I posted this on my Facebook page earlier, but wanted to be sure it made the blog.
I took Ella and Andrew out for a walk this morning. We walked a different way than we normally do and I took a small detour. There is a church at the end of our street that has some baseball diamonds and a park. The weather was perfect, so I decided to check out the park.
When we first got there, the kids ran on the wood chips and played on a few of the playground items. Surprisingly, neither one wanted to swing on the swings (which is their “go to” park thing). They were more interested in the wood chips and other things.
On the other side of the fence, there was an oak tree. Ella was looking at the ground and picked up something and said, “Daddy, what is this?!”
I looked on the ground to see a wee bit of green among the brown and tan wood chips.
I told her that she had found an acorn. This led to a search for more of them. She found fresh ones, like the green one above, and a few that had been on the ground for a while. We also found some that the squirrels had enjoyed for lunch or dinner. The more she found, the more she handed me. “I wanna show mommy my acorns!” So, we began throwing acorns of all kinds into the stroller.
There were plenty of acorn “tops” (or “hats” as one of my Facebook friends called them) on the ground.
I remembered a friend showing me that you could use them to whistle. You basically take your two thumbs and place the first knuckles together to form a “V” and blow into it. Ta da! A whistle! Ella was pretty amazed by that and kept asking me to do it. It was such a silly little thing, but I loved every second of it.
Before leaving the park, I took one more picture – because it was the one thing that really stood out …
With a playground behind them, my two kids decided to embrace nature instead of playing on it. We found leaves, acorns, watched squirrels, picked up sticks and more! What a tremendous bonding time for us. As we walked back home, I couldn’t help but notice how much shade was under the trees. I told them that we needed to come back and have a picnic on the grass in the shade before summer was over.
When I was 11 years old, my grandpa died. I knew him as a grandson would – a fun loving family member. This was the extent of how I knew him. I knew him in family situations. He loved to golf, went to church, laughed a lot, and snored when he napped. It wasn’t until he passed away that I learned more about him.
At the funeral home, I was introduced to SO many people. “You’re grandpa was one of a kind!” “I loved your grandpa!” “He was a good man.” “You’re grandpa loved you!” “I’m going to miss your grandpa very much.” People shared stories with me, told me of how important he was to them, and showed me a side of him I had no idea existed!
A recent blog I wrote about my Godmother spoke of “waiting in the line.” You can read it here:
I wrote that before I went to the funeral home to pay my respects. Little did I know that it was foreshadowing what would happen when I got there.
The doors opened at 3pm for the viewing. I dropped the kids off at Nana’s house so I could drive down. I arrived around 3:25pm. The parking lot was full. I didn’t find this odd, as it was a big funeral home and I figured that there were other families visiting someone who had passed away.
When I walked up to the doors, I opened them and was immediately met with a group of 10 people standing in a lobby-like area between two sets of doors. The creepy funeral home person greeted me and asked who I was there to see. When I told him, he explained that I was at the end of the line to get into the room where the viewing was taking place.
Slowly, the line crept forward as more and more people joined the back of the line. The line was now out the door and down the sidewalk leading to the funeral home. It was no doubt almost to the parking lot. When I finally entered the room where my Godmother was laid out, I could see that there were already many people who had been through the line and either sitting down or looking at the various picture boards.
As I waited my turn, I watched the video that was playing on the TV in the corner. There were so many pictures I had never seen before. Pictures of her graduation, her wedding, her grandchildren, family vacations, and someone had even put the picture I posted of her and I in the video montage. I was touched by that.
At the front of the line, I hugged and spoke with her two sons and her husband. Then I paused at the casket and silently prayed. As the line continued, I spoke with her sisters (my cousins) and had reached the end of the line. I looked around the room and it was pretty much standing room only and the line was still out the door. I walked out of the room and observed that the line was indeed almost 4 times as long as it was when I first arrived.
I smiled. Just like with my grandpa, I was witnessing a facet of my Godmother’s life that I was unaware of. As special as my Godmother was to me, I thought about all of these people that were there for her. I’m sure they all had their own special memories of her to share. I thought of how many people were walking up to her grandchildren and telling them, “Your grandma loved you very much!” She touched many lives and brought happiness to a lot of people.
In a previous blog, I wrote: I understand that death is a part of life. I am reminded of a quote from my psychology class that said, “The hardest part of losing someone isn’t having to say goodbye, but rather learning to live without them – always having to fill the void, the emptiness that’s left inside your heart when they go.” This is so true. Leo Buscaglia said, “Death is a challenge. It tells us not to waste time.” Also true. Bruce Lee, who died at the young age of 32, said, “If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.”
In yet another previous blog I wrote: the late author Terry Pratchett says this: “No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.” This ties in with the “ripple effect” mentioned in the above picture. Life will go one long after we are gone, but as long as our stories are shared, or a memory is relived, or our name comes up – there are ripples. Based on the amount of people I saw this weekend, my Godmother will be leaving ripples for a long time.
