Today Duck Commander, the Robertson family duck call business made famous by A&E's hit reality show Duck Dynasty, is more of an empire.
But in the beginning Phil Robertson made his duck calls in his backwoods Louisiana backyard. And as the oldest son, Alan Robertson served as one of his dad's first employees.
"We made everything in there," Alan said, pointing into an old shed behind his dad's house. "There used to be an old band saw out back and I used to cut calls in half. I was little, I was 12 years old, I mean, OSHA, we didn't know what OSHA was in those days."
Alan then gestured toward an old red water shed with rows of nails stuck in it.
"This is kind of one of the last things left from the old days," he explained. "See these nails here—we used to hang duck calls on these nails."
Alan Joins Season 4
Although he's the oldest brother, fans of Duck Dynasty probably didn't know he existed until now. Alan debuted on the show's Season 4 premiere to a record-breaking audience. Nearly 12 million people watched, making it the largest audience ever for a nonfiction show on cable.
Alan likes to joke that he's responsible for the ratings bump, but in the Robertson family, all glory goes to God.
The day after the record-breaking premiere, Alan led dozens of Duck Commander employees in the company's weekly devotion. The workers show up an hour early for the weekly ritual.
Duck Dynasty funny man John Godwin opened the group in prayer.
"Thank You so much for the cross and Your grace and Your mercy and we praise His name. Amen," he prayed.
With his wife Lisa beside him and his daughter Alexis across from him (she and her husband work for Duck Commander, too), Alan preached about God's love, reading from 1 Corinthians 13.
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not loved, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal," he quoted the passage.
"Without love we're in serious trouble right?" he went on to say.
A Bumpy Spiritual Road
It's something he knows well. Before rejoining Duck Commander a year ago, Alan pastored White's Ferry Road Church of Christ for more than 20 years. But as a young man he never dreamed he'd become a minister.
"My high school years were just terrible and it was all a secret life—running around and drinking and cutting up," he said. "So I was at the worst possible place—I was hiding in plain sight. I was in the church but I wasn't a Christian. I wasn't living for Christ."
After he graduated, Phil told him he either had to shape up or move out so he wouldn't be a bad influence on his younger brothers. Alan moved out, relocating to New Orleans where he found more trouble.
His life got so bad that it scared him straight and after about a year he moved back home. He made a commitment to follow Jesus Christ and Phil baptized him in the river behind their house.
The 'Feather' and the 'Sledgehammer'
Since then Alan estimates the Robertson men have used the same water to baptize at least a thousand others. Now most weekends Alan and his dad travel the country together preaching the gospel.
"I call us the feather and the sledge hammer," Alan told CBN News. "I come in and I get people laughing. I get their tickle bone because I'm kind of the humor guy.
"And then dad comes in with a sledgehammer—boom!—you know, 'This is what God has done for you. This is what our nation needs. Boom, boom, boom'" he continued.
At Duck Commander headquarters Alan shares an office with his wife, Lisa, who also works for the business. The couple's daughters and their husbands do, too.
Each day hundreds of requests come in for a family member to speak or appear at an event.
"We're on the telephone; we're working schedules for the family," Alan explained.
They also greet fans. While the other Robertsons travel to different appearances, Alan and Lisa serve as family ambassadors.
Now that Alan and Lisa will be appearing on Duck Dynasty, they can expect a lot more attention.
Alan's daughter Alexis said she thinks her dad felt a little left out and said she's glad he's back with the family business and on the show.
"They know what they're getting into because they've seen it with the brothers," she said. "But I think they are still going to be shocked whenever everywhere they go people know who they are."
Such a Time as This
"Alan is just a natural fit anyway," Godwin said. "He's such a people person, you know, keep us grounded and keep everybody else grounded."
"I really feel like God had prepared us for such a moment at this," Alan said, "And when America needs some family to say, 'Hey, we can make mistakes, you know, we can come from nothing—we can have all these things now, but ultimately none of it matters except that we're saved and we're going to be in heaven forever with Christ.'"
Lisa added, "And Kay always says, too, that, she says that whenever she prays she says if the money or the fame or anything ever takes us away from Christ, then take it all away and leave us with nothing. You know, because when we're with nothing, we've got everything with Christ."
About That Beard …
Alan's brothers have made unruly facial hair fashionable. In fact, Alan's clean-cut look makes him the odd duck in the family, but don't expect him to conform.
"I figure you need to know what they look like underneath so a lot of times I'll go out in a crowd and say, 'What about if I did this (he covers up his mouth and chin as though he has a beard)?' And people say, 'Oh, that's more like it' 'cause they get the vision and they can tell I belong to the family," he said.
Plus, he said, "I don't want to get stuck with that look, I mean, are you kidding me?"
And perhaps the best reason: His wife likes him clean shaven.
"You know, when there's things crawling out of your beard or whenever you've got food left from lunch or dinner, I don't know, that just kind of grosses me out," she said.
But don't be fooled by Alan's smooth face. He loves the outdoors as much as his rugged-looking brothers. Deep in the Robertson family's hunting land Alan couldn't wait to show us one of the family's nearly 80 duck blinds.
"We've solved more of the world's problems in a duck blind than any other place," he said.
Unlike the solitude of deer hunting, Alan said he likes hunting ducks because he gets to cut up while catching his dinner.
"It's like this adrenaline surge and everybody's up and it's like pow, pow, pow, boom, boom, boom. Then we see what we got and then Si starts claiming everybody's ducks," he said.
A Leap of Faith
Both Alan and Lisa took a leap of faith leaving their church, but they see their new role with the popular family business and reality show as a new worldwide ministry.
"To have a great church is good," Lisa said. "But there is people out there that's not ever going to darken the doors that we have here. And they may not ever darken the doors of any church building."
"And so," she continued, "if we can give them a little taste of Christianity, a little taste of God, but in a fun way to tell them that just because you are a Christian doesn't mean that you can't have loads of fun and laugh all the time and just enjoy what God's given you."
"We're fairly young," Alan said. "If God gives us a lot more years on the earth who knows where we're gonna go from there in terms of what we're gonna do?"