Busta’s Person of the Week: A slight name change, a big life change: Part one of the story of Tammi Mac

Busta’s Person of the Week: A slight name change, a big life change: Part one of the story of Tammi Mac
July 29
11:26 2021

By Busta Brown

My person of the week story is so amazing, I have to do it in two parts. It’s going to have you laughing, crying, and thinking about the choices we’ve all made. 

Imagine your wildest dreams coming true. In this story, that’s exactly what happened to my Person of the Week. She’s now one of the most popular radio personalities in Los Angeles, California. The radio station is owned by none other than the legendary Stevie Wonder. She’s the host of a late-night talk show, interviewing A-list celebrities. She’s starred in countless movies, national TV commercials, and wrote, produced and starred in an extremely successful one-woman show. 

“It sounds like a lot, but I swear to God, I still don’t feel like I’m doing enough. When people repeat it, I’m like, ‘That’s a lot.’ But when I’m alone, I don’t feel like I’m going hard enough. I feel like I need to do more, because I’m not where I wanna be,” said Tammi McCall, better known as Tammi Mac. Later, I’ll tell you why that name sounds so familiar to those of us who grew up in the Triad during the ‘90s. 

To hear Tammi say that she’s not doing enough blows me away! When you meet her, the spirit of confidence is thick in the air and it’s infectious. She’s one of the most intelligent, strong, beautiful, courageous, kind, thought-provoking and absolutely hilarious people I know. She has a sweet, slightly southern accent, wide open personality, is charming, yet very raw and transparent. This is why her fans and friends love her. 

Tammi was born and raised in Houston, Texas, where as a child her father was able to help land her a job at Texas Southern University’s radio station, KTSU. That’s when Tammi caught the radio bug. “My dad was always taking me to radio stations; he was well connected. One day he asked me if I wanted to be on the radio and I was like … No! The station had a program on Saturdays called Kids Jam. They would allow kids to come in and program their own show for an hour. My dad introduced me to the program director and told him I wanted to be on the radio, and she asked me if I coulld read. My dad said, ‘Show her what you can do.’ He’s kind of a con man, so whenever he would slap your knee, he was working his con. He said, ‘Listen, Boo, show her what you can do.’” 

We laughed hard for at least two minutes before we were able to get our composure together. Tammi’s an amazing storyteller and when you partner that with her wild, witty and crazy sense of humor, it’s clear why she continues to be very successful in a city where so many aspiring entertainers’ dreams fall short. 

Let’s get back to the program director’s question about if Tammi could readL “I was an impeccable reader because my grandmother would pay us to read billboard signs and always make us read books. So, when I was asked to read a public service announcement, the program director was very impressed. I got the job, but I was answering phones, and never on the radio. I was bored and wanted to quit, but when I told my dad, he begins to work his con. ‘Listen, Boo,’ as he slapped my knee.” Tammi was doing a hilarious voice impression of her dad, while slapping her knee as she told the story. You could hear the sounds of her hand slapping her knee. The vision and sound effects made her story even more intriguing and funny. 

She continued, “My dad said, ‘You want to be an actress, right?’ I said yes sir! ‘Answering the phones is your calling card. What you do is, pretend like you are different people when you answer the phone. That way you’ll be going in on your acting skills and get to know the listeners. When the DJ plays the songs, the listeners are going to think you played the songs and you’re going to get the credit. The callers will become your fans,’” Tammi shared as we were laughing throughout the entire story. 

Eventually her dad’s con worked. The first day she got a shot on the air, everyone knew who she was and called in to extend their congratulations. Tammi was becoming somewhat of a local celebrity, but she had her eyes on the local commercial radio station. “I stuck with it! Everything you do, if you stick with it; something will happen. You just gotta stick with it. That’s the hardest part of any job. It’s not the work, it’s continuing to do the work when you don’t want to,” said Tammi. 

Years later Tammi got a job doing database and then promotions at Magic 102, which is still a powerhouse in Houston. She had dreams of working her way up to becoming one of Magic’s superstar radio personalities, but her mother and grandmother had their own dreams for Tammi. “I had no doubt in my mind that I would be the next star in radio, but my grandmother called Magic 102 and quit my job for me. She told me, ‘We already purchased your ticket to Greensboro, North Carolina, and you will be going to college.’ She was a stickler for education. All of her boys went and graduated from college, and so did my grandmother. So, when she found out I had a scholarship to Bennett College, she wouldn’t have it any other way. She said, ‘You will take your behind to school.’ 

“She gave my mother $500 and we bought me a rodeo outfit in the children’s department at Neiman Marcus. And I was 20-something years old, shopping in the children’s department. I wore a size 14 in children’s. ‘Til this day, I wonder why my mama let me buy a kid’s rodeo outfit for $500. This is the first time I told this story,” joked Tammi. 

I laughed the entire interview. We stopped at least 20 times to catch our breath from laughing so much. 

It was during the ‘90s when Tammi packed up her rodeo outfit and moved to Greensboro. Now it’s time to find out why her name sounds very familiar. While attending Bennett College, Tammi landed a slot on North Carolina A&T University’s radio station. One of the other on-air talents loved her voice and gave her an impressive recommendation to the program director at then Power 97. “I eventually got my first commercial radio job and that’s when it all began.” That’s when she went from Tammi McCall to Tammi Mac. 

Next Thursday we’ll take you on Tammi’s journey from Power 97 in Greensboro, to becoming one of the hottest radio personalities, talk show hosts and actresses in Los Angeles. Tammi shares the heartbreak of getting fired from a station in a city where she finally found peace and balance in her life. We’ll also talk about her battle with depression when she arrived in Los Angeles, and her list of good friends, from Viola Davis, Loretta Divine, Vanessa Bell Callaway, to Stevie Wonder, and more. The saga continues … stay tuned.

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