Building a hero

| April 02, 2008

“Everything runs around the trucking industry,” he says. His father ran a construction company when Weekley was growing up, and at age 14, he began driving for his father.

“My dad wasn’t feeling good, so I hauled equipment and oil rigs. I’ve been doin’ it ever since,” he says. Weekley says he grew up listening to radio shows on a transistor radio his grandmother bought him. “I used to listen to Big John Trimble, a DJ for WRVA in Richmond, Va.,” he recalls.

As Weekley began to drive full-time, he listened to Trimble more and more on the road. In 1986 he got up the courage to call the DJ and play a bluegrass song from his band for him.

“That was a big thing,” he says, laughing.

He wanted to sing live on another radio show at Ohio University, so he and his band went down and sang on the air. “We weren’t that good,” he says. “I mean, it was bad!” But he landed a job with the university radio station that lasted four years. Meanwhile, he continued to drive trucks.

It was then that friend and mentor Rex Osbourne, who was like a father to Weekley, officially dubbed him “Big Al.”

“He was 4’8″, and I was 6’1″,” Weekley says with a laugh.

Trimble let Weekley put on a bluegrass program on Saturdays at 4 a.m., and his calling to a career on the airwaves began.

“John and Rex gave me the energy – the willpower – to do this,” he says. “John got me my first trip backstage at the Grand Ole Opry.”

Weekley was writing his own songs by then, and his inspiration and motivation grew into a passion for music and trucking. Not only did he write or co-write eight of the songs on Always in It for the Long Haul, he does vocals as well. He worked with songwriter Cliff Abbot, current director of Driver Development at Southern Cal Transport in Birmingham, Ala. The CD features one of Abbott’s songs, “Ode to Billy Big Rigger,” a comical look at the “supertrucker” drivers know all too well.

A highlight of Weekley’s career was driving a truck for four years with Manheim Steamroller’s Christmas tours.

“I’ve stayed in hotels and mansions and had coffee with homeless people – I’ve seen both sides of the world,” he says. “It’s been a fight to do what I want to do. I wanted to be different, and I guess I am.”

He enjoys all aspects of his job, especially the late-night talks with drivers across America. “Those families and ranchers and drivers have brought me into their lives,” he says. “It’s a great education. There’s a lot of good people out there.”

Visit Big Al Weekley’s website at www.bigalweekley.net, where you can purchase a copy of his CD and check out fan sites and updates from Big Al himself.
–Sarah Thomson

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