YOUR RADIO MEMORIES

by Dan O'Day on December 13, 2008

I’ve created this post for any Radio Programming Letter subscribers who would like to comment on the topics I address in the newest issue.

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Ray Gibson December 13, 2008 at 3:50 am

I remember waiting a month to get the O’liners prep sheet. localizing the bits and hiding it so the other guys wouldn’t know what my Secret Weapon was. I remember being a young PD at his first convention in Anaheim. I met Dan O’Day who promptly taught me how to find the best hospitality suites, navigate the cocktail parties and more than a thing or two about Radio.

Oh, and Records, Cart Machines, super long Q-tips, putting a slip of paper in an open reel to mark your spot. Promo records that were stereo on one side, mono on the other. Smoking in the studio, the smell of the generator shed, the first time I got a call on the hotline, teletype machines and putting a penny on the stylus shell. What do you got?

leckley December 13, 2008 at 7:24 am

Lee Eckley

I remember working at an A/C radio station north of Toronto. One of my shifts was Saturday Night, 6-mid. It was an Oldies show, but management provided me with only a small box of 45’s and wanted me to break after every record. After the first week, I knew it would be a challenge.

I went to my PD and told him a long shift and just a handful of the same records did not bode well for the long term viability of the show.
He said,”Don’t worry. Just play the music and have fun”! In other words, do what your told.

As the situation grew more untenable – two weeks – I started to make changes. I thought, I’d unilaterally expand the definition of Oldies. If it meant rock and roll from 58-68, then I’d bring record’s from home and mix up singles with album tracks.

As the weeks went on, the show started to morph. Oldies from 6-9. A one hour “Beatles Binge” from 9-10 and from 10-midnight, when management was in bed, I went free form – anything goes!

It got to the point that Saturday night was the highlight of my week. Even funnier was my PD and GM never had a clue!

It all came to an abrupt end when they decided to simply drop Oldies from the sked and run the normal weekday clocks.

Self indulgent? Sure. Do it all over again? You bet!

The Mighty Favog December 13, 2008 at 10:45 am

My memory would be really long. What I will say here is this: Thanks, Gary King, wherever you are.

Dan O’Day December 13, 2008 at 10:57 am

@ RAY: 2009 will mark 20 years since you first subscribed to O’LINERS. You also came to one of my very early seminars – a one-day event in Baton Rouge.

Great call on the “one side mono, other side stereo”; completely forgot about that. Although I do remember when stereo LPs cost $1 more than their mono counterparts.

Dan O’Day December 13, 2008 at 11:02 am

@ LEE: Major Radio Life Lesson there. I’ve long told jocks who are working an overnight or weekend evening shift, “Why not take chances and try new stuff — if you think it will be good for your audience? The PD won’t be listening anyway.”

Side note to PDs: Naturally, I never would encourage a jock to break format. The paragraph above does not represent my true feelings. I don’t even know how it got there.

Rick Demarest December 13, 2008 at 11:31 am

I worked for a PD at WOKO in Albany, New York in 1969 who posted a sign in the studio:

“If you have nothing to say, don’t say nothing”. (sic)

In the meantime, I try to live by the words of the German satirist Kurt Goetz:

“Never miss an opportunity to keep your mouth shut”.

Bill Harman December 13, 2008 at 11:58 am

I remember my first job where I drove 50 miles south of where I lived to work from 6am to 6pm each Sunday for $2.50 an hour. The first 6 hours I played rock and tha last 6 hours I was the board-op for live religious programming. Those buying the time gave me their money and brought me food and all I could think was that this was pretty damn cool! Now after a million years, everytime I talk to my Dad, he still will ask me when I’m going to get a real job. Might be a tad too late!

Sandy December 13, 2008 at 1:02 pm

THE F-BOMB PLAYS IN PEORIA?

The F-bomb I dropped in 1950 A sudden ending to what I thought was going to be a short-lived career

I was only on staff for a short time at radio station WEEK, in Peoria, Illinois. Every day at 1:30PM, I had read this same commercial for 4 months:
No washday muss, fuss or work, with the ABC-Omatic washer and dryer from the Central Illinois Light and Power Company.

