Charlie Douglas, the radio announcer whose “Road Gang” radio show on WWL invented a genre of overnight programming for truck drivers nationwide, died on Thanksgiving Day. He was 78.
Dave Nemo, Douglas’ one-time co-host and eventual successor on WWL, called him a pioneer of the overnight talk genre geared toward truckers.
“Trucking radio lost the man who invented the genre. He will live on in the memories of all who rode through the night with this great friend of the truck driver,” Nemo told WWL News.
Douglas, whose real name was Doug China, first brought the “Road Gang” to WWL in 1971. The station’s clear channel signal meant that the program could be heard by truck drivers nationwide.
“Charlie went to WWL and said ‘You’ve got a signal that is a flame thrower out there,’” Nemo recalled in the WWL report. “He said, ‘You’ve got all these truckers with nothing directed towards them. Why don’t we start a program aimed for the trucking audience exclusively?’“
Nemo said that the show was not just about entertainment, but also public safety.
“The mandate for the program was to keep truckers awake, and therefore alive,” Nemo said. “The best compliment we could get was for someone to say, ‘Man, you really helped me make it through that night.’ We took that very seriously.”
Douglas had never driven a truck, but was fascinated by the big rigs that rolled through his boyhood home of Ludowici, Ga. His “Road Gang” show continued on WWL for some 13 years before being picked up nationally on satellite and spawning dozens of imitators.
Douglas was inducted into the Country Music DJ Hall of Fame in 1994. He retired from radio a year later to work full-time for CDX, a country music distribution business he established in 1991.
Douglas is survived by his wife and three children. A memorial is planned for Saturday, Dec. 3 in Picayune, Mississippi.