Work Is Play For Local Deejay

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His grey-blonde hair twisted in a 10-inch ponytail, might indicate that "Rockin' Ron" Gibson wrangles to a different drummer.

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DJ Ron Gibson has worked at KMOG radio station for 16 years -- long enough that he can usually pick a particular song from the "sludges" of CDs without having to look in the catalog.

Whether he is drumming in his traditional Country Western band, spinning tunes or hosting Trades and Sales on KMOG radio station, Gibson is in his element.

"I get to work and play at the same time, being a musician and being on the radio," Gibson said in his unmistakable deep voice.

Listeners may think they hear a smile in Gibson's voice and imagine it creating laugh lines around his eyes, but he claims he doesn't smile as he talks into the microphone.

"I put on a different personality when I am on the radio," he said.

If he is sick, he puts on a mask so he won't sound like he's miserable and "put out bad vibes" for his listeners to pick up on.

Audience members may be faceless, but not all are nameless. "Cemetery Larry," "Bonita Bob" and "Strawberry Tom" are all names he has bequeathed frequent callers to Trades and Sales, KMOG's long running on-air swap meet.

Listeners feel comfortable with Gibson and some will call just to make him laugh, like the man who called with this item for sale: "My dog died 15 years ago," he said, "and I had him stuffed and made a lamp out of him. He sheds a little bit but he puts out a lot of light. I'll take fifteen dollars."

For Gibson, work is fun.

"Being a musician helps being a disc jockey because you understand the starts and stops and the tempos," Gibson said. "You recognize when a song is going to come to an end, called a turnaround. Usually they sing the last verse a couple of times. A lot of people who aren't musicians don't understand those concepts."

A "late bloomer" on drums, Gibson started playing when he was 24 years old.

"I didn't go through the garage phase," he said.

Gibson is "the biggest fan" of his twin brother Don who picked up the guitar at 12.

The Gibson brothers are third generation natives of Gila County, born in Miami but raised in Payson from age 3 to 14.

Gibson's great-grandfather started the 180-acre Gibson Ranch in Round Valley.

"We were pretty much raised by my Aunt Julia - Julia Randall, the woman they named the school after," Gibson said.

Then dad moved the family to Buckeye where the boys finished high school.

"When Don got out of the Navy, the (New Frontier band) at the Oxbow in Payson needed a lead guitar player and a drummer and they chose us. So, I learned to play on stage," Gibson said.

Not long out of the Navy himself, Gibson said, "I was a wild man."

He quit driving a truck to become a musician, playing with bands all over the southwest when he wasn't working radio.

Gibson got his start in radio as a board operator for KNIX's AM station.

"All I did was shove in commercials and play liners and jingles. That was back when they had 8-track cartridges instead of computers," he said.

He still found time to be a drummer.

In 1990, Gibson was playing with the Tom Martell Band at a party for the state taking ownership of Tonto Natural Bridge, when he was approached by Mike Farrell, owner of KMOG.

He offered Gibson a chance to go on the air, live.

Needless to say, Gibson said "yes."

Beyond the job, what keeps Gibson in the Rim Country?

"You can check in but you can't check out. I think everybody says that," he said. "It is nice to be around people that you know."

Now, Thursday and Friday nights, audiences can usually find The Ron Gibson Band playing Merle Haggard and George Jones tunes at Starz Punkin Center Bar.

"We play traditional country and western," Gibson said.

And he sings a little harmony to an audience he can see.

-- To reach Carol La Valley call 474-5251 ext. 122 or e-mail

clavalley@payson.com.

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