In the meantime, we “adjust” to life without her …
I was up early enough to go for a walk with the family today. I grabbed a pair of shorts that I have been wearing, which I knew were getting too big, and couldn’t find my belt. I asked Sam if she had seen it and she told me no. Then she said, “Don’t you have a box of ‘snug shorts’ that didn’t quite fit anymore?” I told her I did, but didn’t think that I would fit into any of them yet.
I have been holding onto some clothes that used to fit for awhile. I keep telling myself that “when I lose weight” I can wear them. I just have never been to the point where that has happened … until today!
I pulled out the next size down and slipped them on. I grabbed the end with the button in one hand and the end with the button hole in the other and pulled them together. Up until today, those two ends have not met. I was excited that I was able to not only bring the two ends together, but I was actually able to button them!
I cannot even begin to express the feeling of being able to put those on! There is an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment and at the same time a feeling of satisfaction. I have been working hard to lose this extra weight. I have about 70 or 80 pounds more that I would like to lose, and seeing the progress today reassured me that I CAN do this.
I was about to take a diaper box out to the trash tonight and stopped. This will be the box that I put all the “too big” clothes in. Once it is filled, I will take it up to the Goodwill. There will be no need to store those, because I resolve to never allow myself to get as big as I was ever again.
I have come to really enjoy this little feature. It began as a simple writing prompt that suggested going through some old photos and picking one that brought make a lot of memories or feelings. It has been fun to go back through some of the old photos from our family albums.
Today, we have a look back at “toddler” Keith …
If I had to date this picture, I’d say it is 1971 or 1972. I have to be 1 or 2 in it.
I have no idea if this is Christmas or my birthday, but I would guess Christmas. I don’t really remember much about this piano, except for these few pictures. Did it come home with us or did it stay at my grandparents? I just don’t know.
The first thing that jumps out at me in this picture is the VERY wide collar on the vest I am wearing. At least I think that is a vest. It certainly looks as though there is a long sleeve shirt under it, but it very well could be that the sleeves are attached to it.
This is one of my favorite pictures of me as a kid. As I look at it, I am still amazed at just how much hair I had as a kid! It’s a wonder that I ever grew into those big ears, too! The caterpillar eyebrows have been a thing with me since I was little, obviously.
The other thing that stands out is the smiles on the faces of (from left to right) my grandma, my grandpa, and my mom. I am sure that I am probably not playing Beethoven, or even Chopsticks for that matter! I am probably just pounding out some nonsensical and nonmusical noise, but here they are looking at me and smiling!
It looks like my grandma is holding the piano bench I should be sitting on, but as a toddler, I probably wouldn’t have sat there for long. It was probably easier for me to just stand and bang on the keys. Her beehive hairdo is not quite a beehive in this photo and the lenses of her glasses are much smaller than I was used to seeing as she got older.
My grandpa is holding something that I can’t quite make out. It almost looks like a cigar, but as far as I know, he never smoked them. Of course, it would be an ashtray he is holding. That wouldn’t be a stretch. In the picture, you can really see how crooked his nose was. You can see how it is bent to the right. (He broke it when it was hit by a crank that you used to start cars with.)
My mom’s hair looks more “beehive-ish” than my grandma’s. I love that smile on her face. I saw that smile many times in my life when she was beaming with pride over something I did. While a little blurry, I think it is safe to say that she is wearing some horn-rimmed glasses in the picture. My brother and I always made fun of her when we found pictures of her in those glasses. Glasses or not, she still looks beautiful in this picture.
That lamp in the background was one that grandma had for YEARS! I think she even brought it to her condo after grandpa passed away. The shade had hung upon the lamp for years and collected a deep yellow cigarette stain from the smoke exposure. On the table is a picture of me as a baby in yellow PJs. I’d have to find the original, but I think I am holding a baseball in it.
On the wall above my mother are two pieces of art that I do not recall at all. I always remember there being a big picture on that wall. I can’t even tell what those things are? The middle one looks like it’s a fox or something. This is where I wish I could enhance it more.
I remembered another picture taken that same day. I found it and here it is.
This piano may or many not have had a big impact on me as far as my love for music. I did take some lessons on the Hammond Organ when I was maybe 6 or 7 years old, but I really never learned how to play piano. For whatever it is worth, in the above picture, I seem to be faking it pretty good. I actually look like I know what I am doing!
According to Google, the average person will spend 6 months of their lives waiting in line. If you factor in waiting at traffic lights and being in a queue online or on the phone, that jumps to 5 years!
I have seen the above picture more than once before. It has always struck a chord with me. Today, I was moved to share it:
Waiting in “the line”
Every minute someone leaves this world behind.
We are all in “the line” without knowing it.
We never know how many people are before us.
We can not move to the back of the line.
We can not step out of the line.
We can not avoid the line.
So while we wait in line –
Make moments count.
Make the time.
Make your gifts known.
Make a nobody feel like a somebody.
Make your voice heard.
Make the small things big.
Make someone smile.
Make the change.
Make sure to tell your people they are loved.
Make sure to have no regrets.
Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior.
Make sure you are ready.
“Live every day as if it were your last. Some day, you’ll be right.”
That quote has stuck with me for over 30 years and it hits hard. “Tomorrow is promised to no one” they say and this is also a powerful truth. In the last few weeks, a radio friend (who was younger than me) passed suddenly due to something wrong with his heart. Then I received a message that another radio co worker (a mere 8 years older than me) died suddenly of a brain aneurism.
This afternoon, my godmother, who recently had a hemorrhagic stroke, was at the front of “the line.” As a result of the complications from the stroke, she passed away this afternoon. Her life cut short way too soon. She was one of the sweetest people I know and I wish I had more time with her. I’m going to miss her terribly.
Rest in heaven, Karen. I will always love you. Thank you for playing such a special role in my life.
The lesson of this blog? Remember: You never know your place in “the line.” Live your life with that knowledge.
“(3) Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. (4) As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. (5) Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them”
My quiver has been blessed four times! I am certainly a lucky man to have been chosen by God to be a father to my children. Each of them, different in their own special way, fill my heart and soul.
My first born. He’s the one who made me “dad” for the first time. He is probably the most like me. He has a love for old music, old movies, and loves information on older celebrities. He is loud and boisterous at times, but is also a gentle soul who loves to help people. His random acts of kindness make me so proud of him. He’s a hard worker who loves to have fun and loves to be surrounded by friends. In a sense, he is my “Mini-Me.” He is currently studying hard with college and continues to thrive!
My second born. He is also a bit like me, but in another way. Now a high schooler, I see him mimicking many of my study “habits,” which is probably not good. I was the same way – waiting till the last minute to do homework or projects, forgetting to do things I need to and only doing the things that I WANTED to do, and never really studying like I should. I try to use those things as “teaching opportunities” with him. He is, however, a typical teenager right now. He is learning how to golf, so I cannot wait to go play a round (and rounds) with him. He has a bright future and in the years ahead, I know he will do great things!
Not unless there is a miracle
After some tests, I was asked if I was done having children. At the time, I was. The doctor said this was good, because based on the test results, I only had about a 4% chance of ever having more children.
After my divorce, and after I remarried, my wife and I discussed children. She is younger than me and wanted children. Knowing what I knew, it would take a miracle to have more. We discussed adoption at one point and even looked into other methods of getting pregnant. Then the miracle came ….
I will never forget the day Sam told me that we were having a baby. I will never forget they day we found out that our miracle was going to be a girl! I will never forget the day that she was born. For some reason, God decided that I would once again be a daddy and he sent me this beautiful little girl. What a joy it was to relive the first tooth, the first steps, the first words, and all the things that come with having a baby. She is so smart!! She excels at so many things! She her laughter is music to my ears. When she breaks out in song, I could listen all day. I love our moments playing Little People, reading books, and watching Bluey together. She is my sweet princess and I look forward to those special daddy/daughter moments.
Another miracle! Ella was about a year old when we found out that Sam was once again expecting. It was truly a huge surprise to both of us! He is the opposite of Ella in so many ways. We never had to baby proof anything with her, but he is always into something. He is WAY ahead of where he should be. He was walking early and no doubt will be talking early. He is doing all he can to keep up with his sister. He is one of the happiest babies. There is something about his smile that just makes everything better. His laughter is just as musical as Ella’s. His first year is flying by and I look forward to teaching him to throw a baseball and those great father/son things.
My dear children –
Thank you for each being so special to me. I am so honored to be your father. I love you with every ounce of my being. I hope that I will live up to the responsibility that God has given me to teach you, to raise you, and to prepare you for life. In the time ahead, I will be happy to listen to you, to help you, or to give advice. I promise to be here for you till the end of my days.
It’s been a crazy past few days. On Friday, we took Andrew to the ENT to discuss the results of his sleep study. He has severe sleep apnea. Usually, this means that the tonsils or the adenoids need to come out to open up the airway. The doc took a look at his and said his tonsils were not too big and he didn’t think his adenoids were a problem either. So he did a scope in the office to look further.
The scope showed that he has laryngomalacia. This is something we are seeing more and more of in the sleep lab. Basically, there is extra tissue in the larynx.
This explains why his sleep is so crappy!! When he falls asleep, that floppy tissue blocks the airway.
So it looks like he will have some surgery to correct this in the near future. It will also mean 24-48 hours in the hospital. This will not be fun at all, as he loves to be on the go. I’m sure sitting in a room all day is not going to be pleasant at all! We are waiting on the hospital to call and schedule the surgery.
My Godmother/cousin recently had a stroke. She is currently in hospice. I was able to see her over the weekend to say goodbye. It is never an easy thing to do. There were many people in the room, so I kept it pretty simple.
I’m not sure if it is just in Italian families or what, but at some point there was a stretch of years where certain members of the family didn’t speak to each other. I have no idea what it was about but I am sure that it was just stupid. Life is too short to lose that much time. This hits home a lot with my Godmother.
