Retirees, isolated by virus, become DJs for new radio hour

Full Screen
1 / 3

Retiree Bob Coleman poses for a portrait Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Franklin, Tenn. Coleman is one of several retirees who have turned into DJs for a new online radio hour known as Radio Recliner. The 60-minute show began airing last month, starting with retirees in middle Tennessee, recording from their recliners quarantined due to concerns over COVID-19. (AP Photo/Kimberlee Kruesi)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tucked away inside his room at a senior care facility, Bob Coleman knew he couldn't go out into the world with the coronavirus raging. But he could share with the world his first love — country music.

“Hello everybody, it's a bright day in Franklin, Tennessee,” the 88-year-old Air Force veteran crooned into his microphone. “This is Bob Coleman, better known as the ‘Karaoke Cowboy,’ coming to you from Room 3325. ... Let’s just jump right into it.”

The hits of Hank Williams, Dwight Yoakam and Brad Paisley began to play, all carefully selected by Coleman, who lives in Somerby Franklin, an assisted living facility about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Nashville.

Coleman is one of several retirees who have turned into DJs for a new online radio hour known as “Radio Recliner.”

The 60-minute show began airing last month, starting with quarantined retirees in middle Tennessee. It has since taken off, as much the production side as among listeners, with seniors in assisted-living facilities in Georgia, Alabama and others jumping at the chance to be a DJ after being secluded because of strict social distancing rules.

Older adults are the age group most at risk from the new coronavirus. This has left many senior citizens in assisted-living facilities not only prohibited from seeing outside visitors, but also banned from socializing with neighbors across the hall.

The idea of Radio Recliner was kickstarted by Atlanta and Birmingham-based marketing firm Luckie, whose clientele includes Bridge Senior Living, which operates more than 20 senior living properties in 14 states.

After the DJs were recruited, the seniors recorded their introductions and transitions on their phones — many while relaxing on a recliner or kitchen table. The audio was then sent off to productions staffers, who handled the technical side of Radio Recliner.