If you want to catch Bill Buntin, all you need to do is wait for 8 a.m. Sunday morning to roll around, and you’ll find him in Save-A-Lot picking up his weekly supply of Diet Pepsi.
Buntin, now retired, was and for some always will be the superior vena cava vein to the city of Gallatin.
In this case, the Green Wave is the heart, and Buntin is the vein that brings blood to the heart.
His voice still echos through the town and Green Wave Stadium, and if you close your eyes, you can hear him welcome the Mighty Green Wave into the Pit.
Buntin was fortunate to call many classic games as Voice of the Green Wave from 1968-1997. Buntin was at the center of all things fabulous at Gallatin High School, whether football or girls and boys basketball.
As great as his memories are of teams on the hardwood, it was football that garnered the most attention for the Green Wave faithful.
“Everyone planned around Friday nights,” Buntin recalled. “They were interesting, wonderful times. The community made it so special. The fans who followed home and away made a difference in our football teams. They brought the passion to the kids. They were the glory years. I have walked into paradise, I thought — there is no way this is real.” said Buntin.
Buntin says his job as Play-by-Play announcer was to relay what he saw on the field — whether those who tuned in to the game were at the stadium or not.
“I tried my best never to add many things other than what I saw on the field below me,” Buntin said. “You cannot describe or replace the joy you get when someone tells you they have enjoyed your broadcast. If the passion were there, the people would know it, and boy was the passion there. I was floored looking down at the crowd at games and seeing them listening to me call the game with their little radio. It was something so special — I don’t think I’ll ever know that feeling again.”
Honing his craft
Growing up in Portland, Tennessee, Buntin was a standout basketball player, running up and down the hardwood for the Purple Panthers before his graduation in 1963, but it was the road trips that made Buntin a team favorite.
“I would entertain the team on the bus rides to and from games mimicking the great Larry Munson, who was doing Vanderbilt at the time,” Buntin recalled. “It was a fun thing to do, and I wasn’t good enough to be a big time player, and not that I was a big time announcer, but it kept me in the game, part of the game, and close to the people who also love and follow sports.”
After spending time as a basketball player at Cumberland University, Buntin enlisted in the Army, where he served until 1968.
After leaving the Army is when Buntin landed the gig as Voice of the Green Wave.
“Those years were more than a high school game; they were a way to see the people you saw at church, Kroger, town square, wherever, living for Friday nights in the Pit. To have tickets sold out in advance of every game and to look across the stadium and see a sea of Green and Gold was a sight to see.”
Voice of the Green Wave
After many successful years calling Gallatin football games over the radio, Buntin decided in 1981 he and his team would take Green Wave football to the next level by introducing a coaches show that aired Saturday mornings.
Before the coach's show, fans of the Green Wave would wake up early Saturday mornings to listen to the replay of Buntin and the game.
“That was just part of your life back then,” Randy “Moonpie,” Moore said. “I remember waking up to go get my coffee and biscuit from Hardees or wherever and then turning Bill on and just drive around town for hours listening to the game again. Like John Ward will always be the voice of the Vols, Bill Buntin will always be the voice of the Green Wave. Bill is a part of the fabric of this town.”
Added Moore on what made Buntin a part of the culture:
“He was just a great announcer. He described the game so well it was almost like you were watching it on television. He was so impactful for me and so many fans in Gallatin.”
As much as Buntin wanted the Green Wave to succeed, you could never tell which team he actively pulled for, according to listener Margie Carter.
“You could tell he was interested in the players and what made them tick,” she said. “He was the very best announcer because you never knew he was for the Green Wave — he treated all players and scores the same.”
Buntin will forever be associated with the football team, but he wants to make sure fans know he enjoyed every minute of his time with the boys and girls basketball teams.
“I loved all the sports; honestly, football just happened to be the wonder years. I fell into it at the right time, and we had a lot of fun.”
Top notch team
Indeed, Bill could not have done what he did without his team beside him, and he will tell you the same.
Guys like Ed Reasonover and Jules Brazil will forever carry the legacy of being the ones who helped take Gallatin football to the next level.
“They made a great team,” Gallatin public address announcer Rob Hosier said. “They were a lot of fun to listen to.”
Nearly 16 years after Buntin and Brazil left the booth as announcers, Brazil was tragically killed when a car struck Brazil as he was walking to Green Wave Stadium.
When Buntin received the call, he thought there was no way he would lose one of his closest friends.
“Jules loved nothing more than Gallatin football,” Buntin said. “I remember having to pull him off the wall in the booth if there was a bad call, bad play, whatever. There is nothing to explain the passion Mr. Green Wave had for Gallatin. I’ve done a lot of tough things in my life, but speaking at his funeral was one of the toughest things I’ve ever gone through. When I got that call, I thought there was no way this was real. Everything stopped at that moment. It was hard.”
For all the great things Buntin did for the Gallatin community, one of the things that will always stand out to some is how easy Bill was to work with. Whether it be an early Saturday after a win or loss, Buntin was always professional and a joy to be around, which Calvin Short will always cherish.
“We had several great years together, whether it was the radio or television show,” Short recalled. “The great thing I remember about Bill was how easy he was to work with. Bill is very personable and one I consider a friend; a very loyal friend.”
Even though Short concerned himself with the play on the field and never the broadcast, even he can admit there was something about Buntin’s delivery that drew people in.
“I was usually very busy with other football things, but occasionally I did listen, and I tell you he had a gift with the way words flowed from his mouth. The way he told and explained things to you was enthusiastic and made you feel as if you were there.”