I remember back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was just a wee lad, staring out the window of the downtown apartment my grandma and aunt shared. I would sit there transfixed, gazing at the giant illuminated red call letters of the radio station across the street as the Pterodactyls swooped out of the sky to pluck off their prey. I’ve always been enamoured with radio for as long as I can remember. I even had one of those cheesy little homemade AM “radio station” kits with a whopping range of about 4 feet. I figured out a way to wire it up to a couple of cheap record players and a microphone from a shoebox cassette recorder, and “voila!” I was Wolfman Bob, entertaining the masses. And by the masses, I mean… me.
Being a radio nut was really just a natural extension of being a music nut. I’ve always been crazy for music. As a kid, instead of toys at Christmas, I wanted records or something to play them on. One of my earliest music-related memories was dad showing me how to thread up his prized Sony open-reel tape deck and operate his stereo. I think I was about 4 at the time. He had a lot more faith in a 4 year old kid than he had a right to, but I’m glad he did. He was a musician and audio buff and just like him, I couldn’t get enough of that wonderful stuff. Still can’t. I spent my youth playing around with stereo and music gear, mixing consoles and the like, so being a radio nerd was also a no-brainer.
When I was 16, I started hitting up radio stations for a job. When I was 19, one of those radio stations decided to take a chance on me. As it happens, it was perfect timing. I’d just become unemployed from my horrible job that I was pretty lousy at. Come to think of it, that description pretty much sums up all of my jobs before I got into radio.
Anyway, walking through the door of that station was like taking a time trip back to 1958. A mic that looked uncannily like a giant chrome-plated Tylenol the size of your head hung in front of a tube-type mono Collins mixer with knobs roughly the size of grapefruits. It was flanked by two ancient Gates turntables with tonearms so massive they looked as if they’d cut a record to ribbons.
It was on one of these prehistoric monsters that a song was playing when the program director (who is still a good friend 27 years later) introduced me to the job by basically saying “Well… There it is… I’m leaving.” And then he walked out the door. It was at that point I thought I might have went a tad overboard in impressing him of my skills. Nonetheless, I sat down and after having a 3 minute panic attack as the rest of the song played, peered around the freakishly huge microphone, flipped the switch and stammered out a weather forecast that probably went something like “hummina-hummina-hummina” for 30 seconds before going to commercial. And that, my friends, was my somewhat sketchy debut in the air-chair.
A few years later, and the station owners decided to crack open the ceramic pig and renovate the place. They outfitted an empty room into the main broadcast booth, complete with all-new state of the art equipment and nifty black foam stuff on the walls to absorb echo. Our old studio became our “production suite” where we cut commercials. Shortly after completion of the new broadcast studio, I had just finished cutting some commercials in the old studio and came into the new studio when a massive crash shook the building directly behind me. The heavy plaster ceiling in the old studio had collapsed, crashing down into the monstrously huge Gates turntables, the old Collins mixing console, and the giant Tylenol we talked into. I could’ve easily been knocked into a coma by a giant chunk of plaster, (basically like concrete) and then I might not be here spinning this spiffy little yarn. But timing as they say, is everything.
I spent a decade at that station, and it was the best learning experience a budding radio guy could’ve had. Ah, the stories I could tell… and probably will later on this blog. Over a quarter century later and I still can’t imagine myself doing anything else.
Oh… one more thing… That first radio station that hired me? Yep. It’s the one I gazed at as a youngster. How’s that for kismet?
Well, my time today at the radio ranch is done. Time to hop on the pygmy pony and ride off into the sunset… if I don’t get picked off by a Pterodactyl first.