Brent Douglas is the only person in the world qualified to supply an answer because he is, or was, Roy.
Douglas and Phil Stone were morning show partners — rascals, really — on Tulsa rock station KMOD for nearly 27 years. If, during those years, you pulled up to a stoplight and someone in the car next to yours was singing along to the radio, they could have been listening to any station. But if that person in the car next to you was laughing, they were likely listening to Phil and Brent, whose crass-terpiece creation was Roy D. Mercer.
Roy made phone calls to demand compensation for fictional and often implausible injustices. If Roy didn’t get satisfaction, he was coming down there to give someone a butt whupping. Roy, voiced by Douglas, sized up confrontations by asking this during calls: How big a boy are you?
Roy’s calls became must-listen segments. A retired Pryor police officer, Brent Crittenden, said he didn’t give tickets when Roy was on the radio. He didn't want to miss Roy.
Roy became a national comedy star after landing a record deal. More than 20 albums were released. One was certified gold. By 2000, Roy had sold six million units, according to Douglas.
Asked recently about Roy's appeal, Douglas said, "I think everybody, especially around here, knows somebody like Roy. They know somebody like him or they are relatives of somebody like him. Basically, I think it’s the universality of the character. People in New York get it. People in Florida get it. People in California get it. People around the world get it.”
Whatever happened to Roy? Let’s revisit that later. First, let’s catch up with Douglas, whose Cinderfella story goes something like this: pharmacist calls a radio station and, fast forward, winds up next to Andy Griffith on a movie set.
The boy who became Roy
The cast of Billy Bob Thornton’s 2001 movie “Daddy and Them” included Laura Dern, Diane Ladd, Kelly Preston, John Prine, Ben Affleck, Jamie Lee Curtis and Griffith. Douglas was invited to be in the flick because Thornton is a Roy D. Mercer fan. Other celebrity fans of the character are Dusty Hill of ZZ Top and John Kay of Steppenwolf.
Douglas, asked if Roy has other famous fans, doesn't want to sound like he's crowing, but he said the group includes just about anybody who worked with Thornton.
“I think that was a prerequisite for working on one of his movies,” he said. “They had to laugh at Roy. I don’t know that for sure. That’s just what it seemed like.”
Douglas was treated to a Mayberry moment during the making of "Daddy and Them." He chatted with Griffith while they were seated next to each other in makeup chairs.
“I got to be in one scene with him and I thought that was big, tall cotton, and it was," Douglas said. "It was such an honor.”
Douglas cited other pinch-me experiences from his career, including the day the record contract was signed and the day (ask for details) he saw Levon Helm in his tightey whiteys.
Let’s go back and start at square one, which in this case is the Broomcorn Capital of the World. Douglas was born there (Lindsey, Oklahoma). His family relocated to Broken Arrow when he was 10.
The boy-who-became-Roy had his sense of humor shaped by variety shows and comedians of his formative years. He tuned in every Saturday night for Mazeppa (“it was an epiphany”), a local TV show that provided a comedic forum for Gailard Sartain, Gary Busey and Sherman Oaks, alias Jim Millaway. Douglas said he and his classmates started running into doors and doing “really bad” Mazeppa imitations. Maybe there was even a Mazeppa-influenced fight that was staged in front of Spanish class.
If all you know about Douglas is what you heard on KMOD, you might assume he was a class clown. He once was "sentenced" to the cafeteria for acting goofy during a school assembly. But really, he was a band kid who found a nice balance. He said band director Paris York reinforced what his parents had been saying — you can work hard to get an education and have fun at the same time.
A music scholarship took Douglas to Southwestern State University in Weatherford. He “hearted” jazz band.
“I was thinking that what I needed to do in life was sit next to (trumpeter) Snooky Young and ‘The Tonight Show’ band and life would be gravy,” he said.
In lieu of a gravy train, Douglas jumped on a pharmacy bandwagon. Douglas’ roommate was majoring in pharmacy. Douglas liked related subjects, so, what the heck, he chose the same path.
Armed with a license, Dr. Douglas practiced at a Tulsa hospital and worked at Ross Drug in Broken Arrow before taking a pharmacist position at Safeway (later Homeland) in Catoosa. He was busy at certain times of his shift but otherwise had time to kill.
