Well-known S.C. broadcaster Woody Windham retired in 2012, but he isn’t finished behind the microphone. For the past four years, he’s been pumping out the music at his dance club in Columbia’s Vista and launching his own Internet station.
By Antoine Thomas
April 1, 2015
Woodrow “Woody” Windham Jr., a household name in Columbia radio, could have stopped entertaining after retiring from more than 50 years in broadcasting. But Windham, 75, just moved from the dial to the dance floor.
For the past four years, he’s been presiding over his Lady Street dance club, The Woody in the Vista. Its already been voted as Columbia’s best twice by Free Times readers.
But Windham also never really left radio after retiring, creating his own Internet streaming station, Woody with the Goodies.
Given Windham’s history, that shouldn’t be surprising. He helped transform Columbia radio in the 1950s, says John Wrisley, another former Columbia broadcaster.
“He was playing the stuff that we wouldn’t play with a 10-foot pole,” Wrisley says. “He attracted the young people.”
Windham launched Woody with the Goodies in 2011 – the same day he opened his nightclub. It plays nonstop, commercial-free music from his 14,000-song collection, and Windham says he takes pains to not just segue tunes but to mix them, trying to match the beat.
Windham started in 1959, working part-time in Darlington for WDAR-AM. After a career that took him through beach music, rock ‘n’ roll, oldies and country, he stepped aside in 2012 at WISW-AM, where he had been shifted to doing a talk show.
“Talk radio is for Republicans. My dad is not a Republican,” said one of his daughters, Jennifer.
“He did it for a year though,” she said. “It’s amazing that he did it for as long as he did.”
Windham is known for his charity work. Among his honors is recognition as Columbia’s “Best Air Personality” by Columbia Metropolitan Magazine in 2006.
Windham’s ability to connect with people through music easily transitioned to the club at 808 Lady Street. On weekends, you’ll find him keeping the crowd on their feet as the disc jockey with his mixture of old- and new-school grooves.
But later in the evening, Windham usually steps aside so Jennifer can take over. It’s a way, she says, for her to jumpstart her disc jockey career. Windham also helped one of his brothers, Leo, become a disc jockey.
“He’s very concerned about family,” Leo said. “He had a lot of influence of in my life.”
Wrisley is just glad there’s still gas left in Windham’s tank.
“We were all trying to be radio announcers, and Woody was the driver at the time,” Wrisley said. “I commend him on sticking to it.”
We talked with Windham about his family, his legacy and his love for music. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
(Listen to the entire podcast.)
Working alongside your brother Leo in the Windham brothers’ talk show and also now, with The Woody, your daughters, they’re helping you run it. Why has family been so important for you in your professional career?
Because it just is. Everything about me is family. I’m a family man. I have three daughters, three granddaughters and now two great granddaughters. No boys, so I got to take a step up, I got to take the lead. Well my daughters, like I said they both had secretarial kind of dead end jobs, and I wanted them to become entrepreneurs. And so I opened up the club and did it for them. But it’s also for me too because it’s a tribute to my career and I’m hoping it’ll be there for a long time.
Awards, achievements, accolades, you name it you’ve won them. What do all those things mean to you?
Not much. I mean, you know, they’re nice; I’ve got a room full of them you know. But what really sets me off is people telling me that they could tell that I did good job for the community. And all the fundraising I’ve done and all the charity work I’ve done. I think people really appreciate that. And one of the reasons I had my brother working with me is because I think people appreciate family. They really appreciate hearing two brothers get along when most of them don’t. …
Throughout your career, local charities have been huge for you. Why did you want to give back to the local community so much?
Because people appreciate it. I used to do marathons on the radio for 70 hours where I’d end up losing my voice and raise $70,000 for the heart association.
Then I started doing it for the cancer society. I guess I raised about $2 million for each one of them over the years. Never expected anything for it. But my reward was great because people appreciate that. And they show it to you too. Especially the intelligent people, they really appreciate you doing things to help you. And so I would do that anyway. …
What made you want to even do (online radio) 24/7 without any commercials?
It’s funny about the “Woody with the Goodies” thing. See, I started radio in Darlington, WDAR. Typical small town radio station. Half the time, I was doing the morning show and the afternoon show. I’d take a little time off and come back and do the afternoon show. And it was an AM day-timer. It would go off at sundown. So it wasn’t so bad in the afternoon. In the morning, I did a country music show, and I called myself “Woody on the Wind,” and I thought that was pretty cool. Then in the afternoon, I did a rock ‘n’ roll show and I called myself “Woody with the Goodies.” The “Woody with the Goodies,” stuck, “Woody on the Wind,” didn’t make it. …
When will the music stop for Woody? …
I have to tell you, people ask me all the time, how long I’m going to do it. I always tell them the same thing, “I’d like to die at the mic.” I mean really, I would like to die at the microphone. Everyone knows that I did it my whole life, did exactly what I wanted to do, did it my way.