Last year, a man from Kentucky picked up the phone. By the time he hung it up, he had fascinated the listeners of one of the most well-known radio programs in the world. His name is Eugene. This is his story.
Eugene has covered a lot a ground in his life, even though where he’s ended up is pretty much the same as where he started – Waddy, KY. Well, “up ‘er near Waddy,” to be exact. Much of the ground he covered helped provide his living, either from the cattle he’s raised on it, the crops he’s grown, or the fences he’s put around it with his son.
After he finished high school, he attended Asbury College for a little while before briefly going to school in Florida. He came back to the Bluegrass, and alternated between working on the farm to save money for school and paying that money for school until graduating 14 years after he started. He went back to farming, and has been working the land ever since. He likes to spend time with his son, daughter, and grandson “Little C,” and otherwise leads what he would tell you is a pretty quiet life. “Not a whole lot exciting to tell ya about it.”
So the whirlwind he went through – the one that started when he picked up the phone, saw him captivate millions of Howard Stern’s listeners, and eventually took him to within spitting distance of the Madison Square Garden floor – is probably as surprising to him as it might seem to you. He’s still not totally sure how it happened.
“They took a liking to me, I guess, because I didn’t sound like nobody they had talked to before,” he said. And while his voice, which would fit right in around a frontier campfire, is enough to make you want to listen, there was a little more to it than that. He and Howard talked for roughly a half hour Eugene’s life, farming, and family on that first day. A couple hours later, the folks with the show called, saying they liked him so much they wanted him back on the next day.
Eugene obliged and, since nobody can have anything fun anymore, ended up being confronted by callers who questioned what he knew about cattle, or even thought he wasn’t who he said he was. He figures they just wanted to argue, and he was happy to give them their wish. “I tried to put them in their place there and let ‘em know what was what,” he said. “I mean, you don’t tell a man what he can do and he can’t do with his cattle. That’s his own business.” Damn right.
He doesn’t mind the ones who question if he’s real, either. I interviewed him over the phone, so I guess I can’t tell you for absolutely certain if he is or not. I do know there’s a picture of him with Matt at the top of this post, he certainly seemed real when I talked to him, and it’s all a lot more fun if he is, so that’s good enough for me. It’s probably more likely that, to those uninitiated in southernness, the voice that got everyone’s attention was just too good to be believed. As a more worldly crowd, though, KSR listeners know that drawl would be familiar to many hills, hollers and holes-in-the-wall across Kentucky.
That wasn’t even the only time that people who didn’t know better tried to spoil his 15 minutes in the Stern show spotlight. After he sent Howard a gift – a coat rack fashioned from a railroad tie – listeners told Howard it might actually be full of toxic creosote. Eugene says that’s, um, not the case.
“He said he liked it, but then those f—n yankees told him it had cancer in it and all that sort of stuff and he took it down,” he said, as close to irritated as he got during our talk. “I said ‘You know Howard I mean come on son. I ain’t real bright but I know you’re not gonna be messin’ around with creosote.’ At least he liked it, I guess.” Stern said appreciated the gesture, still, and eventually named Eugene the best caller of 2017.
Despite those who might doubt if he’s real, one thing that no one should doubt is whether he’s a true Cats fan. When I asked about some his favorite players and memories, he ran through a list that dotted the last 40 years: from Macy, to Minniefield, then Feldhaus and Mashburn in the 90s, Tayshaun and Chuck Hayes from the Tubby years, and Boogie and MKG from Cal’s time, among others. He loved the ’77 team, and Rex laying the smack down on UofL in ’86 was one of his favorite moments.
But how do I know his blood runs deep blue? Because his football list goes back just as far, and is just as long.
He listed George Adams, Mark Higgs and Derrick Ramsey among his favorites, along with Dicky Lyons, Derek Abney, Danny Trevathan, and, like many of us, Jared Lorenzen and Stephen Johnson. He was in the house for the 1976 Peach Bowl victory, and the infamous defeat in 1993 against Clemson. He enjoyed every bit of the 2007 team’s ride, from beating #1 LSU to knocking off Florida State in the Music City Bowl.
As such a big Kentucky fan, it’s no surprise that Eugene is also a longtime KSR fan, and has actually been reading the website longer than the radio show has been around. I guess it makes sense, then, that after knowing and loving KSR for a while, KSR listeners got to know and love him, too after he found the spotlight on Howard Stern. He called and was instantly a fan favorite.
He compares Matt and Ryan to Andy Griffith and Barney Fife (respectively, in case anyone was questioning that). Their relationship and the crew’s overall chemistry is what he thinks makes the show, along with some of the same things that he likes about Stern. “The way Howard brought everyone from behind the scenes and made them part of the show … no one had done that before him, and it’s kind of the same thing Matt does with Ryan, Shannon and everyone with KSR.”
He loves the goofy stuff like the restaurant bracket, hilariously doomed games and general nonsense, but also respects and appreciates the heart KSR shows through things like the Martin County water crisis and standing up for Kentucky teachers. And, of course, he enjoys the other callers. Harold, Josephine and Chester are some of his favorites, and that, my friends, would be one heck of a crew to watch a game with.
The show gave him and his grandson tickets to see the Cats play Monmouth in Madison Square Garden last season. He said the experience was amazing, and the seats were so good, it was almost like they were playing a different game then he was used to.
Then they took in NYC. “It’s so big. You get in spots up there and all you can see is people,” he said. “It’s incredible. It was nice to visit but I wouldn’t wanna live there.”
He and his grandson enjoyed every minute in the Big Apple, although Little C was disappointed they didn’t go out to find Matt and the boys at the bars after the game. “I told him ‘you’re only nine, son. I just don’t think we can do it.’”
There was one moment in New York when his two radio families intersected, and he said it shows the power and reach of KSR and BBN. He was standing on the street talking to the Stern show’s Shuli Egar, when a man approached him and asked if he was Eugene from the radio.
“I just want to shake your hand and tell you how much I like you. I really enjoy listening to you,” the man said. “On Kentucky Sports Radio.”
He still calls to check in with Howard every once in a while, and KSR too. “You don’t want to call too often and wear out your welcome,” he says. I think I can safely say, for KSR at least, wearing out his welcome is unlikely. He’s a full-fledged part of the family, with a voice that could make the phonebook sound interesting and a story that even he still doesn’t completely believe.
“If you’d have told me last year that someone from KSR wanted to interview and talk with me, I woulda said you’re dumber than s—. But here we are.” He’s covered a lot of ground since then.