Of the thousands of hours Laurie DeYoung has spent on the air at country radio station WPOC-FM, one brief segment sums up as well as anything what she is about, both behind and away from the microphone.
It occurred one day last month, as she signed off at the end of her 5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. shift, prefacing the last number she would play that morning with a simple observation. "I think of my boys every time I play this song," she said. Whereupon the soft strains of the Keith Whitley/Earl Thomas Conley duet, "Brotherly Love," filled the air:
They share the same last name and the same color eyes
But they fight like tigers over one red bike
Looking at them reminds me of us
They're gonna fight and they're gonna fuss
But they've got something special -- brotherly love
There could be no doubting the sincerity of the words of the song -- or those of the woman who introduced it. Indeed, in the six years Ms. DeYoung has hosted WPOC's morning show -- first with the now long gone and all but forgotten Rocky Marlowe, and the last four by herself -- she has displayed more wholesomeness and vitality than a milk commercial.
That quality has pushed this effervescent churchgoing minister's daughter and devoted wife and mother to the top of the heap. In the most recent Arbitron radio ratings, this Little Miss Goody Two Shoes of Baltimore radio outpolled all other morning disc jockeys with an 8.8 share of listeners 12 and over, second in the market behind perennial drive-time leader news/talk WBAL-AM.
It has also made Ms. DeYoung stand out in more than just the ratings in a medium increasingly filled with shock jocks and morning maniacs. Where others insult callers, tell off-color jokes and engage in not-so-sly innuendo, she'll tell you what her oldest son, 8 1/2 -year-old ("That half is real important") Graham, did with his tapioca pudding during lunch at his school on parents' visitation day. (He made a point of showing it to kids he knew would be grossed out by the sight of it.) If morning radio shows were rated like movies, Ms. DeYoung's would get a G.
"A PG or a G," she corrects, with the infectious laugh that is almost a trademark. And then, almost apologetically, "I almost hate to talk about that. What we're trying to do is be honest, be real, have a good time -- as lightweight as that might sound."
"I used to love the TV show 'Hart to Hart,' " she adds of the romantic hit ABC series of the early 1980s about a married couple deeply committed to each other and to solving mysteries. "I want to represent that side of things. People driving their kids to school know our show is safe. Not in a boring way, I hope I'm never boring. But they know they're not going to have to explain some blue humor on the way to school."
Ms. DeYoung -- who at 35 is petite, dark-haired and attractive -- is sitting in her office in WPOC's studios on the second floor of the Rotunda shopping center on a recent weekday morning, not long after she has gotten off the air. She is wearing a blood-red turtleneck and a pair of white jeans with a hole in the knee that she got from falling in the supermarket one day after work when she was laden with groceries. "Just a reminder of the working woman trying to do it all," she observes. She is munching pretzels and sipping coffee out of one of the mugs with her name emblazoned on it that she gives away to callers to her show. "Is that the most self-absorbed thing or what?" she asks.
Except for being a little more upbeat on the air than she is off, and a little more sarcastic off the air than she is on, Ms. DeYoung says, "I'm pretty much the same on the air as I am in person."
Those who know her best are quick to agree. "She is very much the way she comes across on the radio," says Ed DeYoung, her husband of 14 years. "She's a real genuine person."
Friends use words like straightforward, passionate and loyal to describe her and take umbrage at the very notion that she may have flaws. "I don't think there's negative stuff to say about her," says Myra MacCuaig, one of her closest friends. "She's a neat lady."
Around the WPOC studios, she displays little evidence of the overblown ego that at times seems a requirement for a personality in morning drive, radio's most visible time slot. Morning news anchor Bill Vanko, who has worked with her for several years, says, "I'm not working with a morning 'star' in her eyes. . . . We get along as well as anyone I've ever worked with."
WPOC program director Bob Moody protests that Ms. DeYoung is "not Annette Funicello." As evidence, he cites the time last year when she asked Kathy Mattea, Country Music Association female vocalist of the year winner, whether she and her $l husband, CMA songwriter of the year Jon Vegner, celebrated their awards "under the sheets." But that comment is as unusual as it is tepid; more in keeping with her tone is the time she sympathetically spun the song "Old Folks" after a grandmother called to complain that her birthday had been forgotten.