticipating the often asked question, Graves said, “I’m not going to get George Strait because George Strait doesn’t do interviews,” but just how does he connect with Country Music Hall of Famer Crystal Gayle, or Moe Bandy, Gene Watson, or Janie Fricke?

According to Graves, bigger stations have a producer that does it for them but at Willy, “It’s just me.”

He continued, “I’ll send out a lot of emails at one time, hitting the ones I know I want to talk to and wait for the responses.”

While Graves has his sights set on singers Neal McCoy and Tanya Tucker, he’s proud of the variety he’s brought to Willy such as award-winning actor Barry Corbin and motivational speaker Chad Prather. Perrard says the “clicks” confirm the segment’s popularity with many who listen on the Navasota News website.

Willy’s wish list

For Graves and Perrard, the future is full of possibilities. Perrard will serve as the Navasota Rattler color commentator with WTAW’s Tom Turbeville and looks forward to the new district and road trips but said, “A lot depends on what happens with UIL.”

Other additions Perrard has in mind include announcing the school lunch menu each morning at 6:30 a.m. and spicing up the midafternoon with odd stories from around the country, “news of the weird, that kind of thing.”

He said, “I’d like to get to the point where, like WTAW, with every 5 o’clock newscast, there’s an interview with the school district or city council.”

Graves would like to add weekend programming, similar to the two-hour “Honky Tonkin’ with Tracy Lawrence Radio Show” which airs in B-CS, or perhaps a fishing or hunting show. But that requires advertisers, and like other businesses, Willy’s finances were touched by COVID-19.

Graves said, “Certainly we’d like more advertising. Not even the big stuff. If they spend less, that’s fine. It’s going to help them and it’s going to help us. Radio is like every other business. You have to make money to stay on.”

Chuck Norris, a Friend of Willy?

How many “friends” does Willy actually have? The duo has lost count!

Graves said, “If people want to record a Friend of Willy, reach out to us and we’ll schedule them. I like that branding. It makes us unique and people identify with it.”

Perrard added, “It’s unique to the town. You hear someone you live down the street from. It really took off last year with people hearing it a lot more and hearing more people do it.”

At the top of Willy’s Wish List is Chuck Norris.

Graves said, “I can’t prove it, but I feel deep in my soul that Chuck Norris is a Friend of Willy. My goal is to one day have him record one. I will have arrived in radio in Navasota, Texas, if I get Chuck Norris to be a Friend of Willy.”

Surmising that Norris doesn’t listen to hip-hop or classic rock while out and about, Graves plans to record an obligatory shoutout to Norris.

He said, “I figure given a year, he’ll hear about it at least from someone, and I will hear from Mr. Chuck Norris and we’ll go from there!”