At a few key moments Bob Phillips’ life, people sat him down and took the time to mentor him. He tells those stories and many more in his new book: “A Good Long Drive: Fifty Years of Texas Country Reporter.”
One of those mentoring moments came during his parents’ long and difficult divorce – a story that involves the use of a shotgun is in the book – Phillips left his parents’ home and his girlfriend’s parents took him in.
“Today, I realize they were saints,” he said. “They realized that I was in a bad situation and they said: ‘Hey, why don’t you move in here until things settle down at home?’ These folks really set me on course to succeed in life. I think between what I had for my own mom and dad for the first 15 or 16 years. And what I got from these people for the next several years, made me who I am.”
Even before graduating college, Phillips worked as a reporter. But his dream job – truly the dream job he created – was inspired by a show on CBS called “On The Road” with Charles Kuralt. That’s how “Texas Country Reporter” was born. It is not news, it’s mostly real, feel-good stories from every town in Texas.
“And for the longest time, the station [channel 4 in Dallas] wouldn’t commit to this as a series,” Philips said. “They just kept saying, ‘Do another one. Yeah, OK, do another one. Yeah, do one more.’ At the end of every season – we kind of did the old standard television September-May season – and then we ran reruns during the summer – the last show in May, every year, I would do a ‘goodbye show’ because I kept thinking: Well, surely they’re not going to let me do this again! Because it was too good to be true! And I thought: OK, somebody’s going to figure out that I’m having too much fun and they’re going to say, get back to doing news! But they didn’t.”
50 years later, the show is still on in every state in the nation.
Phillips doesn’t have a favorite story from the show. But one he remembers is about a man who had never watched TV.
“So, I said ‘Mr. Gentry, I noticed you don’t have a TV in here.’ And he goes: ‘No, I don’t watch television.’ And I said ‘So you miss a lot of things. I mean, you didn’t get to see the man landing on the moon!’ And he said ‘Nope!’ What’s even better than that, is we got to a certain point and all of a sudden he looks up at a clock over my shoulder and he sees that it’s 4:30 in the afternoon and he’s still wearing our microphone…you know, we’re still doing the interview. He just walks away. He grabs a fishing pole and a tackle box, goes out the front door, walks across the old country lane and the camera is rolling. And I turn to one of the other old guys and said: ‘Where’s he going?’ He said: ‘Oh, every day at 4:30, he goes fishing!’”
You can watch episodes of the Texas Country Reporter online.