During a “Bad Joke Wednesday” on KMOD, Douglas called the station and threw a curveball. He used a voice patterned after Billy Crystal’s Fernando Lamas character on “Saturday Night Live.” Instead of telling jokes, Douglas riffed on different topics. Who is this guy? That’s what program director Charlie West (“who I owe everything to”) wanted to know.
A meeting was arranged. Douglas began writing some bits for the station, and he phoned in entertainment reports on Friday mornings as Fernando. Jeanne Tripplehorn left the station to pursue an acting career. Douglas accepted an offer for $3,000 less than his pharmacy gig to slide into Tripplehorn’s spot on the KMOD roster.
Douglas said his father was skeptical: “I bought you books and sent you to school and you have got a degree and you are going to do this?”
Douglas assured his father he could get another pharmacy job immediately if necessary, but he had to give this radio thing a shot or he would always regret it.
“It looks like I made a pretty good decision,” he said.
Homeland in Catoosa is long gone. Roy D. Mercer is still selling, albeit downloads.
Phil and Brent became a morning show team in 1986. Chemistry is important in pharmacy and radio. Douglas was fortunate that he and his partner had similar backgrounds (Stone was from Fayetteville, Arkansas) and were born two months apart, which means they grew up watching the same stuff, including "Mazeppa." Stone, a practical joker, loved slapstick humor and Douglas was equipped to engage him in conversations about, for instance, the Three Stooges.
Kinship was immediate. Success was not. Douglas said they "kind of laid low" initially because their ratings sucked.
“We finally decided to hell with it,” he said. “We were trying as hard as we could, so let’s just be ourselves. That was when things started to happen. We knew what we had and it was just a matter of refining it, trying to get the timing down and all of that, and we listened to a bunch of bad advice and (sifted) through it to see what worked for us.”
Boundaries were pushed. Station manager Jim Smith appreciated their work, according to Douglas, but he came in one day, shut the door and said, “Tell me about this bit, Greek Theater. What the hell is that?”
A recurring segment, Greek Theater was speckled with entendres and flatulence sound effects.
“We played him the one we had run that day,” Douglas said. “He looked at us and kind of shrugged his shoulders and went on. From that day on, it was like, OK.”
Douglas said he and Stone were at Smith’s cabin on Lake Eufaula when the Roy D. Mercer idea arrived in the early 1990s. A horribly broken toe and a bad tequila hangover are part of the origin story, according to Douglas. “There was bloodshed and tragedy everywhere. Roy was a breech birth.”
The inspiration for the character came from Douglas’ family. He said he and his brothers grew up around storytellers with a great sense of humor and a colorful vocabulary (not necessarily blue). Example: Roy sometimes told callers he was going to “knock a lung loose.”
Said Douglas, “I heard that from the time I was born. That’s how I grew up. That’s how my people talked.”
At first, Roy phoned friends and family members of Stone and Douglas. Pre-internet, they took requests for additional “victims” via fax. Armed with background info about the next target, Stone and Douglas would concoct a predicament that was borderline believable. It was difficult for them to keep their composure during calls.
“There are several times when we cracked up,” Douglas said. “Phil started laughing and I couldn’t stop from laughing. We would just fall apart. I didn’t know what was going to come out of my mouth, until it did, 95% of the time because it was all dependent on what the caller was going to say.”
Douglas and Stone cranked out a couple of Roy albums before a record deal arrived. They thought they could make a buck or two locally off the albums and, when they showed up to sell them at Brad’s Auto Parts, the line stretched around the building. Douglas said they sold 1,200 in two days.
Oklahoma-born record executive and producer Scott Hendricks (“the nicest guy in the world”) was introduced to a Roy album while in Arkansas for a relative’s wedding. He contacted Douglas and Stone and asked them if they would like to make a million dollars. “We are still saying, when?” Douglas said. Regardless, a record deal was born.
After Mercer’s popularity mushroomed (Charlie Daniels provided vocals for a “How Big A Boy Are You” song and video), it became increasingly difficult to find phone targets who hadn’t heard of Roy. Caller ID technology was an added complication.
Roy phoned famous people like Bill Goldberg, but one of his favorite calls was to a female arborist. Roy's complaint: She recommended a pesticide and Roy lost a whole crop of Christmas trees. Feisty, her response when fighting became a possibility was “tell me where and I’ll meet you there.”