For years, I didn’t see her because of an argument that I wasn’t even a part of! Shortly after my grandmother passed away, my dad began to reach out to cousins that we hadn’t talk to. Thankfully, the peace was restored and I was reunited with my cousins.
I remember seeing her for the first time in forever and just hugging on her! I was so happy to see her. We spent a long time catching up. So many years lost to ridiculousness. So many things we both missed out on.
I am kicking myself because a week before, I was thinking about her and meant to call her and catch up. I never did. I regret that. I am grateful to have had a moment with her this weekend to tell her how much I love her.
I’m not trying to make excuses, but I am an emotional eater. When I get stressed or worry – I snack. I made a lot of mistakes on my diet this week. I found myself grabbing goldfish crackers and “estimating” how many I had. We hadn’t gone grocery shopping, so almost all of the veggies were gone, so I snacked on crackers and stuff I shouldn’t have. I was completely ready to see a gain on the scale, but actually lost a pound this week. This brings my 10 week total weight loss to 30 pounds.
The heat and rain didn’t help much. It was hard to get my daily walks in last week.
30 pounds is progress and I am back on track. Sunday and Monday we got to go out and walk the neighborhood! Ella is making it a bit more difficult as she wants to walk instead of being in the stroller/wagon. He being out, does make it easy to get pictures, but she walks a LOT slower than I am used to.
He puppy friend, Louie, was so excited to see her the other day he “ran” to the fence to say hello!
I went to the store on Sunday and bought some new sand for Ella’s sandbox. We moved it to another part of the yard because where we had it, the sun beat down on it. We moved it to a shadier spot and both kids are playing in it. Andrew really doesn’t understand that the sand is not for eating … one would think that after the third time putting it in your mouth, you’d stop, right?!
The sandbox is just another example of how my kids will grow up to be best buddies. I love to watch them play together. I hope it stays warm for a while longer. I’m not sure just how they are going to handle being cooped up in the house all day in the winter.
The range of emotions experienced this weekend was overwhelming. I’m hoping that things slow down and return to normal – whatever normal is!
One of the things I have loved about blogging is “meeting” other bloggers who share the same interests as me. One of those bloggers is Dave whose blog is called “A Sound Day.” If that sounds familiar, it is because he is the host of the “Turntable Talk” blogs that I have participated in for a few months now. You can read his blog here: https://soundday.wordpress.com/
Dave is aware of my former occupation as a radio personality and reached out to ask if I wouldn’t mind answering some questions that his readers might find interesting. I was happy to answer his questions. What follows are my answers to his questions and first appeared on his blog site:
Dave’s questions are in bold and my answers follow:
Today, a bit of a special feature here at A Sound Day. Regular readers will by now recognize the name “Nostalgic Italian” from his interesting guest columns in our “A Turntable Talk” feature. Well, the Nostalgic Italian is Keith Allen, who might be a familiar name if you happen to have lived in Michigan in the past few decades…or have driven through it with the car radio on, as Keith was a popular figure in radio for some time there. Today we have an interview with him giving his thoughts on the world of radio, then and now. We thank him for taking the time to share his thoughts.
Can you give us a bit of an overview of how you came to work in radio, and what your career consisted of?
To answer the first part of the question, I will “cheat” a bit and elaborate a little on the interview I did with Max from the PowerPop Blog. He asked me why I wanted to be a Radio DJ. The answer sort of works as an answer to your question: During my senior year of high school, I worked part time at a local boat marina in the Parts Department. In the fall and winter, once the boats were winterized, business was slow. So I would sit in there with the radio on and do inventory for 8 hours a day until the “winter layoff”.
I would listen to Jim McKenzie on Detroit’s Kiss-FM every day. He was a great example of what a DJ should be – the listener’s friend. Every day I listened, and I felt like he was talking to just me. He kept me company while I worked. The more I listened to him and other DJ’s on the station, the more I began to think, “Hey, I could do that! I’d enjoy doing that!” So I called the station and asked to speak to someone about getting into the business. The guy I spoke with told me that I could 1) go to broadcast school or 2) intern at the station for a while and see if I could break in that way. I chose Option #2.
I started my internship for the news guy. I took news stories off the wire and rewrote stories and helped compile a newscast. I then began hanging out with the morning show (Paul Christy and the Christy Critters). I enjoyed this so much more. This was where the real action was. I got to see them plan bits, edit phone calls, and more. Eventually, I started running Paul’s Saturday show, which was all on tape. He was recorded and I would play his clips out of songs or up the intros to songs. Before a commercial break, he would throw it to me from the tape and ask about the sport scores, lottery numbers, and weather (which could not be predicted the day they recorded the show). I did this for about 6 months and they let the overnight guy go. I was asked to fill in on the show temporarily. The temporary job ended up being full time. Paul believed I had some talent (although not much of it showed during my time there) and he gave me my first break in radio.
