Tommy Merrick has spent his life looking for ways to serve others.
As a youngster growing up in Prattville, his dream was to be a disk jockey. He loved music and, being an only child, his mother encouraged him to sing along to songs. His dad played a little guitar and his uncle was an accomplished musician who sang at weddings and gatherings.
After dinner, Merrick would retreat to his room and listen to the radio or to his dad’s music collection. Although his and friends’ influences were the Rolling Stones, Beatles and other rock bands, his dad was a fan of Eddie Arnold, Jim Reeves, Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass and Johnny Cash. So, the son developed an eclectic taste in music and a near-photographic memory of songs, the year they came out and who sang them. His dad recorded him on reel-to-reel tape when he was about 3 years old, singing Cash’s “I Walk the Line.”
When he got older, Merrick worked briefly at a radio station but quickly realized that a DJ’s salary would not support the lifestyle he wanted. So, he moved on to another dream.
He was a standout high school baseball player at Prattville High School who earned a college scholarship. Merrick figured he would get a degree in speech and drama, attend grad school and then teach and coach. When Merrick graduated from Huntingdon College, he worked for Toys R Us and the Prattville YMCA. He was soon asked by his church to work with its youth group.
On a trip to Six Flags Over Georgia, his youths met a group from St. Ignatius of Mobile. The Mobile kids told him about their vacant youth minister position and that they’d like him to come help them out. They gave Merrick’s information to their church leadership and he was invited for an interview, accepted their offer and moved to Mobile, spending two years as youth pastor for St. Ignatius and as assistant baseball coach at McGill-Toolen High School.
Merrick then joined Alabama Power in the Montgomery Call Center, worked for four years and transferred to Southern Linc, where he worked in many areas from 1998 to 2014. Merrick loved what he was doing but returned to the call center in 2015, where he is a customer care associate.
Through it all, Merrick’s love of music, entertaining and serving others shone through. He continued to DJ at events from Montgomery to Tuscaloosa, making a name for himself as one of the top disk jockeys in the state.
Wherever Merrick has lived, he’s quickly gotten into civic work. He helped the American Cancer Society raise over $5,000 in 2017, in the process winning the “Real Men Wear Pink” contest in Montgomery, besting the county sheriff for biggest fundraising total. He DJ’d the annual Cancer Society Walk for several years, motivating survivors and families of those who have died.
He is an active member and fourth degree Knight of the Knights of Columbus, an organization that helps charitable community causes.
When COVID-19 health restrictions came into effect, Merrick and many other Southern Company employees started working from home. A childhood friend, Ken Burton, called and said, “Tommy, with your charisma, ability to entertain and DJ, you should do a Facebook Live session to give folks something to celebrate.”
About a month ago, Merrick, 53, set up his DJ equipment, hooked up his phone and laptop and broadcast from home. The first Saturday night was slated to start at 8 p.m. and go for up to two hours but he didn’t finish until 1:30 a.m.
The next week, Merrick started at 8 p.m. and due to listeners dialing in, he went on for seven and a half hours. The following week he cut it to three and a half hours because Easter was the next morning.
His audience has grown exponentially each week as song requests come in every day in anticipation of Saturday’s performance.
“Just wanted to say thanks again for the Sat. night ‘House Parties,’” Leisa Deavers Bullard wrote on Facebook. “We haven’t been able to see our daughter and son-in-law in several months and now, especially with the DOD/Military travel ban, who knows when we’ll see them again. Hopefully when our first grandchild is born in July. Anyway, your ‘karaoke’ nights help take our minds off things for a little while, so thanks!”
While many performers are on Facebook asking for donations, Merrick said he is doing his broadcasts for the love of music and entertaining others.
“I love entertaining and singing and being a DJ,” he said. “When my friend mentioned the possibility of doing this for people at home, I thought that a few folks may dial in. I have been surprised and shocked at the number of people who have joined the fun and sent requests in. Time flies when I do it, so I don’t realize I am going that long. But hey, if it helps someone during these trying times, I am all for it.”