Well, one day I read it thusly: No washday muss, f**k or work with the… It was afternoon, and god only knows how many people heard it, but, I looked up at the engineer on duty–nothing, no call from the engineer at the transmitter, I got up to go to the receptionist area, expecting to find the switchboard lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree–nothing. Walked across the hall to the executive offices–nothing. It wasn’t until 5:00PM, when my relief announcer came on duty that he asked me, “Did I hear you say” — I interrupted him and said, “Yes, George, and you’re the first person to call it to my attention.

Steve Willoughby December 13, 2008 at 2:17 pm

I remember Bob Lake who ran the college radio station at a small college in Southwest Missouri – The School of The Ozarks. He had worked in radio for years and he gave me my first shot in the industry. Then he told me that I had “mush mouth” and I needed to work on it.

Based on his recommendation I went to Wal-Mart and bought rubber balls – washed them — then put them in mouth and read copy. There were times that I did that for hours in the old production room. His theory if you can communicate with your mouth full of stuff — you can communicate even better when your mouth is empty.

Thanks for your service Dan — I love learning about our industry.

Dan O’Day December 13, 2008 at 2:23 pm

@SANDY: That seems to be dual-edged ritual most of us go through: Very early in our careers we accidentally swear on-air…and we die inside. Then when later we learn no one even heard our disastrous error, we die again.

Dan O’Day December 13, 2008 at 2:25 pm

@STEVE: Did Bob’s air name happen to be “Demosthenes”?

Steve Willoughby December 13, 2008 at 5:05 pm

No sir…I think it was Lake. He did TV and Radio and was on the air in the big earth quake in Alaska.

Dan — one more quick memory. It happend Tuesday. Our Christmas promotion is simple and (The big boys won’t be impressed) We are giving away $12,000 dollars of Gas, Groceries, and gifts. People go to our web site get registered, we call the name — they have 10 minutes and six seconds to call and claim their $250 prize. It is progressive — a lady won $500 dollars this week and picks up her prize. She lost her job a month ago had no idea how she was going to have Christmas and by the time she had told the story — she was crying, the receptionist and office manager were crying our on-air person who posed for the pic was crying.

Radio has a huge impact on people — we sometimes forget that.

Dan O’Day December 13, 2008 at 5:13 pm

No, see, Demosthenes was…Uh, never mind.

Steve Willoughby December 13, 2008 at 9:13 pm

I know…my reply was a joke, but if you have to explain…

Chris December 14, 2008 at 6:26 am

I remember staying up late at night, listening to CHEZ 106 from Ottawa. Brian Murphy would be on talking in that low, deep, warm voice describing the music in such vivid terms that made me think he was magic, and that the songs were, as he was, larger than life.

Some nearly 15 years later, I had the chance to meet Brian (tucked away in a corner office of the same station), and he was the most gracious and nice person I had ever idolized and then met. He was just as real and as true as he was 15 years earlier when he worked his magic and made me want to be a DJ.

Today, I try my best to be that magical. I probably fail more than I succeed, but even now – more than 30 years later: Thank you, Brian Murphy!

Rock on, wherever you are!

James Dann December 14, 2008 at 9:54 am

I remember an assistant news director at an AM/FM (A/C daytimer/AOR FM) showing up “feeling no pain” after the company picnic and “doing a favor” for the weekend overnight host while that host did production during the “Saturday Night 6 Pack” (that lazy programming staple of its day: track 6 albums in their entirety). He had stumbled into the studio between tracks, assumed he was hearing dead air that the jock didn’t know about, and potted up a couple of PSA’s until the jock got back!

And I remember the ON button of the ancient Gates turntables we used on the AM side for countdown and specialty shows just popping out during our A/C countdown show, bringing Rita Coolidge’s “All Time High” to an all-time grinding dead stop. I slammed the carted “current” of it into the cart deck, played the host’s dry voice bumper over the intro, then had to slip cue back into the countdown program on the song’s last notes. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked!

Jim Walsh December 14, 2008 at 4:35 pm

I’m sitting here in Bismarck, North Dakota watching the blizzard and remembering how I used to looooove this kind of weather when I was a morning music jock: ya just knew the whole town was listening!