As far as the second half of the question, it really depends on what station/shift I was doing and what my job title was. Let me explain. In regards to the “on air” position, I prepped a show every day. Show Prep could consist of entertainment oriented stories, artist stories, real life stories and more. I had a boss who told me that each show (4 to 5 hours) should include 2 format related stories (music or artist) 2 topical stories, and what he called a “heart story” which could be a humorous personal story, a “make you think” story, or a tearjerker. I always tried to incorporate all of those elements.
Morning shows tend to do a lot more content than any other daypart. Prepping a morning show meant getting up at 3 or 4 in the morning and going through all of the stuff that happened the night before. “What would people be talking about at the water cooler this morning?” Thankfully, there were prep services that helped with that. Talk breaks on a morning show were obviously longer than any other daypart. A mid-day personality plays more music and the bits were about a minute long (in most cases) or shorter.
When I was a Music Director, my job entailed listening to all of the new music that came in to the station each day/week and deciding what songs were going to be considered as possible additions to the play list. I had a day set aside for record reps to call and give me their pitches for why their song deserved a spot on the station. If I was working at a Classic Rock or Oldies station, there really was no “new” music to consider, so the job consisted of scheduling music for every day.
Scheduling music is another responsibility of the Music Director. Without scheduled music, no one knows what to play. Back in the days before computers, you scheduled the tunes and the on air jocks played them from records, CDs or carts (like an 8 track tape). Today, all of this is done with computers. All the songs are digital and once the music log is merged with the system, it will pull up the songs (and all the in between stuff) and it will play automatically.
I was also an Assistant Program Director. This job assists the Program Director, who is the person who basically runs the station and all that plays on it. As the APD, I assisted the PD with scheduling all of the weekend on air personalities and lining up talent for offsite appearances.
I was a Program Director once. It was the ultimate goal for me. I was the guy who called the shots. Well, that’s the way it used to be. By the time I was the PD my station was owned by a big corporation and most of the big decisions were made FOR me by the higher ups and consultants. This was maybe 10 years ago, and I am sure that now the PD is doing his job, the APD and MD jobs and a whole lot more.
I also acted as the Production Director. This job I hated more than any. My job was to write and produce commercials. It meant dealing directly with sales people who never seemed to get copy in on time (despite deadlines) and promised their clients things that were impossible. It meant loading hundreds of network commercials into the system every week, which we often pawned off on part time personalities. The only thing I loved about this position was when I was able to produce promos or sweepers (the things that play between the songs) for the station. I loved writing them and producing them. It was always fun to hear your station “voice guy” reading your lines.
I was blessed with a career that began in 1988 in one of the top ten markets in the country. After leaving radio full time in 2013, I continued to do it part time until the Covid 19 pandemic shut most places down. The stations I was working for part time, didn’t need me anymore and my “retirement” began.
What was your musical taste as a young man going into the field? Was it difficult to work on stations which played other types of music?
I was really lucky to have been raised to appreciate a lot of music. I guess I was raised on Oldies music. My dad played Elvis, Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Doo Wop, Motown, and Big Band Music. Being a band nerd, I listened to a lot of classical music, too. My dad played guitar in a wedding band for years, so this exposed me to some new music. I remember him playing The Breakup Song by the Greg Kihn Band on our stereo as he tried to get the intro just right.
Most of my friends listened to AC/DC, Def Leppard, Motley Crue, and Journey. I was listening to the older stuff. I recall buying a few “modern” singles on 45, but I would rather listen to the Beatles.
My first station, as I mentioned, was one that I listened to – an Oldies station. So most of the music I really liked playing. There were a couple songs that would show up on a playlist that I couldn’t stand (Sunshine Superman by Donovan immediately comes to mind) and when they played, I turned the speakers down.
I worked in a variety of formats (Oldies, Classic Rock, Urban Contemporary, Adult Contemporary, and Country). There were songs that I loved to play at each station. It was nice to be exposed to new music I may never have discovered had I not worked at some of these places. You could always turn the volume down on the studio monitors when you were playing something you didn’t care for. I would say that the speakers were down more at the Urban Contemporary station than any other.
You’ve said Wolfman Jack was your favorite national DJ. And so many other people’s…the Guess Who wrote a song about him for gawdsake. What was it about the Wolf that made him so appealing?
I guess I will answer that by saying why he was appealing to me. I always loved the way he always had something unique to say when he opened the microphone. Man, the stuff that flowed out of his mouth was like poetry. To this day, I wonder how much of that stuff was written down and how much was made up at the spur of the moment. It was brilliant. He painted pictures with his words. I wish that I could convey things the way he did!
I once read a quote from him that said, “I taught myself to tune in to another person’s wavelength, figure out what they were looking for, and try to project that thing back to them.” He did just that. There are countless clips of him all over YouTube. Listen to the way he reacts to listeners on the phone – he is a master. I heard him ask a female caller if she wanted to dance once. He was speaking in a soft voice and asked her if she wanted some “male companionship” and she told him yes. He then told her to stand up and hug her radio so they could dance together. It was just perfect.
