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Story last updated at 11:14 a.m. on Friday, December 10, 1999

Roy D. Mercer -- he's the Jerky Boys' country cousin


Associated Press

NASHVILLE -- Take the Jerky Boys, make them a little smarter and a lot less profane, then stir in a healthy portion of "Deliverance."

Result: Roy D. Mercer, seller of more than 1.5 million CDs.

Mercer, resident of an Oklahoma trailer park, has taken the prank phone call to heights unimagined by the generations of wisenheimer teen-agers who did the deed before Caller ID made getting away with it much harder.

Actually, there is no Roy D. Mercer. He's the creation of two disc jockeys at KMOD in Tulsa, Okla., named Brent Douglas and Phil Stone.

Douglas does the voice for the quick-to-anger character who calls business owners and seeks compensation for a variety of accidents and ailments -- things like "bowlin' ball fungus" -- for which he holds them responsible.

Only the Jerky Boys rival Roy. The duo of Johnny B. and Kamal have released five albums of prank calls since 1993, and did a movie in 1995.

Roy is the Jerky Boys' country cousin, with cleaner language.

"We weren't thinking Jerky Boys when we started doing this, but I remember thinking this is a lot better," Douglas said. "We try to be a little more creative with it and have a beginning, a middle and an end."

Among their latest efforts is "Bowlin' Ball Fungus," the first selection on the sixth volume of the "How Big' a Boy Are Ya?" CDs of their radio show. The victim is Jim, the real owner of a bowling alley.

In a good-ol'-boy Southern drawl that includes just enough aggression that Jim senses trouble, Roy tells a tale of woe about his son Raymond.

"He got some nail fungus from the holes in your bowling balls on his fingernails," Roy explains. "And now he's spread it to his nose. And it's kind of gotten into his private areas down there."

Roy wants Jim to pay $114 for Raymond's doctor bills, plus $27.50 a week for "fungi medicine." Jim goes from amused to concerned to fighting mad. After nearly five minutes, the disc jockeys let him in on the gag.

"It's like a boxing match, man," said Douglas, shadowboxing to make his point. "Throw the jab and back off and rope-a-dope a little bit, and come back."

The Roy D. Mercer character is a conglomeration of relatives Stone and Douglas grew up with in rural America. Stone, 44, is from Fayetteville, Ark., and Douglas, also 44, comes from Broken Arrow, Okla.

"I heard my daddy threaten to 'knock my lungs loose' since I was that high," Douglas said. "The voice kind of comes from one of my uncles, but the attitude comes from the whole family."

Mercer was created after Douglas' unlikely entry into the radio business. He was a pharmacist in Tulsa who frequently called in jokes to KMOD's morning show, which had Stone and actress Jeanne Tripplehorn as hosts.

When Tripplehorn left in 1986 to pursue an acting career -- she has appeared in movies including "Basic Instinct" -- Stone thought Douglas might make a good replacement. Douglas jumped at the chance, even though it meant a pay cut.

"My father, who had sent me though college, was upset," Douglas said. "But I was pretty excited."

The duo struggled for their first few weeks and came up with the idea for Mercer to freshen the show.

Mercer's first victim was Stone's neighbor, the owner of a roofing company. Mercer complained that an unhinged shingle from one of his jobs had struck his wife, Sharon Jean, in the bosom while she was sunbathing topless.

Mercer wanted to be compensated for his wife's "post-traumatic breast syndrome."

The Mercer gag was a hit in Tulsa and soon fans were collecting tapes of the funniest calls.

"We got tired of making copies," said Stone a 20-year radio veteran who also picks the music that KMOD plays. "We put CDs out, and sold them through an auto parts store in Tulsa. It sold 1,200 in the first three hours."

They sold 15,000 CDs on their own before Scott Hendricks of Capitol Records in Nashville called. He had heard a bootleg tape at his aunt's wedding and wanted to distribute Mercer CDs nationally.

"I almost didn't call him back," Stone said. "I thought he was just another record (company) weasel, you know? ... Scott was like, 'How would you all like to get rich?"'

The record company affiliation -- Douglas and Stone went with Hendricks when he moved from Capitol to Virgin Records -- has made a difference. "How Big' a Boy Are Ya? Vol. 6" has been selling 8,500 copies a week, according to SoundScan. And Douglas is about to make his first on-screen appearance as Mercer, in Billy Bob Thornton's "Daddy and Them."

"It's a bizarre deal," Douglas said. "When I was in high school, we would go over to my brother-in-law's house and he would go and open the Yellow Pages and not tell me who he was going to call. I'd go into some voice and make up some character and reel out some story. ... I've been doing it all my life, basically in one form or fashion."


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