Jim Walsh December 14, 2008 at 4:47 pm

When I was starting out in the biz, I used the Demosthenes method to correct some speech problems. In my case it was marbles; every day I would rehearse and then take out one more marble as I honed my style. Then, when I finally lost all my marbles, I was ready for radio…

OK, too obvious?

Dan O’Day December 14, 2008 at 5:06 pm

@ JIM: I always loved driving to the station while the city still was dark, knowing everyone else was asleep and they’d be waking up to whatever surprises I’d planned for that morning.

Dan O’Day December 14, 2008 at 5:08 pm

@ JIM, 2: Well, it’s possible some of us saw that punchline coming. It’s actually an update of the first Smothers Brothers’ topical joke on their TV show (but with the political flavor removed).

daddyb December 15, 2008 at 4:25 am

oh yeah,
i remember chasing my first radio gig for well over a year. my first pd was george brun who asked me for a demo. after doing one and sending it to him he told me if the voice on the tape was mine, then i have a job…. the rest is history.
i also remember the first time i presented a news bulletin, it was so scary…..with the mike more intimidating than friendly….that was over eleven years ago, hahahha

dunker December 15, 2008 at 7:00 am

First airshift, playing a commercial in cue, unaware it didn’t go out over the air, and having my friends ask me about the “60 seconds of thundering silence”

Flipping the switches on the ebs machine and doing a tornado warning for the first time

Winding carts
Redubbing commercials because someone recorded over the flipping splice on the cart

Doing production without multi-tracking–two turntables, a second reel machine and multiple sound effects cued up on one cart machine, making a mistake and having to re-cue everything

Waiting by the mailbox for my copy of “personality radio” to arrive

Every year, going to three Christmas parades in two states, all
in one day

being able to tell what time it was, just by what type of song was playing—current, recurrent, oldie, etc.

As a boy, listening to “Inner Sanctum” and being scared outta my mind–waiting, waiting, waiting for the guy on the radio to tell me if my school was closed today–believing it really happened when our local DJ would destroy “Run Joey Run” on the air everytime he was “forced” to play it

Realizing that now, I was the guy responsible for making the magic that came pouring out of the box.

R. E. "Buzz" Brindle December 15, 2008 at 10:45 am

I remember:

*Being told by the salesman from Career Academy that I didn’t make the cut for the school because I
didn’t have a voice for radio.

*Receiving a rejection letter from a renowned Canadian program director who told me to get out of the radio business because I didn’t have any talent.

*Being encouraged by Paul Drew’s rejection letter from CKLW saying that he had been “impressed” with my demo tape. Of course, he didn’t indicate whether his impression had been favorable or unfavorable.

*Lying in bed on a cold, starlit winter’s night and feeling the excitement and wonder of listening to WMCA’s Murray The K all the way from New York City on my Philco transistor radio.

R.E. “Buzz” Brindle

Ron Stevens December 15, 2008 at 11:43 am

(By the way, WHEW mailed their prizes.)

Now THAT’S a “good ol’ days” memory – when radio stations used to mail their prizes to winners. I have a similar memory, winning prizes on KXOK in St. Louis and waiting eagerly for them to arrive in the mail. I can’t imagine how many prizes I would have passed on if I had to ask my parents to drive me to the station to them pick up.

Pete Ferrand December 16, 2008 at 3:34 am

Was going to post one or two then they kept on coming:

Coming in with tangled wire machine ribbons and paper taking up most of my prep time.  

Sports running long or transmitter failures and having to rewrite pages of commercials in the log whilst making good on them on the air, and the resulting enormous strings of spots.

Burned out lamps in cart machines and other gear. 

Twisted tapes with muddy audio and tapes reversed entirely.

Canned programming that runs long or short unpredictably. 

Automation systems that fail as you’re driving away from the station.  

Spending a half hour pulling/replacing/playing Towers of Hanoi with stacks of carts before/after/during morning shifts. 

Erasing enormous piles of carts  and showing new hires how to do it slowly but they never do it slowly enough to remove the thump.

Out of date spots the day or week after Christmas.  

Calling the boss at all hours because the spots called for aren’t anywhere and then having to rifle thru salespeople’s desks.  

Air conditioners that never cool enough.

Listeners asking when is high tide/low tide.  

Listeners asking about programming and channel assignments for other unrelated radio, television and cable stations. 

