Broadcasting legend, Doug Mayes, returns to WBTV for final broadcast
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Doug Mayes last worked for WBTV News in 1982. Yet 30 years later, his popularity is unparalleled.
He was, and always will be, Charlotte and the Carolinas' first anchorman.
Recently, WBTV's Paul Cameron sat down with this broadcast pioneer for some guitar picking, some grinning and some straight talk about TV news.
They sat down together at Doug Mayes' home on Lake Norman.
They strummed the guitar and had a chat about a long and productive life.
Carl Douglas Mayes learned how to perform in front of people from his rural roots.
It was a family of music.
Mayes says, "they were all musicians, they were hillbilly musicians."
Doug Mayes performing roots started in music.
His talents took him to Nashville, playing bass fiddle at the Grand Ole Opry.
But his career hit a fork in the road when Mayes says a close friend asked, "You going to play that bass fiddle and tell jokes all your life?"
"And I said, I'd like to have a job and get a paycheck every Friday cause right now, some days I don't eat."
That was the end of Doug's music and the start of a new career.
After a stint in the Navy reading news and working radio in Nashville, Mayes rode a bus all night to apply for a coveted job with WBT.
He was one of three finalists.
So was a kid from Charlotte named Charles Kuralt who faced questions from the program manager.
"And he said, Charles, aren't you going to go to college? And Charles said, yeesss. And said, "How old are you?', and Charles said, 'Sixteen'. Unbelievable."
Doug got the job while Kuralt would work as a summer intern.
In 1952, Mayes again bested his audition rivals when he moved to television.
Mayes, always the modest man says, "I lucked out. Became the Esso reporter."
There were only six Esso reporters in the country, including Walter Cronkite.
Doug shows his mementos to Paul. Pouring over old pictures.
Doug's history is television history and like Doug, TV started modestly too.
As the Esso Reporter, Doug commanded the news with one camera, one desk on wheels.
It was a position Mayes held for 15 years, until Esso ended sponsoring newscasts.
From that moment on, Mayes was WBTV's anchorman, teamed with long-time friend and weather pal Clyde "Cloudy" McLean who tried very hard to make Doug crack-up every night.
Mayes is still laughing.
"And he got me a time or two, and I wound up just bowled over with laughter and had to stop and it was terrible because I got chewed out about that. And I said, 'I can't help it. The guy made me laugh and I got started. And Cloudy was triumphant.'"
In 1982, after 30 years at WBTV, Doug stunned many when he suddenly took a job with WSOC.
Paul Cameron had to ask.
"What made you go?"
Mayes smiles again.
"They offered me a deal I couldn't refuse. I would have been a fool not to. I had a family. I had kids going to college. Jefferson Pilot was a great company to work for, but they didn't pay a lot of money."
Since his retirement, Doug's lake house, The Station Break, as it's known, is where he remembers his long and storied career, passing on advice to anyone wanting to follow this 91-year-old's path.
"From my heart of hearts, be yourself. And work very hard to improve every day. Try to do better today than you did yesterday."
And on that afternoon in September, two anchormen strummed the guitar and eased back into a song.
"I'll hush up my mug if you'll fill my jug of that good ole Mountain Dew..yee haw."
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