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Talent on air

Falkville native part of popular morning show

VESTAVIA – Few people get to spend the pre-dawn hours of each day hanging around Rick Burgess and Bill “Bubba” Bussey, the self-proclaimed “two sexiest fat men alive”.
For Lauren Estes, the opportunity was a dream-come-true for one of the morning shows current crop of interns.
The Rick and Bubba Show – hosted by Alabama natives Burgess and  Bussey – is syndicated and airs live each weekday from 6 -10 a.m.
And those early hours  meant Estes had to quickly adapt to a life where the alarm goes off at 4 a.m. and the day ends around noon. It was a long way from the comfort zone of Estes’ college life at the University of North Alabama.
“This has been a blast,” Estes said after a recent show. “I have learned so much. I had a lot of fun, but I also learned a lot of radio production, on-air work, recording and commercial editing.
“It was a wonderful summer, an unforgettable summer,” she said. “I was very blessed to get this opportunity.”
The show is a rambling mix of current events, in-studio guests and a whole lot of fun. More importantly for Estes, though, it’s also a learning opportunity for college students like Estes, who is a junior at the University of North Alabama in Florence.
Along the way, Estes has learned the importance of getting to work on time, even if that has meant getting up in the middle of the night while the rest of her friends were asleep.
The early hours were a big wakeup call for a college student and Estes learned that the broadcast profession hours are much different than what she has experienced as a student at the University of North Alabama.
“Getting up at 4 a.m. was so tough,” Estes said. “The first week was really rough. But you eventually get to where you can go to sleep earlier in the night because you know you have to get up in the morning.
“You just have to get used to the odd hours. When I get up so early, I’m ready for lunch by 10:30 a.m.
The show has had almost 150 interns since the duo started accepting college students and Burgess and Bussey have made a habit of giving each intern an on-air nickname.
Estes, who ran track at Falkville High School and dreams of one day becoming a sideline reporter for ESPN, was tagged LeSPN by the hosts.
Her athletic background at Falkville played well with the co-hosts who loved Estes’ team-first attitude every morning. She holds the current record in the 40-yard dash – something all interns, and even some guests – must do during the show.
I’m not going as far as to say that if you haven’t been involved in athletics you have no potential, but I can always tell the difference in the ones who have been involved in athletics and the ones that haven’t. I’ll take the ones that have every time.”
Estes’ desire to work in broadcast journalism came after a Christian speaker told her of her prophecy to be an example to other Christians through her profession.
Estes was just 13 years old at the time when speaker Brandon Watkins told her of his vision of her future.
“He pulled me and another boy out of the audience and asked about my life goals,” Estes said. “I was just in high school. I didn’t really know my goals yet. He told me that God had a bigger plan for me and that I was going to do something I loved. It just clicked that journalism was what I was supposed to do.
“He told me that I was going to be in a position where I could affect a lot of people, that people were going to know me. Broadcasting just opened up for me right then. It all started from that. It really changed my life.”
Estes fit in well with the Rick and Bubba staff. Her outgoing nature made her a good addition to the show and she found has herself in an on-air situation several times during her internship.
But on-air work was just a small portion of Estes’ duties with the show. She often found herself working phone lines during the programs “phone troll” segment that means interns must work under high pressure with listeners eager to talk to the morning duo.

Rick and Bubba show intern Lauren Estes, known on the show as LeEspn, works while funnyman Bubba Bussey tries to distract her.

“I think she did a great job,” said co-host Bill “Bubba” Bussey. “She’s very personable and she fit in well around here.”
Burgess and Bussey became friends while working together at a student radio station at Jacksonville State University. Now they are using the experience of years in the radio business to help further the education of college students from around the Southeast.
The internship is geared toward giving college students a hands-on experience in the fast-paced life of the morning radio show.
“So many things are not applicable to the working environment,” Burgess said. “We bring them in and teach them that they have to be on time. A lot of people out there have talent and we can teach you the ropes of this business but if you don’t learn the work ethic  you can’t be successful.
“Most businesses are not looking at how many things you can do. But they are looking at if you are dependable, can you be on time and if I give you a project can you get it done. We try to teach them really more than just radio and T.V. We try to teach them a work ethic. If you don’t have that, the rest of it really doesn’t matter.”
Estes’ first lesson on the show: being a part of the wacky world of morning radio can be fun, but there is a lot of work involved in the process.
“You want to be able to get the fun stuff done, but you’ve also got to get your work done,” Estes said. “You have to maintain your priorities. You want to have fun but everything you do each day affects every day after that.”
Estes also had to understand that as an intern, she was a representative of the show and of Burgess and Bussey.
“You are representing Rick and Bubba and you have to be a positive influence,” Estes said. “People who call don’t know who you are, they are just calling Rick and Bubba. So you have to represent the show in the best possible light.”
Burgess and Bussey haven’t had many interns that didn’t work out. But both felt Estes was a great asset to the show because of the fact she was so quick to learn.
“One of the things I liked about (Lauren) is that she is coachable,” Burgess said. “She doesn’t mind receiving instruction.
“We really don’t have time to start and say this is where everything is,. You are thrown into a show that has already been prepared and you are on a show that is already going. We definitely believe in the trial-by-fire. We then can refine that as we go.”
And that experience under pressure was a blessing that Estes will never forget.