Transmitter remote controls that require hitting the buttons over and over before getting a plausible reading.  

Part timers who don’t show up. Full timers who always show up late. Guys on previous shifts who leave a giant mess and it’s either clean up their mess or get blamed for it.  

Confusing delay systems (before the single boxes were available) that were next to impossible to recover from.
 
Wobbly tones from EBS tests on a tape cartridge.  

Running downstairs to move the car during the 8 am news since you can’t park it on the street or the off street lot in winter any earlier. Northern climes only of course.  

Dropping a stack of carts. Onto the on-air turntable.  

Mark Vanness December 16, 2008 at 5:06 pm

I remember my first GM straight faced tell me that I wouldn’t amount to anything in this business because “I just didn’t have…it”. That was in 1987. I remember the numerous dead air dreams I’ve had over the years. I remember how to slip Q and having to stack carts at the top of the hour. I remember all the great people I’ve had the pleasure of working with and for over the years and I un fortunately remember all the ones now on my naughty list. I remember when the FM102 Morning Zoo pulled an April Fools day prank on me and recorded over a song (on cart)a tom foolery rant that still cracks me up 20 plus years later! I remember why I’m in this business, on a daily basis, It’s what drives me! I can think of a ton more but I don’t want to be greedy! Let’s share some egg nog and more memories some time…

Owen December 17, 2008 at 1:43 am

I remember sitting in front of my radio set( a gift from my mom) and talking to the voice inside the box. I remember going to bed with the radio on right through the night, every night(still a habit)

I remember writing my first and only “application” letter to the only commercial broadcaster in the country at the time..
It went along the lines of, Look, chaps, im the hottest thing waiting to happen on the radio, take me now or regret in in a year’s time when the new brodacasr licences come out and you hear me murdering you on the competition…

I remember being hired, with zero radio experience to a daily primetime show in the pm..I remember discovering Dan o Day, Shane Huntley and Dumi Lopang, men who have helped shape and guide my broadcast career over the years.

Airchecks on vhs tape( try finding the talk break on that)using a 3rd hand 14 year old board with at least 32 channels and being really impressed at the sheer size of it.being woken up by the newsreader during the morning show after a heavy thursday night at the club..I remember all the cool kids i went to highshool with who barely noticed me then, suddenly claiming a rich history of friendship filled with shool yard anecdotes( go figure)

Radio is my life, i thank god for affording me the opportunity to live my dream.

Owen Rampha
Programmes Manager
Yarona Fm
Gborone, Botswana

GILD December 17, 2008 at 1:55 am

I remember a Station Manager (fairly new to radio) seeing the red light above the production studio door.
Knowing she wasn’t supposed to enter the studio under a red light, she politely knocked on the door to ask if she could come in.

Dave

Barry Michaels December 19, 2008 at 2:24 pm

My first radio job. I was on top of the world. A buck seventy-five an hour. An AM’er, 1000 watts, very rural community, in which I spoke mostly to cows. My big prize package was a six pack of ‘Double Cola’, the first 16 ounce soda I was aware of. The station itself was in the middle of a field, in a ranch style home. The studio was in what would be the bedroom, the red and white tower out back. The tower light was always on. I know. I checked every thirty minutes. Oh yeah! The call letters? WYTI Radio. The slogan..here it comes..are you ready? ‘The Mighty Whitey’. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

Anonymous December 22, 2008 at 12:29 pm

I remember:

*Telling my mom that when I worked in radio I would play everyone’s requests.
*Sales people sneaking production into my prod basket after I was on the air.
*Working overnights; the freshly showered smell of the morning show, especially the news woman.
*The prize envelope my PD taped on the studio window that you got to have if he called you after a good break. Sometimes free CDs, sometimes restaurant certificates but always a great motivator.
*Instead of fixing the station van, the GM wanted to buy logoed magnetic signs and have jocks drive their vehicles to remotes.
*Making friends with the engineer to get spicing tabs.
*Breaks that never sounded as good on-air like they did in my head.
*Driving around with the night jock listening to air-checks of the B96 – Z95 Chicago battle.
*Watching my PD sign a sales guy’s name to the bill at lunch – weekly.
*Digging though the competition’s dumpster for my PD.
*Forgetting to reduce the AM’s power on time at the start of a new month.
*Monitoring my first AM station in PGM because the transmitter power was so low at night I couldn’t get the air signal in the studio.
*Weekend shifts: Sat 6p-Mid, Sun 6a-noon and Sun night 6p-Midnight.
*Eight minute naps on the couch in the lobby on Sunday morning while I ran Kasey’s Top 40.
*Getting my fist job at the AM station I grew up listening to and finding out I would not be working with Bill Robinson and Lee Shannon because they were automated.
*The automation system ran by a Radio Shack computer with a cassette tape drive.