Another quote from him: “I know it sounds corny, man, but I like to bring folks joy, and I like to have a good time. I know folks like to be with somebody who is having a good time. You sure as hell don’t want to be with somebody who’s having a bad day.” He always sounded like he was having fun when he was on the air. He was “playing” on the radio! He was having so much fun that you were having fun, too. I really think that is why he is so appealing to me – and the world.
You’ve said you got to interview many country artists & many like Reba McEntire were wonderful people. Did you get to interview any rock/pop stars too? And, you don’t have to name names if you don’t want but we’re any NOT wonderful to talk to?
Yes, when I worked at the Classic Rock station, I was able to do many interviews with artists who were promoting a book or an upcoming show. One of the easiest interviews was Eddie Money. He always opened the summer concert series at one of the local venues each year. I remember saying, “Hey, Eddie! Are you ready for (venue name)?” and he would talk for 10 minutes! You rarely had to prepare for an interview with him. He got everything you needed to know in those 10 minutes! LOL. He was awesome.
Alice Cooper was also a great interview. He is so smart and he has great stories to tell. He has a syndicated evening show and our station was adding it, so I got to talk with him. He was so kind and was open to answering anything, which many artists will not do. I also interviewed guys from the Doobie Brothers, The Scorpions, and Cheap Trick, but none were as memorable as Eddie or Alice.
The thing about doing a radio tour and calling stations is that you know the artists are answering the same questions from everyone. I always tried to find a way to get one question that they were rarely asked if I could. Some jocks do a 5 question “quick round” at the end of an interview which consists of questions like, “What flavor crayon would you be?” or something like that – just to break the monotony of things. Sometimes they are receptive to it and other times not so much.
Some artists LOATHE doing interviews and their answers are always short. Those are the ones I always hated doing. You can only bring out so much out of someone and if they don’t want to talk, you say, “Thanks for the chat! See you at the show!” and move on. That being said, there were a few that were not so wonderful to talk to. Many of them already have that reputation, so you expect it.
And you got to interview Elmo from Sesame Street too…
Yes! That was totally unexpected and a blast at the same time. It’s funny because when they send you the press kit, they remind you that Elmo is “4 years old and very innocent.” They are very protective of the character and expect you to treat your interview accordingly.
Kevin Clash, the voice of Elmo, has a very deep voice and I was taken aback when I answered the phone. I remember some chit chat before we started and when he was ready, there was Elmo. It was actually a very cool interview.
I think you’re a family man, so that differs a bit but otherwise does Harry Chapin’s ‘WOLD’ resonate with you? A song about a DJ working city to city, station to station trying to make a living…
I’m very familiar with Chapin’s song. I guess I was very lucky in my radio career in that I was always in Michigan. Yes, I moved a couple times, but never from state to state like the guy in the song.
It is not uncommon for radio people to move that way, though. Over the years, I have worked with many people who travelled across the country to work at our station. I would imagine that this can play havoc on the lives of a family. One station I worked for moved a husband and wife morning team to the station from another state. They were there some time before they were eventually let go and they moved across the country again.
It can also ruin marriages. It is no secret that many radio DJs are divorced or single. Whether this is because of the instability of the business or something else, I do not know. Personally, my ex hated that I was in radio. She hated all the long hours and the many times I was let go because of a format or management change. She was fine when the job provided perks like concert tickets or trips, but that was it.
One of my radio mentors called radio a “mistress.” As someone who has done it, I believe that to be the truth.
You’ve talked about the changes in radio you’ve seen & lay a lot of blame on a 1996 telecommunications act law that allowed companies like Clear Channel to prosper. Can you explain how that harmed the state of radio?
So, President Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which lifted the “cap” on radio station ownership. This led to many of the locally owned stations to be bought up by the big radio corporations like Cumulus, Clear Channel, and Citadel.
At one time, many stations were “mom and pop” stations. They were locally owned and they did not have to fall in line with the corporate mindset. They had freedom to play what they wanted. They were free to do what they felt was right to succeed in the market. Maybe this meant bringing in a private consultant to help with a talent workshop (working with DJ’s to make them better), or helping with music testing or music suggestions. The local owners made the call or they hired people who they knew would make their station stand out.
Many locally owned stations suffered because of this and they were more than happy to sell to one of the “big boys.” Now you have less local owners and more corporate control, so music programming (and everything else) was dictated by those corporate programmers. So music playlists became smaller – which meant you were hearing the same songs more often. The station also becomes stale and starts to sound like every other station in the country.
Corporate companies bought stations and now want to do what they can to make money without spending it. So they begin to go through and fire local talent. They replace them with some sort of syndicated show or by allowing a jock from their headquarters or another city to record generic shows to play on stations all over the country. Today, it is rare to find a station with more than one live LOCAL DJ. When you do, it is usually a locally owned station (which is a rarity in itself).
When I was interviewed by Max at the Power pop blog, I told him that when I was in radio, the fear was that Sirius XM radio was going to be the death of terrestrial radio. In truth, terrestrial radio killed itself from the inside with automation and consolidation. That consolidation all stemmed from the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
What do you miss most about radio you listened to and perhaps worked in during the 80s & 90s?
