As early as 9 or 10 years old, I had developed a madness. I would hear these slick-voiced DJs on the local radio stations from Tacoma and Seattle. Great stations like KUBE, KPLZ, KHIT and my all-time favorite, KNBQ! These stations were the big Top-40 powerhouses of the day! It was the mid 80’s and big hits from Michael Jackson, Madonna and more were blazing through the airwaves. It was a huge time in radio history and as a youngster, I was mad about radio and I wanted to be a part of it.
I had some of my first on-air experience as a caller to a night time countdown show as a Guest DJ. I had my first experience at an actual radio studio at age 15, I think, when I took my Scout troop to the studios of local AM Country station KJUN. I had developed some rapport with some of the DJs there and they gave us all a tour. I was in love.
As soon as I could hold a job and drive a car, I was up there at the station almost every free moment! I was addicted. They even let me be on the air. I applied for and got my broadcasting license. The Program Director, Emilio Cinco, trained me how to use the big control board, the CD players and the cart machines to bring it all together. This was also the birth of my love of Country music. This was years before most stations converted to computer-based playback systems. Everything was manual. You had to be “on” constantly or things would crash and burn.
Those of you who know me know that my voice took quite a long time to change (in fact, it just recently finished!). But the folks at the station were very encouraging. The station was actually a network of 5 AM stations dotted up and down the main Interstate 5 corridor, from Everett up north, to Enumclaw in the south. The station was not making and real impact and was hardly found in the ratings books. The other DJs would do their shows and have their fans that would call in and participate, but mostly, it was pretty quiet. I was always proud to know that the phones would go nuts when I was on the air! Folks liked me and they called in to be a part of the show.
There were no live DJs on the air past midnight. They used an old reel-to-reel automation system that some ancient computer to run it. I had a job at the Skippers seafood restaurant down the street and would get off around 11. I would head to the station and hang out till after the night DJ left. I thought I would be helping the station by providing a live voice to their overnights. I would only stay for an hour and head home. This was ok for awhile. Soon there was a new Program Director who wasn’t a huge fan of some teenager hanging around. I was silly one time and invited a couple of my buddies to come up with me. I waited till around 2am to go in. I cracked the mic and within about 30 mins, one of the other DJs, who must’ve been listening, came storming in and shouting and cursing, kicked us out.
I spoke with the new Program Director, who essentially fired me. Although, at the time, I wasn’t really working there in any official capacity. He threatened me that I would never work in this business in this state again. He was very dramatic and probably on crack at the time (or all the time). I dismissed it all and that was really the last time I was in radio. That was in 1994.
Since then, I got a real career, I got married and radio always seemed an unrealistic and unreachable dream. I started running an internet radio station, but it’s not the same. I can see who, if anyone, is listening. In radio, it’s like being on a stage and not being able to see the audience, but you know they are there. I have been able to talk to DJs from time to time and get the quick tours. One guy, in Sacramento, even let me talk on the air to announce a contest! I have it recorded on a CD. Those times are always fun and re-kindle that spark that will never die in me.
Recently, I heard of a part time weekend position on the air at local Country powerhouse, K-Bull 93. This is the top-rated music station (not just Country) in Salt Lake! They are a high energy New Country station. I sent in some recordings of me DJing on my internet station. I talked to afternoon guy, Pat Garrett, who allowed me to come to the station and watch him work. I was flat amazed at the stuff he was doing. He did a whole call-in contest “Name That Tune”. He had 3 callers at the same time, recording the whole contest during a 3 minute song. He took the recording, edited it down. Had it ready to go by the end of that song. He played the recording, and during it he kept hitting buttons on the touchscreen monitor to play background music or sound effects, like the drum-roll or a ding-ding to signify a winner and crowd cheers. It was simply amazing! He looked over at me and said, you think you could do this? I said, yeah, just teach me the system.
We’ll see if anything comes of this. I will keep you posted. Who knows? Maybe a later post might include a link to listen to the station online and a time schedule when you might hear me on the radio! Radio is in my blood. I don’t know why. No one I know of related or otherwise is in the business. It was just a madness, that over time has been tempered by reality to a dream or wish. I hope that one day, something works out for me. Probably the funniest thing that I do is while in the car, on a road trip, I’ll put on the iPod and play DJ! It’s fun, but my wife thinks its silly. Cute, but silly. I was amazed when Rachel told me once that Wyatt was playing DJ in the van.