By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Making that connection has taken time in Dallas, partly because KRNB's signal wasn't being picked up by many listeners. Now the station has added some juice to reach the masses -- 200 feet of radio tower, to be exact.
"The only reason he has not become a megastar in the Dallas-Fort Worth area," Dowe says, "is because, up until the first part of September, we have not had a radio station that had the technical facility to support him and his magnificent talent."
On December 13 at 10:15 p.m., Lionel Richie sings into the night: "Father, help your children. And don't let them fall by the side of the road."
Rudy V sees songs as stories and his role as storyteller, choosing the tale that fits the mood. If he's telling a story tonight, it is one of salvation. He plays back-to-back spiritual cuts: the Commodores' "Jesus Is Love," Howard Hewett's "Say Amen," and Brian McKnight's "My Prayer."
"If you just tuned in," he explains, "we received a call tonight from the family of a man who is considering taking his life. We have put in a page, and he has not called back...Quiet Storm community, just keep praying."
Earlier in the evening, a woman had called the station and told Rudy V she was worried about her 24-year-old cousin, Terry McBryant. McBryant had broken up with his fiancée, and he'd told his cousin he was thinking about taking his own life. At the time the cousin called KRNB, McBryant's family had been unable to locate the young man for hours.
Desperate, she remembered hearing McBryant call in to Rudy V's show a week before. She hoped that if the DJ paged her cousin, he'd call back.
Rudy V later explains that he paged McBryant several times with no response before deciding to take his campaign to the air. He pleads with McBryant to call KRNB and let him know he's OK.
For the next three hours, scores of listeners phone in, offering scriptures, phone numbers, and prayers. Rudy V plays music about breakups and starting over. The show seems cathartic for many listeners, who call in crying and offering testimonials of their own victories over suicidal tendencies.
"I thank God for a DJ like you," a woman sobs. "If he needs someone to talk to who knows what he's going through, I'll talk to him."
Suddenly -- and dramatically -- the young man calls the station. He is evasive about his whereabouts. He tells Rudy V on the air that he's driving home, and at the DJ's request gives two cross streets on his route. Then he quickly hangs up.
Recounting the story later in an Arlington coffee shop, Rudy V says those streets never cross -- something he learned from listeners' frantic calls. Sometime after 11 p.m., Rudy V implores them to stop calling. He wants to keep the lines open in case the young man calls back.
Another emotionally charged moment occurs when McBryant's ex-fiancée calls in to speak with Rudy V. "You don't know the whole story. See, you don't understand what he's done," she says. But she scarcely completes the sentence before Williams cuts her off. Temper flaring, he lashes back:
"Are you going to tell me that you're gonna sit back there and let that man talk about taking his life?" he asks in disgust, his voice rising. "It may be that he's the worst man in the world. I implore you to release all of your hurt and your pain."
He is pleading through tears. "And allow him to at least say 'I'm sorry.'"
The conversation with the woman seems to leave him emotionally spent. For the rest of the evening, his voice periodically breaks. You can hear the sniffles.
"We're still waiting on Terry to call back," he says over a track of what has to be the most calculatedly sad saxophone version of "Silent Night" ever recorded. As he talks the Quiet Storm Family through the long wait for Terry McBryant's return call, you cannot but think the man is entirely sincere.
McBryant finally calls back around 2 a.m. This time, Rudy V holds him on the air. He guides the man through a series of Bible verses. He says that God can fix his problems.
By the end of the conversation, the DJ learns that McBryant has actually been at his job all night. He works part-time in a group home for mentally retarded children. After he promises not to harm himself, Rudy V passes on a number to call for professional counseling. He also gives McBryant his home phone number and requests that he call him when he gets home.
Before signing off, Rudy V thanks the Quiet Storm Family for their prayers and calls. There is no doubt today in Terry McBryant's mind that Rudy V saved his life. He says he went to work that night planning to slice his throat with a razor blade. But while McBryant sat in a dark room getting ready to do it, he was listening to The Quiet Storm. "Like I told Rudy, every time I got ready to go into the bathroom to take my life, it's like somebody else would get on that radio and start saying encouraging words to stop me."