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Moby In The Morning

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BAMS Hero,

March 2008

Hey folks,

I'm Moby in the Morning. I do an independent network country music morning radio show based out of suburban Atlanta, Georgia.

You'd be doing me a favor if you'd check out my website: www.mobyinthemorning.com. Like you, I've been a Clay Walker fan for many years, but unlike many of his fans, I wasn't frightened for him when I heard he'd been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1996.

I knew he'd get the proper care, be aware of himself, and go right on with his life and career. I was also diagnosed with MS back in 1984, and although it did scare the dickens out of me, I made the decision to just "ignore it, and it'll go away." Well, that didn't work out very well.

It took several years for me to realize that with proper caution and care, I was as bad off as I would ever be. Ultimately, I ended up with daily injections of Copaxone, just like Clay does, and it "ain't that big a deal."

Through the years, I've had a few weaknesses or a tingling in my extremities. So, back to the neurologist I went, got a good going over, and I was hunky dory in no time. Then in the mid-90's, I met Dr. Katherine (Katie) Klotz, and have the comfort of knowing that if I feel anything out of the ordinary, she'll see me and make me all better. She put me on Copaxone several years ago, and I've not had any trouble since. Although I do wish the scientists would make it in pill form. One thing I did do wrong, and I'd encourage others not to make the mistake I did.

I intentionally kept myself ignorant of the disease. I had the mindset that if I don't acknowledge it, it can't get me. Well, that was stupid. Remember I did have a few occurrences early on after my diagnosis. Well, gee guess why!! I didn't take care of me, and that wasn't smart. I should have faced it like I had a backbone, and not gone through the denial phase. But in the long run, it turned out OK for me. Thank God for His protection of the thick-headed. Let me start at the beginning, and try to share the entire story. That in itself is a bit weird for me, because I never really have.

As a matter of fact, I never publicly admitted to having MS until Clay made his diagnosis known. Then his fans were calling into my show in large numbers grieving for him like he was just before making that one-way trip to St. Peter. As wonderful as that will be, it's neither his time nor mine yet. I told them that it would be alright, and that they'd be enjoying Clay for many years to come. I told them that I had it too, and it had never slowed me down a bit. I told them that most MS patients are diagnosed in autopsy. (Well, I'll be darned, this guy had MS. Who knew?!?)

Basically I told them to calm down, and let Clay give all of us the many, many musical gifts he still had under that cowboy hat of his. Time has proven me right. Don't you just love him? I know I do. Keep goin', Clay. Heck, he even invited me on stage one time to sing "Then What" with him during one of his concerts I was MCing. I just had to include that picture here. Forgive me. He told me he'd never invited anyone to do that before, and he hadn't done it since. Wonder why? (Burn me once...I get it!) Bless his heart. But my grandmother used to love to hear me sing. And I did put out two CD's that raised over $100,000 for two fine charities (Special Olympics & Cystic Fibrosis). Granted, those CD's aren't really for music lovers, but we had a good time making them, they raised a lot of money and some of that stuff is funny.

Granted, I'll never challenge Clay Walker with my voice or how I look in Levi's, but there ARE those that tell me I'm a pretty fair morning DJ. (I hope they bought one of my CD's.)

Oh, I promised to tell you how MS discovered me, and I digress. I frequently do that, but I've got a good heart and a kind spirit. So, just put up with me, and we'll get through this together. Yeah baby?

In early 1984, I was working for ABC radio and the number one DJ in Houston, Texas. I was playing Rock n' Roll, and having the time of my life. I was what they called a "Shock Jock" and ruling my radio roost.

I was standing in a place that not many young men from Crossville, Tennessee get to stand. I was living large, and very bulletproof. My mama (God rest her sweet soul) was very proud of her baby boy, and my daddy bragged about me to his beer-drinking friends. I'd been through one marriage already. So, I was single and very available with a quarter million people listening to my show every morning, five days a week. I was madly in love with 6 or 7 different women at a time. People in print media were putting my picture on the cover of magazines. I was on TV a whole lot. I was MCing telethons. Shaking hands, hugging babies, gripping & grinning all over the biggest city in the biggest state in America.

Then I started having something happen in my left eye. It was like someone had shined a bright light there, and the eye wasn't recovering from it. It was just weird. I went to my optometrist, and she did some tests. She found out that my blind spot on the left side was enormous, but she didn't know why. She sent me to an MD, who in turn sent me to a neurologist. Thank the good lord I was in Houston, because the medical technology there has always been ahead of the curve.

This was before MRI was called MRI. It was NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance). Ultimately, the word "nuclear" scared people, and they knew they'd one day have a president that couldn't say it. So, the name changed to MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), but it's the same darned thing. After a long NMR exam, they told me they couldn't be sure, but they thought they saw a lesion. So, they were going to diagnose Multiple Sclerosis. If memory serves, I was given large doses of some sort of steroid to take, and sent home. That clinic was on the 8th floor of the building, and I stomped down the stairs, determined it wouldn't get me!!!

Well, the symptoms subsided; I finished that round of medicine, and sort of decided to forget what I'd been diagnosed with. That seemed intelligent. Well, as so often happens in this radio game, the dream gig came to an end. I was approached by an agent in 1986 that told me how much better I could be doing. As dumb as it was for me to ignore my MS, it turned out equally dumb for me to listen to a manipulative agent/lawyer without considering his agenda. As it worked out, he represented another morning radio show that he wanted to find a place for in Houston. In those days, I was knocking off Houston morning teams one after the other, and the best way for him to compete was to sign me, find me a better job, and get me the heck out of his way.

During those latter Houston days, I'd met and married Kelly, and we had made my son, Jonah. The name was my wife's idea, and I loved it. (Moby, Jonah and the whale.) He was being named after me, and still had his very own beautiful name. So, I was off to Dallas and another morning show in 1986. Me, my wife, and my child. Things went pretty darned good there. I was on Oprah, and Nightline, mentioned in People magazine, Us magazine. I was mentioned in USA Today. I was on the CBS Evening News, the CBS Morning News. Ted Koppel called me a crazy SOB on his show, and at the time I thought that was a good thing. So, the Moby train chugged right on down the track until MS made itself known to me again. I was having tingling and a bit of weakness, and felt I needed to have somebody take a look at it. We found a neurologist in Dallas, and for the life of me I can't remember the man's name. But under his care, I had what was now called an MRI. It was the same as the NMR from '84, but the president would be able to say it in the future if he needed to.

Looking at the results was scary. I'll never know if the technology had progressed to the point where we could now see them, or if the number of lesions had multiplied by a thousand fold over those few years. But there were an unbelievable number of them, and what had been "they thought they saw a lesion" had become "Oh my god!!!"

My brain looked like it had measles. The spots were everywhere. Surely this patient must be bed bound with a catheter, and on his last legs. But even then, a large round of medicine, and the symptoms, thank the good Lord, disappeared. Then, the "no compete" agreement expired, and I was back to Houston radio for a couple of years with no further episodes of MS. I'd been told for years that with the accent I had, and I did (being raised in Tennessee, I sound as country as a gourd dipper – look it up.) that my future should be in country music radio. There was an offer that came to the table to move to Atlanta, and again work for ABC radio, but in the country format. The money was almost stupid in proportions, and the people in control were more than willing to take the chance that country was indeed the next big thing for me. It was funny.

I hit the country Atlanta airwaves in 1991. Garth was huge. Randy Travis was a legend. George Strait was in his first two dozen number ones. And in some Texas high school, there was a boy named Clay Walker that I would someday know. I told the audience, "I come to you with a history in rock & roll. But I've always loved country music. That don't mean I know a lot about it for now, but I promise to learn. I'll make a deal with you fine folks. You call and ask me a country music trivia question, and if I know the answer, you win a prize." Me and that country radio audience fell head over heels in love with each other, and in two rating periods, I had unseated an Atlanta radio legend, and after that all he saw were my tail lights. Folks called it a fluke. I told them that a fluke was the tail of a whale, and that's all I'd ever let my competition see. These were my 1990's. I was awarded ACM DJ of the Year. I got five consecutive Billboard DJ of the Year awards.

ABC granted a long-time dream of mine in 1993, and syndicated my show. Ultimately it was carried by over thirty, nearly forty different radio stations. Ain't that cool? MS didn't decide to show itself again until about 1997. More weakness, more tingling, and MS introduced me to Dr. Katie Klotz. That sweet, kind-hearted, gentle woman kicked my butt, but in a very loving way. She didn't chastise me for ignoring this demon within me, but she let me know that it wasn't ignoring me.

There was a new drug on the market she wanted me to try. It was called Copaxone, and was only deliverable by daily injections. I agreed to give it a shot (if you'll pardon the pun). We began with more pills to make the symptoms go away, and then segued into the shots. It's a tiny needle, and it's not that big a deal, but we're sending probes out of the solar system for goodness sake. Why can't they make this into a flippin' pill? I'm just sayin' ... In any event, this pretty much brings us to the current day Moby. In 2002, the Atlanta station told me I sounded too country for country radio, and "didn't renew my contract." I couldn't believe how much that felt like being fired.

I was on my "favorite wife yet" number three, Mary Beth. She's still at my side, by the way, and promises me I won't be able to afford number four. We have such a great relationship. I've never loved a woman more. I vowed to forsake all others if she'd have me and I finally truly meant it. In 2003 we adopted a little girl that we named Grace Marie who'll be five in July. I'm tightly wrapped around her pudgy little finger, and I love the view from there. I told Mary Beth that we now had an option. I could take an audition tape, sell everything and we could move. Or would she listen to a vision I had. She listened, and asked me wouldn't I rather try and fail than not try and always wonder if we could have done it. God bless her.

We started an independent radio network that nearly three years later is profitable, has a dozen affiliates, and means that Gracie will grow up with something that this radio man couldn't give Jonah. Roots!!! My health is good. MS is still in there, but just as in 1984, it's not going to get me. My goal is to build my network, and one glorious day walk Gracie down the aisle, and place her hand in the hand of another. Then I'll smile, shed countless tears, and wait for grandkids. I think that's about when I'll be ready for that one-way trip I mentioned earlier. Katie and Copaxone will keep the MS demon at bay until I get where I'm goin'.

Thank you for letting me share my story. Pray for a cure to a monster that for some unknown reason has spared me and my family any real suffering. God has been so kind to this ol' radio man.

Yeah baby,

MOBY