As a boy, Doc Thayer would practice his radio DJ voice. Over and over, he'd cup his hands over his ears and speak in a smooth baritone, trying to mimic the voices of the radio jocks of his day. Radio became his first love.
These days Thayer, 61 — known to many as Dr. Dr. — runs The Zephyr 96.7 FM, a golden oldies station in Zephyrhills. The signals from the 100-watt station only reach a 15-mile radius, but the tiny broadcast operation is poised to make radio history.
On Saturday, the station will play its 1-millionth song in a row without commercial interruption.
In the six years Thayer has had the station, it has never aired a commercial. Ever.
Most radio stations thrive on paid advertisements and sponsorships, but WZPH simply blasts Elvis, the Beatles, Comets and Stones nonstop without earning a penny.
In fact, Thayer said he frequently turns down advertisement offers. Nonstop music helped build up WZPH's listenership.
"I love it because you don't have all those commercials," said Tom Petrucci, a doo-wop fan who lives in Zephyrhills. "(Thayer) has done something that no one has ever done."
Thayer has reached out to the folks at Guinness Book of World Records, but hasn't gotten a response. But that doesn't matter. He'll keep cranking out the tunes.
Thayer said he legally changed his name to Dr. Dr. years ago. He has a doctorate in education and teaches math at Land O'Lakes High School and moonlights as an online college statistics professor for DeVry University. He doesn't consider himself wealthy, but he amassed the $300,000 in savings he used to buy the station, and he uses his own money to keep it running.
A mobile home on Chauncey Road houses transmitters for WZPH-FM 96.7 Ed Cobb, a station volunteer and one of Thayer's close friends, listens online from his Seffner home. Thayer said he can run the station remotely by computer from his Land O'Lakes home, where he programs his smooth-voiced intros and rotates 10,000 "shuck-and-drive" songs all day and night. Each song that's been played so far is logged by computer. All 999,900 or so. Even when he's in the classroom teaching, the beat goes on.
Thayer is also a bodybuilder, and at local festivals he shows up in green body paint as his alter-ego "The Impressive Hulk" ("not 'Incredible,' just 'Impressive,' " he explains). He does weather forecast bits for other radio stations, too. His friends say radio is more than a hobby for him. It's his life.
"Radio builds ego," Thayer said. "I was a jock back in high school. I just wanted to be a star."
He has rounded up a few music stars for the station's big party Saturday at the Halloween Howl in Zephyrhills, including Bill Pascali (an original member of Steam who has played with Vanilla Fudge, The Young Rascals and 1910 Fruitgum Co.), AJ Correa (who has toured with Prince, Air Supply and KC and Sunshine Band) and Al Messina (who has played with Kool & the Gang and Sly and Family Stone).
About 9 p.m. they'll hit the 1-millionth song: Hidden Confusion, written and performed by Thayer's son, Richard Van Hart. Daughter Katie Thayer will provide the backup vocals, and if you listen closely, you'll hear Dr. Dr. Thayer on the congas.
You won't hear the song anywhere else.