They are Louisville radio stalwarts and survivors. Through ups, downs, and big changes, their strong relationship has seen them through. The couple sat down with Rocko Jerome to share their story.
Ron Fisher's career in radio can be traced all the way back to Bishop David High School when he found a fantastic way to share his love of music: He was allowed to play records for the student body over the intercom during lunch period. "It was something that I really enjoyed doing," he says. "It was pretty clear that I wanted to find a way to continue doing it." That he did. Ron would go on to serve an internship at WHAS in 1992 that led to a full-time position the following year. "I think that they gave me the job to keep me from hanging around all the time," he quips.
For Mel Fisher, the path to professional radio was a bit more accidental. In 1990, she was a student at Spalding studying towards a major in communications with a minor in theater, when she met Louisville radio legend Duke Meyer who was then splitting his time between instructing and a gig as a DJ at WQMF. The station, through Spalding, offered students internships in their field of study and Mel decided to go for it. "I think the original plan was that I would be doing things like getting coffee and answering the phone for Duke," Mel says, "but the morning show guys had other ideas." The QMF AM drive time crew, led by Ron Clay along with Troy Roebuck and Barry Harmon, needed a voice for female characters in their radio bits. Mel, with her pleasantly unique tone, quick wit and background in theater, fit the bill. Soon she had her own show and there was no looking back.
Ron and Mel were having fun and living the dream, live on the air during the freewheeling and independent era of local radio. They had a lot, but they didn't have each other. That would come in 1995 when a huge conglomerate bought out many local stations and brought them all together under one corporate umbrella. Mel heard about Ron first, who would be coming over to run promotions for QMF. Marji Pilato, then Promotions Director for WAMZ, said to her "Ron is perfect for you. The only thing is, he's got a girlfriend." Mel put it out of her mind, and she and Ron became great coworkers and good friends, bonding over their mutual love of classic film and diverse music.
"There are not many people who can go with you from the Foo Fighters and Ramones to Bing Crosby and Dean Martin, but we always like a mix," Ron says.
Mel adds, "We are freakishly compatible."
When Ron's other relationship ended, he and Mel got together. "It just felt natural," Mel said. By this time, they were sharing the airwaves on the WHAS Saturday Morning Crew show. They kept the new depth of their relationship a secret for a few months until it was blown on air by touring comedian Etta May, who was in town promoting a local performance. Their radio family was fully accepting, and when they wed, it was Marji as the Maid of Honor and QMF morning man Rocky Knight, an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church, who did the honors. "I told him that he could be just as funny as he wanted to be, but keep in mind that my grandma is here," says Mel.
The two could be heard both separately and in unison across myriad radio stations for years. They could drive to and from work together, they shared an office. Things were comfortable and nice, until one fateful day in March of 2015. Ron and Mel were each called in to separate meetings and summarily dismissed without warning, a cost-cutting move from high up the company level. Between them, they had given over 40 years of service.
"I was stunned & petrified," says Mel, "This was the only job I had ever known. It was such a huge part of my life, and it was just suddenly gone. Completely gone." Ron was more optimistic. "I certainly wasn't happy about the situation, but I always felt that we would get through it all, and that things would be OK," he says. "This goes into the way our relationship is balanced," Mel adds, "Ron is the calm before the storm...I am the storm."
They leaned on each other through this difficult time. Sure enough, opportunity came calling via Louisville's independent radio stations. Louisville Public Media recruited them both, thanks to WFPK Program Director Stacy Owen and, as fate would have it, Duke Meyer, who now does morning drive on WFPK. Ron does his thing on 89.3 WFPL, the spot on the dial reserved for news, while Mel is a DJ on 91.9 WFPK, the music station. Both stations broadcast from the same downtown studios, and they now enjoy the latitude and respect that this style of radio allows. "I was amazed when we began," Mel says, "They showed me the programming slot that I would be in charge of, and it was full of empty spaces where I could choose for myself the music that would play. The trust and freedom was remarkable."
All these years later, and this is Ron and Mel- still together, still on the air, still riding to and from work together every day...and loving every minute of it.
Christmas with Ron & Mel
In the spirit of our holiday issue, we asked the couple to come up with their top 5 seasonal traditions. Not surprisingly, they answered us in unison.
Christkindlmarkts (German for “Christmas Market,” a sort of holiday oriented street wide pop-up flea market)
After traveling to Europe several times during the holiday season, we’ve come to love the Christmas markets in Germany, France, England, and Luxembourg. A warm mug of gluhwein (a spiced wine) is a must while you’re there.
Classic Christmas Movies
It wouldn’t be the holidays without watching our favorite Christmas films-- “The Bishop’s Wife”, “White Christmas,” and “Miracle on 34th Street,” to name a few.
Over-the-top decorations, a la Clark Griswold, but with an emphasis on pigs, pigs and more pigs. Seriously...we have a lot of Christmas pigs!
We may be some of the only people here who actually want to see snow. Especially on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. We haven’t had a White Christmas in quite a few years, so we’re due!
Buche de Noel
Our favorite Christmas dessert! It’s a tradition for us to order one of these delicious Yule Logs every year from Sweet Surrender. (Theirs is the best!)