The fun. Gosh, it used to be fun to listen to the radio. I understand that 80’s radio wasn’t as fun as 60’s Wolfman Jack radio, but it was still fun. The DJs were personalities. They engaged with listeners. There was more to radio than liner cards. (Liner cards, for those who don’t know, are 5×7 index card with promotional things on them that radio DJs had to read. Many of them were read word for word – every time they were read. In other words, BORING!) Contests were fun. The sweepers were fun. The station was fun.
A good buddy of mine, Johnny Molson (who now does amazing stuff with the Wizard of Ads) used to write some of the sweepers for our station. They were always written in such a way that they grabbed your attention and added to the fun of the station as they played in between songs.
We had an amazing voice guy named Stu Bowers. He had a very serious and powerful delivery, but he could also be silly. One sweeper we had said, “102.7 Kiss FM. Listening to us is better than sex! Well, maybe not but it did give me a chance to say ‘sex’ on the radio. Ooo, I said it again. Sex, sex, sex…” That stood out in between songs. It added to the silly fun that we were having while we were on the air.
That fun is a rare find in radio today. Some local stations are doing it, but it is hard to find.
I’ll include a treat for you here. We are lucky to have some real radio lovers in the Detroit area. Some of them have actual airchecks from some of the stations in the 1960’s. You can find some of them here: https://mcrfb.com/
Do you still listen to much radio, and if not, where do you get your music these days?
I do. I still have friends who work in the biz and I try to tune them in when I can. I also have a few friends in other states that I can listen to on the internet. When I am in the car, however, I am usually tuned into Sirius XM for music. I listen to the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s stations. Other channels on there I have on presets include the Sinatra channel, Elvis channel, Beatles channel, a few classic rock channels, a classical channel and Radio Classics for old radio shows. When I am not listening to that, I am listening to my ancient iPod or books on tape.
I believe you work in a sleep apnea clinic these days? What led you down that path?
Yes, I work in Sleep Medicine now full time. We test people for Sleep Apnea and set them up with CPAP therapy. We also test for other sleep disorders.
I was let go from the morning show at the country station I was working at. I guess we knew that we wouldn’t last after our boss passed away and a new boss came in. I was fired on the day I returned to work after my son had his tonsils out. My boss at the time was in the adjoining studio recording what I thought was her show. Turns out she was recording breaks in my show. I was pulled out of the studio before the show was over and was told that they were “going in a different direction.”
I had been contemplating going back to school for some time. My mother had often asked me to go back to school because radio was so uncertain. After some discussion with my wife at the time, I decided that it was best to try to find a new career.
My thoughts were that the medical field was probably more stable than radio. “There are always sick people who need medical attention” was my thought. I decided to get into the ultrasound program. I had a year of prerequisites to do before the program. As I did those, I found that the program had a very long wait list and that it could be some time before I got in.
That was when the Classic Rock Programming job presented itself. I got that job and finished my first year. I took a break from college knowing that it would be a bit, but at least I had a job.
I found out very soon after taking the position that the station was being sold. The days were numbered for me again. In talking to one of my college friends, I heard about the sleep program. The more she told me, the more I found it interesting. The best news was that I could start the program within a month. When the station was sold, I was let go, and shortly after that, I graduated with my degree.
That was 9 years ago. One of the things I loved about radio was helping people. We raised money for kids with cancer. We did blood drives and raised money after 9/11. We hosted many charity events. I loved being able to help people in the community and beyond.
Today, I am helping people in another way. In some cases, I am saving lives. There is a lot of satisfaction knowing that I am helping people with their health.
I’ll ask myself one question you didn’t ask: Do I miss radio?
Yes. Every single day. I miss the creative part of it. I miss the listener interaction. I miss the conversations with record people about new music. I miss having fun on the air, but I am so grateful to have done it for so long.
Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to answer some questions for your site. Like many other radio folks, I love to talk about those days and look back at them with much happiness. Thanks again, Dave. If your readers have any questions, I’d be happy to “revisit the on air studio” and answer them.
This is a “feature” I started a while ago with a Daily Writing Prompt, and I have enjoyed it so much, I have decided to keep doing it. This week – two for the price of one. I guess the common theme to these pictures is that they are both taken at my grandma’s house and they both contain … a couch.
It is hard for me to tell which photo is older. They look to have been taken relatively close together age-wise. I know that both of these pictures were favorites of my grandmother, the first one especially.
In the first photo, I am wearing “sleepers.” I remember always having them for some reason. I was probably 4 or 5 when I finally wore pajamas without the “feet” in them. One thing I hated about them was that your feet were always hot and sweaty! URGH!!! Parents must have always worried about their kid’s feet getting cold because even after I started wearing pajamas where the feet were free to breathe, I always seemed to have a pair of slippers on or close by!
That awful yellow couch had an ugly green chair that matched it. I remember the fabric being sort of rough and it always made noise when you sat on it. It reminded me of corduroy pants and the noise they made when you walked in them. At some point, my folks inherited the couch (maybe the chair, too) and it wound up in our basement.
