When David Lane was a sales rep for a country music radio station in Nashville, he walked into a potential client’s office for the first time and the person manning the desk was surprised by the color of his skin.
The person was not hostile, but just surprised that an African-American man was working for a country music station.
“Let me get this right. You’re a black guy and you’re selling country music?” the woman quipped.
“That’s correct,” Lane said.
“I bet you drive a pick-up truck too,” she said.
“As a matter of fact, that’s my pick-up truck right out there,” Lane said.
Lane, who has co-owned Covington radio station U.S. 51 Country with Bill Thomas since 2007 and still drives a truck, says that was the only time race has come up during his 46-year career in radio.
“People are people. We’re all Americans,” he says. “I grew up in a segregated area but I never experienced a lot of things others did because my sister and I were kind of shielded from things.”
Lane, who is 73, met Thomas in 2004 when both men worked at a station in Birmingham, Ala. Around two years later, the two hatched a plan to branch out on their own.
“I called him and said, ‘You want to do one more rodeo?” says Thomas, who has Covington roots. He was an announcer for the Covington radio station when it was located above Roper Drug Store and has worked all over the South at various stations.
“We kicked around the idea of doing something on our own,” Lane says.
When Lane and Thomas took over, they changed 93.5 FM from light rock to country music. A few years later the format on 1250 AM was converted to oldies.
It’s been a successful union and it was a logical next step for Lane.
He got his first radio job as a salesman for R&B station WVOL in Nashville, his hometown. Two years later he became the station’s sales manager.
In 1982 he moved on to Nashville’s WKDF, a rock station. Ten years later he began working at WSIX, a country music station.
Six years after that he was recruited by Black Crow Media, a large organization in the Nashville area. It was partnered with the official radio station of the Grand Ole’ Opry.
While there he began working with national accounts like Coca-Cola and BellSouth.
Along the way he learned about the importance of not only working with businesses, but working for the community. Both stations regularly air public service announcement free of charge and Lane has been active with several community organizations.
He doesn’t necessarily see himself as a role model, but he would love to see members of the community mentor young people in need of direction.
“There are a lot of things across the way that kids just don’t know about,” Lane says. “You need to step out of your comfort zone and see what other people are doing. You have some kids, both black and white, that stay within a 10- or 12-block area. They think life is what they see in their 10- or 12-block area.”
Although his career has been somewhat nomadic, Lane doesn’t have any plans to go anywhere soon.
“This area has been very kind me, my partner and our company,” Lane says. “We’re all about building relationships.”