Only one in ten PBS viewers sends in a donation during the stations’ annual pledge drives. I made a $30 donation to East Tennessee PBS on Sunday night. How could I not? I was one of the pledge drive hosts. I had a great time doing something I’ve wanted to try for a long time.
A few years ago I interviewed program director Russ Manning about the digital TV transition. After the interview, I asked if I could be on a pledge drive. The answer was no because the station wasn’t doing live pledge drives at the time. Things changed and the new development director, Chris Williams, brought back the live, local breaks this year. Once again, I offered to volunteer. I jumped at the opportunity to be on during an Ed Sullivan special featuring comedians from the past.
In addition to Williams, I was on-air with the station’s Vicki Lawson and three other volunteers: Gwen Parisi, Annie LaLonde and Ava Barber. Ava was the star attraction of the night. She was on “The Lawrence Welk Show” and performed at the Welk Champagne Theatre in Branson. We have a friend in common, accordionist Tim Padilla. “Little Timmy” got his first break on the Mark & Brian show and went on to gain notice in the “Search for the Hottest Accordionist in America,” which led to a job at the Welk Resort.
Four of the phone bank volunteers were barbershop singers from Smokyland Sound. They entertained the crew while “Sherlock” was on the air and sang live on-air during our last pledge break of the night. Their singing inspired Ava to wow us with a few bars of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” which she sang a cappella.