Dennis Switzer December 29, 2008 at 12:49 pm

Summer of '72, mom & I went to an auction… I bought a big box of 78's & she said we didn't have a record player that would play them… so we paid five bucks for a 40's vintage Montgomery Wards Airline console – AM/FM, with a 78 rpm turntable underneath.

Turns out the turntable didn't work, but the radio was incredible. Long nights in the basement doing homework and building model cars, listening to KOMA, which always came in clear in northern Wyoming, WLS (John Records Landecker & Boogie Check), KSTP, X-Rock out of Juarez.

1st radio job, the summer I was 17, signoff shift at the local daytimer.

I own my own stations now, do my own morning shift, sell & do play-by-play. The radio got re-capped by a friend last year, and it sits in a place of honor in the station lobby. And it still sounds great late at night…

Dennis Switzer
KKTY AM/FM
Douglas, WY

GILD December 29, 2008 at 11:32 pm

Did you ever get the turn-table to work?

Alicia Griggs December 31, 2008 at 7:26 pm

I remember getting goose bumps seeing my first radio tower! Being scared to death the first time I turned the mic on and the rush I felt when I was done with my first break!

I remember Mike Thomas coming in the studio at 2:30 AM in Greenwood MS. Telling me that was the sound he was looking for and he was so proud of me! Thank you Mike!

I remember Kris Van Dyke telling me I would never make it in radio to hang up my head phones and him being fired 2 days later! Thank you Kris, you made me want to do 100 times better and I did!

I remember a nasty divorce and wanting to go some where diffrent and start again and not sure if I had what it took to do it and writing to Dan O’Day and him helping me! I landed a morning show gig from that! And I never said Thank you DAN! That was 10 years ago!

Things have changed so much in radio, but I have enjoyed the ride and I’m far from done! Heres to more to come Guys and Gals!

Alicia Griggs

Matt January 6, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Memories of radio past…

- Splicing blocks, grease pencils & razor blades
- Cue burn and pennies on tonearms
- A patch bay 5 rows deep
- Cart carousels
- "Tails Out"
- Reel-to-reels that accidentally flew off their automation systems and spun wildly all over the studio
- Color-coded music wheels and card catalogs
- Dubbing the same :60 spot 10 times onto one cart because it was a 10-1/2 minute cart
- Cussing out another jock because he only dubbed his :60 spot once onto a 10-1/2 minute cart – and it didn't recue in time!
- A church-bell control board that had been re-wired as our production board
- Being the afternoon jock, production director, music director, and traffic director at a small AM/FM combo in VT – simulatenously!
- Accidentally picking up the needle off the record that was on the air, immediately realizing what I had done, and dropping the needle back on the record in the EXACT location I had taken it off!
-Playing "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" and Bruce Willis' "Return of Bruno" on the same station
- Creating 'echo' by placing the copy at the bottom of a metal trash can, sticking the mic forward into the can, then reading the copy (the spot came out great)
- The first show prep I ever used: "O'Liners" and Stevens & Grdnic – and I'm not making that up! (btw, an aside to Ron Stevens: this past August, I married my very own "Nurse Jennifer"!)
- The listener who called us in the middle of a thunderstorm after we had lost power and – in all seriousness – told us we should make an annoucement that we're off the air
- Cold pizza in the morning, left over from the nighttime jock
-Cigarette stains on the floor and beer stains on the ceiling (never did learn how that happened)
-Coming to the harsh realization that the hotter a female listener sounds on the phone, the uglier she probably is

As I write this, I realize more images continue to come to mind, so I'll cut it off there. I have a feeling that many of these are shared by a great number of us!

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