“We had a hard time settling her down when we called back and told her that her son put us up to it,” Douglas said. “I think he might have been cut out of the will.”
The last time Douglas was in anything resembling a fight came when he got the worst of a driveway basketball skirmish in the ninth grade.
“Roy was a hell of a lot tougher than I ever was,” Douglas said.
'Golf and grandkids'
The radio gig was “the job I was made for,” according to Douglas.
In 2012, news popped that Phil, Brent and KMOD were parting company.
“I was pretty burned (out),” Douglas said. “I was ready to quit and circumstances just played out that way. We quit by the end of October.”
Stone died the following month. He was 57. Records showed he died of natural causes brought on by heart disease, according to a Tulsa World story.
Douglas loves and misses his friend. He said the world could use Stone’s humor, but he also called Stone “the greatest straight man in the history of show biz outside of Dean Martin. I couldn’t have been luckier.”
Is making people laugh just about the best thing you can do for others? Douglas said he and Stone loved hearing stories from listeners about, for instance, a dad who was battling cancer and their material was the only thing that made him laugh.
“We sold some records, but we also made a difference in folks’ lives,” Douglas said. “That may sound grandiose, but it really happened. We got in touch with Patch Adams. We gave him a couple or three or four catalogs of Roy’s stuff that he could use.”
If Douglas made you laugh, maybe — paybacks — you’re rooting for him to enjoy life. Douglas, who splits time between Broken Arrow and Beaver Lake in Arkansas, assures he is doing fine and is not “failing” retirement.
“I’m catching up on my reading,” he said. “I’m watching too much TV. I watch too much news on TV. I’m like all those old people I used to laugh about that are going to write an angry letter to the editor. I have become this old curmudgeon. You look around and all of a sudden you are an old man. I’m 65, and I can’t believe that’s the number. Of course, I always said I will grow older but I will never grow up.”
Douglas shared on social media that he is recuperating from a recent health setback, a blockage of a carotid artery. He'll tell you mini strokes are not mini strokes if you're the one having them.
“They got me all fixed up,” he said. “I’m good for another 20,000 miles. I’ve got so much blood going to my brain I’m probably three times as obnoxious as I ever have been.”
Douglas called the experience life-altering. He emerged with a bucket list and, minus specifics, he teased possible projects that may prove surprising. He predicted he will be playing “bad” golf again by mid-October. He finds bad golf to be more relaxing than good golf. He once wielded a low handicap, but if he had a bad day at the course, it would chew him up for days. Now, he doesn’t keep score.
So whatever happened to Roy D. Mercer?
“He was whupping ass the last time I saw him as he rode into the sunset,” Douglas said.
“He is never to be resurrected again. When Phil passed, that was the end of him. I couldn’t do it without him and wasn’t going to do it without him. It wouldn’t have been the same. I have had different (opportunities) kind of run by me on this, that and the other. But I retired man. I’m in the world of golf and grandkids.”
Take it to the lake: Delicious, make-ahead food perfect for the lake or a picnic
I cover pop culture and work as a feature writer at the Tulsa World. A former Oklahoma sports writer of the year, I have written books about former OU coach Barry Switzer and former OSU coach Pat Jones. Phone: 918-581-8389
"Cobra Kai," an episodic continuation of "The Karate Kid," is a Netflix hit. A podcast devoted to "Cobra Kai" was created and is co-hosted by Jason Connell, a documentary filmmaker who is back in his hometown thanks to the Tulsa Remote initiative.
The album is a follow-up to her successful Christmas album.
1 of 8
Brent Douglas (left) and Phil Stone, shown in 1997, spent nearly 27 years together as radio partners on KMOD. Douglas and Stone parted company with the station in 2012. Stone died later that year. Douglas is retired. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World File
Former KMOD radio personality Brent Douglas, the voice of Roy D. Mercer, participates in a past Jim Thorpe Tournament of Champions Golf Classic at the Golf Club of Oklahoma. Douglas said he is retired to a life of grandchildren and golf.
Radio personality Brent Douglas (middle) and KMOD partner Phil Stone (not shown) were honored with a Media Icon award in 2007 at the Tulsa Press Club. Other recipients that year were Jim Giles and Ken Neal. Hannah Giles (left) accepted for the late Jim Giles.