God must have needed a ‘morning man’

Published 9:43 am Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The voice was as distinctive as the man himself.

For those of us fortunate enough to grow up in northeastern North Carolina – especially within range of a radio tower pointing towards the heavens on the outskirts of western Murfreesboro or along the banks of Roanoke River over in Roanoke Rapids – we knew the man behind that nasaler delivery. His name was Earl Telliga. Most all of us knew him as “Uncle Earl” despite the fact that our bloodlines were different.

But we were, as Earl would like it, part of one big family of proud residents of the Roanoke-Chowan and the Roanoke Valley areas.

Earl was our voice. We looked forward to his morning broadcasts on WDLZ-FM….giving us the time, the temperature, and what was happening in the world around us.

He let us know who was celebrating a birthday or a wedding anniversary. He informed us of the daily special down at his luncheon hang-out, the also-famous Walter’s Grill in the heart of downtown Murfreesboro.

And you haven’t enjoyed life unless you’re a customer at the Barnes Brothers Barber Shop and “Think Tank” on Murfreesboro’s main drag. There, Earl would pop in on nearly a daily basis to take part in helping to solve all the world’s problems along with the Barnes boys – Luther and Johnny.

We all lost a great friend in the early morning hours of Saturday, Dec. 3 when Earl Telliga’s voice went silent. Colon cancer had claimed him at the age of 78.

From broadcasting from within a radio booth, or conducting a live feed from an event such as Watermelon Festival in Murfreesboro or the Ahoskie Rotary Club’s Pancake and Sausage Day, Earl was the man behind the mike for the better part of 60 years.

Earl also served as the “Voice of the Yellow Jackets” – the Public Address announcer for Roanoke Rapids High School home football games for over 40 years. They thought so much of Earl over at Roanoke Rapids High School that they named the press box at the football field in his honor a couple of years ago. (As a side note to the Hertford County Board of Education, you CAN honor legends!!)

Uncle Earl and I forged a professional relationship, starting back when I served this newspaper as its Sports Editor (1989-2000). We shared the same passion, passing along information to those that live and work across the four counties of the Roanoke-Chowan. That led to a friendship which lasted for well over 25 years.

The things I treasure the most about Earl are his work ethic, his honesty, and his dependability. If he promised something, he delivered.

One of my fondest memories of Earl was during the annual banquet hosted by the Murfreesboro Chamber of Commerce. We both were listed on the program each year to hand out awards sponsored by our respective businesses. The Murfreesboro Chamber folks always had Earl to make his presentation first. That meant I had to follow the “golden voice.” Listening to me talk is like hearing fingernails drag across a chalkboard, but I always got my “jab” in to Earl, telling him he had a face for radio.

I meant that in all in jest…..Earl was a downright handsome gent.

“Everybody have a happy day; it’s another good day,” was Earl’s trademark calling card on WDLZ FM.

You see, it was Earl’s job to make people feel good about themselves.

Back in February, Earl was featured on WRAL’s Tarheel Traveler with Scott Mason. Earl claimed his first radio gig came at the age of 18, but, as he recalled, “they wouldn’t let me talk.”

He claimed when the station’s management finally gave into his wishes to be “on the air” his very first chore was to give the time of day.

“I gave out the wrong time,” he told Mason.

Since that early gaffe, pretty much everything else has been right for the man we all came to know as Uncle Earl.

Even when he faced life’s biggest obstacle – colon cancer – Earl tackled it head on. Every time we talked since his diagnosis last year he was always upbeat, always positive that he would stare cancer squarely in the face and emerge victorious over the disease.

Apparently, God must have needed a “morning man” on the air in Heaven. All I can say is, Lord, you made a great choice.


Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal