Laughter was veteran radio host Phil Stone's calling card
BY TIM STANLEY World Staff Writer
Thursday, November 29, 2012
11/29/12 at 4:52 AM
It wasn't hard to tell when "Roy D. Mercer" was on a roll.
"Phil would be beside me, trying his best not to laugh," said Brent Douglas, who, together with Phil Stone, his on-air partner, created the irascible radio redneck. "But then he wouldn't be able to hold it anymore, and I would lose it, too.
"That's how it usually went: Phil first, and then everyone else, busting out laughing."
Stone and Douglas, who helmed the morning show on KMOD (FM 97.5) for nearly three decades, introduced their Mercer character to listeners in 1993.
Earning a large following, the comedy segments eventually led to a number of live albums.
Stone's part in the routine - which involved Douglas, the voice of Mercer, prank-calling local businesses - was to coach his partner from the sidelines, offering prompts and suggestions, and in general "egging me on," Douglas said.
Often, though, it was all Stone could do to keep his composure.
But Douglas didn't mind. For the duo's nearly 27 years together on the radio, Stone's laughter was always a good indicator that things were going well.
Phil Stone, a veteran radio personality who co-hosted the Phil and Brent Show on KMOD, a longtime staple of drive-time morning radio in Tulsa until it ended in October, died Nov. 21. He was 57.
Records show that he died of natural causes brought on by heart disease.
A public celebration of life will be held Thursday at the Cain's Ballroom. Doors will open at 5 p.m.
Heath-Griffith Funeral Home handled arrangements.
If they couldn't recognize Stone on sight, most Tulsans surely would know his laugh.
"He had one of the great laughs," Douglas said.
He had a great sense of humor to go with it. He needed both, Douglas added, during the duo's lean, early days.
When they first teamed up on KMOD in 1986, "we tried different things to find our niche. But nothing seemed to work. Ratings kept dropping," he said.
Finally, they found the solution.
"We decided to just be ourselves. We figured that if we could make each other laugh, everyone would be laughing."
A native of Fayetteville, Ark., Stone, whose legal name was Phillip Riddle, began his on-air career there as a disc-jockey at KKEG.
He had worked for KMOD in Tulsa for 32 years.
In the mid-1980s, when KMOD introduced its new morning show, Stone, a former late-night DJ, first was paired with actress and Tulsa native Jeanne Tripplehorn.
When she left, the station took a chance and hired Douglas, a frequent caller to the show who was working at a pharmacy.
In Stone, the only partner he ever had, Douglas found an immediate fan, supporter and mentor, he said.
Irreverent humor and zany promotional stunts, such as getting dunked in 300 gallons of chocolate and pelted with coconut, were par for the course for the well-matched pair.
But what separated Stone and Douglas from the pack were their prank-call segments.
Featuring Mercer, a character created by the duo and voiced by Douglas, the segments catapulted them to national fame.
Introduced in 1993, Mercer soon earned Stone and Douglas a major-label recording deal and led to 17 live albums, millions in sales and a regular place on Billboard Magazine's comedy charts.
"We started him up mostly just to get another character on the radio," Stone, who was also the editor on the segments, told the Tulsa World.
"At first, we started out just having him call friends of ours and either try to extort money or threaten to whup someone's ass. Then, as the whup-asses unfolded, he began to evolve."
The Phil and Brent Show closed out its nearly 27-year run on KMOD on Oct. 12. No explanation was offered, and the pair declined at the time to do media interviews.
Douglas said this week, however, that he had been thinking about retirement. The time seemed right, and Stone, as his partner, concurred.
Although nothing concrete had materialized, Douglas added, the two likely would have continued to do some projects together.
"Radio was the love of his life," he said. "Phil was born to do what he did."
Said former Tulsa World music writer John Wooley, who became good friends with Stone: "Phil talked to me once about a book he wanted to write. It was going to be about a guy from Arkansas who got lucky in the radio business" - in essence, his own story as he saw it.
"That was Phil: Always so grateful to do what he did. He never took any of it for granted."
Stone and Douglas won many awards. They were honored as the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters' Personalities of the Year in 2006 and as Tulsa Press Club Media Icons in 2007.
Together with Douglas, Stone "created the soundtrack for a generation of Tulsans," Wooley added. "It's heartbreaking to know we will never hear his voice on our radios again."
Stone's survivors include five children, Jeremy Riddle, Charles Riddle, Aja Vaught, Sarah Riddle and Audrey Riddle; and five grandchildren.
Original Print Headline: Laughter was radio host's calling card
Tim Stanley 918-581-8385
Phil Stone (left), pictured here with longtime KMOD-FM partner Brent Douglas, was co-host of the Phil and Brent Show for 27 years. Stone, 57, died Nov. 21 just more than a month after the show ended its run. A public memorial service will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday at Cain's Ballroom. Tulsa World file