Closer Look

Air Force veteran/broadcaster recognized by his voice

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Catherine Haithcock

There is a man who has been in more Macon County houses, businesses, and cars than any contractor, inspector, repairman, or traveling salesman. People may know him simply as “Randy,” or they may not even know his name at all – just the number to call or the station to tune into. Yes, many locals have invited the “Tell It and Sell It” host, Randy Ashurst, into their lives. Now he invites readers into his.  

“I wanted to be a broadcaster since I was 12,” remembered Ashurst. “Sitting with my two-transistor radios, listening to KJR radio. Wow! Top 40 radio; that became my world. Music was so sweet then and the DJs had a lot of fun on the air.” 

Ashurst was born in Miami, Fla., in 1949. With a Marine father, his family lived in several states during his adolescence.  

Several years passed, and a child with dreams turned into a man with a choice. In 1970, the Vietnam War was at its peak and Ashurst was drafted. His father wanted him to be a Marine, but Ashurst had other plans. “The draft came up, and I had to go to North Carolina for a physical,” Ashurst said. Weighing his options, Ashurst pursued the Air Force instead of the Marines, despite a six-month waiting list and his father’s wishes.  

“I took the test (for the Air Force) and somehow scored very high,” said Ashurst. “In two weeks, I got my free haircut in Texas.” 

After basic training, Ashurst had the opportunity to pursue his childhood dream – as a broadcaster for the military. He went to Korea for a short time, but was then sent to Spain, the first country to hear Ashurst live on the radio. 

“Each week, a new box of records would arrive,” Ashurst said. “I loved the possibility of being the first person to air a new song in a country. Our ‘shadow audience’ [wide expanse of an audience] was huge everywhere.” Think “Good Morning Vietnam,” a movie starring Robin Williams that portrays a very similar situation to that which Ashurst experienced. 

In total, Ashurst spent 16 years, 10 months, and six days outside of the United States during his 23-year Air Force career. 

“I am not afraid to try new languages and go out and meet new people,” said Ashurst. “Everywhere I have been, the locals have been very open to me. It’s been a lot of fun seeing the world.” 

Living in eight countries, Ashurst has many stories to tell of his experiences. While broadcasting in Spain, Ashurst’s coworkers volunteered him to host a 42-hour broadcast marathon after being approached by Children Have a Potential – an organization focused on building an education center for kids with special needs. 

“It was rough,” recalls Ashurst. “At about 26 hours … I took a break to take a shower and another guy sat in. I get out of the shower, put on my shoes, and someone had put onion dip in them!”  

With a goal of $3,000, Ashurst and his squishy, stinky shoes crossed the finish line, raising $10,000 for the organization. 

“That was a sweet moment,” said Ashurst. “Radio is not a job, it’s a calling. You have to love it, believe it, live it. You just put your heart into it.” 

Ashurst spent nine consecutive years out of the States after basic training before he was relocated to California in 1979, where he was not able to acquire a broadcasting job but, instead, landed a short-term job filming autopsies. It was a job he detested, but the high point was that he met his wife, Gail, who was a secretary at the hospital. 

They married three weeks later, and he eventually landed a broadcasting job in Japan. On Nov. 11, 1981, Ashurst delivered the broadcast of his career – a Veteran’s Day salute titled “Ask What You Can Do.” (Click here for a link to the broadcast.)

“They said WWI was the war to end all wars, but history revealed it was not,” a 32-year-old Ashurst can be heard saying, near the end of the broadcast. “But we still live and hope that the objective of permanent peace will somehow be achieved with faith that the ultimate destiny of mankind will thus be served.” 

In that apex broadcast, Ashurst combined music, poetry, and speeches. Those minutes of airtime proved impressive enough for the Department of Defense to award him the Thomas Jefferson Award for top radio show that year.

“It’s sort of like our Pulitzer or Oscar,” said Ashurst.  

The couple returned to the U.S. in 1986 and welcomed a second child. Ashurst retired from the Air Force in 1993, settling into the community of Brunswick, Ga. Besides becoming involved in a prison ministry, Ashurst did a bit of radio work but mostly settled into a steady career working for U.S. Customs at the port of Brunswick, Ga., where he stayed for 16 years until retirement at age 62. 

The couple relocated to Franklin in 2019 to get away from the “flat (in Georgia) with trees all the way to Alabama,” because Ashurst said they enjoy instead “the visuals … all the distant vistas in every direction, the hills, the trees – everything is beautiful.”

Ashurst thought he was retired and done with broadcasting, but then he answered an advertisement on Facebook for the “Tell It and Sell It” host. The stations are WFSC 104.9 FM and 1050 AM, with the shows airing Monday through Friday from 9:05 a.m. until 10 a.m. Ashurst is the sole person responsible for taking the calls, transcribing what people want to sell or trade, or communicating various services they request or share. He is also the one who then translates all of that information onto the “Tell It and Sell It” website and Facebook page so that listeners may access information from the shows.

“Broadcasting was always a perfect fit for me,” said Ashurst. “Doing ‘Tell It and Sell It’ is like the voice of home. These are our people calling in asking to buy, sell, or find something, and it’s amazing how the community will jump into [supporting them]. It is all about community. It’s like sitting on a bench out in front of the hardware store. I just try to make it feel like home.”