Radio Active

Doug Martin poses outside the radio
station on the southwest side of town.
Photo by DarinWallentine.

Radio Active

Doug Martin, president and GM of Good News Radio Broadcasting, has always been a tuned-in kind of guy.

Minnesota-born, New Mexico-raised, Martin recalls that ever since he was young the radio was a big source of entertainment for him. “I remember there was a DJ in Albuquerque named Bobby Box and I would pretend to be him,” he reflects. “He was somebody you’d listen to when you were a kid and think, ‘This is something I’d like to do. It sounds like a lot of fun to be able to sit there, play music, hang out with recording artists and go to neat events!’”

These days, Martin does a lot more than he had ever dreamed of when he was a child. Along with his regular duties, he is a familiar face around town — a sleeves-rolled-up presence on various non-profit boards, working to improve our community for now and future generations.

But that steady-on, rock-solid guy was not the person his wife Mary knew when they were both youngsters back in Albuquerque. She got to see some character traits that time, experience and faith later washed away.

“I’ve known Mary since she was 11 years old and I was 14,” Martin recounts. “She was my sister’s best friend, and when she was about 12 she started working in my family’s restaurant. Back then you could get away with having a job when you were younger. And she was kind of like family. We didn’t get married until I was 25 and she was 22. We didn’t even start dating until I was out of high school; we never really thought of each other as boyfriend and girlfriend before that.

“She knew everything about me, so there was nothing really hidden,” he says of finally taking that step to propose. “And when I asked her to marry me she said, ‘If you were the last man on the earth I wouldn’t marry you. You’re the most irresponsible person I know.’ I said that I’d changed, and I’d become a Christian; before that I had really only thought about myself. My focus had changed and I really wanted to be married and have children. It all turned out good.”

“Good” is certainly an understatement. Their marriage has prospered for 36 years, and they have four children and eight grandchildren. And Martin’s exemplary stewardship of the radio station that he began running in 1985 has led to more stations being added to his broadcasting group, each of them serving the community in a vital way.

But he had to overcome some challenges to get there. He admits that he was a handful for his divorced mom, who was trying to run a restaurant and raise Doug and his two sisters. He was sent to New Mexico Military Institute to learn some discipline; there he met a friend that he formed a music group with. “We called ourselves the Rainbow Brothers, and we wore hot pink satin shirts and white duck pants. We thought we were kind of cool. We won a competition that was like a battle of the bands and we went from there to auditioning in bars, which we were playing in at 16 years old. We had a folk-rock sound. We did a lot of Simon and Garfunkel songs and I wrote some things. It was a lot of fun.”

After graduation he realized that immediately enrolling in college wasn’t an option. He joined the Navy, and says he is very grateful for the travel and opportunities he had there, as well as for the GI Bill. He was able to use it to attend the University of New Mexico, where he test drove several majors, including journalism and education.

Life intervened before he could graduate. While attending school, he was working as an overnight jock at the top FM station in the market but not making a lot of money. A chance conversation with a legendary DJ skipped his needle right off the record. “The guy I really admired at the station was Al Baker, who had been a DJ in the 1960s at a New York station,” Martin says. “He had been the big-time radio personality who was on the air for 24 hours when the Beatles were coming over, doing these transatlantic interviews. So I was talking to him and said, ‘Al, what do you think my future is?’ And he said, ‘You’ve got no future.’ I go, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘Doug, you’re not that good and there are a lot of DJs out there. Look what happened to me. I was in New York City. Now I’m in Albuquerque. In our business, you’re either going up, or you’re going down. I’m on the way down.’ That got my attention.”

By that time, Doug and Mary had gotten married and had their first child. Martin switched over to radio sales, and found that with his people skills and ability to write ad copy he had a great knack for it. Before long, however, he made another life-changing decision. “I ended up leaving that station and working at a Christian station ,” he reflects. “My boss told me he was buying a station in Tucson and wanted me to come out and run it. I didn’t want to because I loved Albuquerque, my job and church (Calvary Chapel) was there. But my pastor Skip Heitzig encouraged me to come to Tucson.”

Martin moved to the Old Pueblo to manage KVOI, a Christian station, at that time owned by Grace Chapel. In major financial trouble it was sinking fast. But since he was able to begin turning things around, Grace Chapel told him they wanted to sell it to him. “My first partners were George Mehl and Dan Carless and then Tom Regina took over for Dan. They were our financial backers who enabled us to guarantee the debt.”
While running the station, Martin attended the University of Phoenix and earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He also was the worship leader and helped start Calvary Chapel Tucson (for nine years), and then led worship and helped start Calvary Christian Fellowship on the northwest side.

Over time, he expanded his broadcasting company, and today he has KVOI 1030 AM(news talk), KGMS 940 AM (Christian talk), 88.1 FM (KLOVE contemporary Christian music), and KCEE 690 AM (pop classics/oldies) in Tucson and KNXN 1470 AM  (Christian talk) in Sierra Vista.

Across the radio dial, Doug Martin’s mission remains the same: “To spread the Gospel through our stations and have an impact in our community for good,” he says. “We’re excited about seeing folks get involved. That’s a big thing for me and Mary — not just working within the Christian community, but also outside of it. That’s why Mary is so involved with the Tucson chapter of the American Advertising Federation, Rotary Club of Tucson and Hands of Hope, and I’m on the Tucson Police Foundation board, Arizona Broadcasters Association Board, Cradle to Career, things like that.”

When not doing volunteer work, Martin notes that he enjoys cooking, and he and Mary love to attend UA sporting events, concerts at the Fox Tucson Theatre, and travel. And it’s a good thing that the Martins excel at logistics because the latter category can take a lot of planning.

“We recently took our kids and grandkids on a trip to Disneyland. The whole purpose of that is for the grandkids to have fun because it’s a lot of work for us older folks!” he reveals with a laugh. “We really want to focus on that next generation and try to create those memories for them.” — Scott Barker