Just to the right of the blue pillow in the photo, I can see the three chains that held the weights of the cuckoo clock I can still hear in my head. In the upper right of the picture you can barely make out the handle to grandma’s fridge, which was always contained a carton of Half and Half (which she called “milk”), eggs, and cans of Altes beer. The stove is to the left of that and on the far wall the sink. There was always a yellow water cup – the yellow matched the color of the couch!
Coincidentally, my sleepers seem to match the cup and couch, too! My grandma used to laugh out loud when she’d see this picture because of how my leg is cocked. I really don’t know if this is the way I always stood around, or if this was a lucky candid snapshot, but it kinda makes me chuckle, too!
The second photo actually makes me laugh out loud. Look at the attitude I am exuding in it! I know for a fact that I will still stand this way today. It isn’t odd to see me with my hand or arm up against a wall or something and my feet positioned with one crossed over the other. It’s obvious that I have been doing that for a long time.
It would not surprise me if that outfit was made out of corduroy! It sure looks like it. I would also wager a guess that those shoes I am wearing are Stride Rite shoes. My brother and I both had a pair. When my oldest boy was born, my mom made sure he had a pair too! I’m not sure that they were ever “bronzed” like my dad’s baby shoes were, though it is entirely possible.
My hair is a mess in both pictures and it’s odd to compare them because it seems that my hair is going one way in one photo and the other way in the other one. I really don’t know what the “lip pout” is about in this picture, but it seems I am pondering something.
What’s interesting about this picture is that it is taken in the front room of my grandma’s house. This was an “off limits” room for us. We just never played in there. We weren’t even really allowed to sit on the furniture in there. So why am I in there? Can’t tell you.
That couch I remember clear as day! There was at least one chair that matched it, maybe two. What I remember most about it was that it was on wheels, one of which you can see in the photo. The chairs had those wheels, too. If you were fooling around on them, they would move fairly easily. If that happened, my grandpa’s OCD would kick in and he would come in and put the chair back in it’s exact place – making sure the wheels went back into the spots by them in the carpet.
I remember those terrible pillows, which were obviously just for decoration, because they were scratchy as hell to the touch. I couldn’t imagine anyone ever wanting to sleep on one. If memory serves me right, there was an end table at each end of it. They would have had big ugly lamps on them and may have looked something like this:
Almost everyone had end tables that looked like that in the 70’s!!
The painting above the couch is one I recognize, but it may have been replaced with another as I got older. I went through some other photos and actually found one with the whole thing. I’m not sure exactly where this is supposed to be, maybe Hawaii? I don’t know, but it was almost as long as the couch!
I don’t want to sound like an egotistic jerk, but these two photos of me are among my top ten favorites. They bring back some good memories. It may seem weird to say, but as I look at them, I can almost smell the stale cigarette air that hung in every room of my grandma’s house. I’m sure that wherever those couches may reside today, they almost assuredly reek of Lucky Strike and Kool cigarettes!
I picked up my new glasses on Tuesday and they are going to take some getting used to.
I wore glasses from 4th grade right up until I had Lasik surgery about 20 years ago. My eyes were bad. Without them, everything was a blur. The Lasik surgery was more than I could have imagined! Amazing is an understatement.
The doctor who did my surgery had told me that there might be the possibility that I’d need reading glasses in the future. Sure enough, he was right. I guess I have been wearing them for about a year or two. I also found the need to have a pair for distance, mainly while driving. So I had a pair in the car and I carried a pair on me for reading.
In the last few months, I have felt my vision get a little worse, and I was overdue for an exam. This time I went to an eye place (last time I just went to Walmart). The exam was very thorough. I was pretty amazed at the stuff they were able to see. The showed me my optic lens, the back of my eye, and various other things. I was impressed.
When the doc came in we played the “which is clearer” game, where he makes one view blurrier than the other. He tweaked my prescription and gave me my options. The first option I was given was to carry two pairs of glasses again – one for reading and one for distance. I really didn’t want to deal with that again. The other option was to wear progressive lenses.
I’ve heard my share of stories about how difficult progressive lenses are to get used to. A co-worker had literally just taken hers back because she could not get used to them. I really wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted to attempt them. The doc told me that I usually takes about a weak and he thought that was the better choice.
Progressive lenses are different from bifocals or trifocals. With progressive lenses, you position your eyes where you need them depending on what you are doing … if that makes sense.
If I am driving, I look through the upper part of the lens. For things at arms length, I look through the middle of the lens. For reading, I look through the bottom of the lens. But as you can see from the above picture, if you look toward the sides, you get a “fishbowl” or “hourglass” effect. That is the hardest part of seeing through them.
There are some things I have to take them off for. When I am doing a set up on a patient, I take them off because I am constantly looking up and down. I’m not quite used to that yet. I am sure it will get better.
It is much easier to see things while driving, which is a bonus! I have yet to sit and try to read a book with them, so we’ll see what happens with that.
I hope the adjustment process gets, if you’ll pardon the pun, progressively better!