Being a radio disc jockey is without a doubt the most fun job I’ve ever had until now. It’s also been the least secure. If you don’t follow the approved playlists to the letter, if you say the wrong thing, if your ratings fall, if the station’s format suddenly changes, if you tick off advertisers … well, none of it leads to anything good.
But, wow, when you’re doing the job and you’re really “in a zone,” and it all flows so smoothly and naturally, and you get calls of praise from listeners — it’s one sweet gig.
Think of the old television comedy series “WKRP In Cincinnati.” It’s really not far off from that in real life.
I may have gotten into the radio business by playing country music and serving as the station’s sports director at the age of 18, but rock music was the place I really wanted to do some announcing. That was my dream, and I held onto it for years.
One day, after I’d finished my afternoon drive time shift and signed the AM country station off for the day, I got a call from the guy who was the FM rock announcer in the evenings. He was at home, too sick to come in, and he asked me to take his place.
My dream was about to come true. And I was nervous as all get-out. This was my best shot ever at rock-n-roll deejay glory. As it turned out, I was in “a zone.”
I started off with the ambitious opening to John Cougar’s “I Need A Lover (That Won’t Drive Me Crazy),” and I was off!
At some point, I got a request on the phone from a lovely sounding lady who asked for Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” and included some rather sexy imagery of what she’d like to do with a pina colada and a partner on a beach in that request. There are just some things in the radio business you never forget.
But the moment that really made me think I was “in a zone” and that it was all coming naturally to me came in the combination of two songs that I played back-to-back, Minnie Riperton’s “Loving You” with the lovely singing of birds and nature in the background as it ended, going right into the commotion and “tribal” drum beat that opened the Fleetwood Mac hit “Tusk.” And it was all with me being totally silent in between, letting the blending of the two songs together set an amazing contrast of moods all by themselves.
Man, you had to hear it to believe it!
The shift came to an end at 9 p.m., and it was time to hand it over to country music on the FM side. But I went out in a blaze of glory, with the supreme coolness that was Herb Alpert’s monster instrumental “Rise.”
It was a night to remember — for a lifetime! There are just some things in the radio business you never forget.
- My music playlist for today (January 19, 2011 edition) (viewfrommiddleclass.wordpress.com)
- WKRP in Cincinnati (greatamericanthings.net)