Looking back 25 years – WHND

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Monday, November 21, 1994.  6:00 AM.

My partner Rob Main and I walked into the studio of WHND to begin what would be the last week of live broadcasts from Honey Radio.  We had heard the news weeks prior to this that the radio station was going off the air in favor of Spanish programming.  When the station was not broadcasting from our studios, we were airing satellite programming from the Cool Gold Network, which was no longer going to providing services. Honey was no longer financially viable.

At the time, Honey Radio was the oldest Oldies station in the country.  While there were stations that played oldies in the Detroit market, none were focusing exclusively on the “first decade of rock and roll”.  We primarily focused on the songs that were hits from 1955-1965, while occasionally playing some of those earlier songs from the 1950’s, too.  I think that was one of the reasons I loved working at this station so much.  When you think of the music from that decade it included rockabilly, doo wop, surf music, Motown, British Invasion music, songs from the “Brill Building”, and early soul and R&B.

We not only played the hits from this decade, but we also played songs that were local hits from local artists that were not being played anywhere else! We played music from Nolan Strong, The Dynamics, Gino Washington, Jack Scott, and so many other local acts. We did a daily show (The Top 12 at 12), which focused on a different year of the decade and counted down the Top 12 songs in Detroit from that particular day.  We always used a local chart to count down the hits.  Those charts could be from The Detroit News, WJBK, WKNR, WXYZ, or other charts.  It was unique to our station!

Today’s radio is what many refer to as “liner card radio”.  The DJ’s on the air rarely have any content and read things from cards in the studio (usually promoting station events, station appearances, or sponsor information).  The most entertaining DJ’s are usually the morning show hosts, but even they are overloaded with sponsor reads and liners.  One of my radio mentors, Jay Trachman, used to say “People say that DJ’s talk too much.  This isn’t true.  The truth is that DJ’s tend to waste their listener’s time by not having anything to say. They don’t have any REAL content to share.” This is where Honey was different.

Honey Radio DJs were “personalities” – each unique.  Boogie Brian was the “Bard of Lincoln Park” and often spoke in Rhyme.  Richard D. was the “Silly DJ from Savage Minnesota” who now lived on Lack Of Drive in Warren with his wife Oldielocks and kids Doo Wop and Bee Bop.  Other personalities included Bill Stewart, Ron T., Greg Russell, Dr. Bob, “Young” Jon Ray, Scottie OJay, Rob (and every one of his characters), and me. Each of us had our “features”.  Scottie hosted the “Soul Patrol” show, Richard had the “Off the Wall Record” and “Poor Richard D’s Almanac”, Boogie had “Cruise Casts” and Boogie’s Forgotten Favorites”, and  the list goes on and on.  There was always something fun and unique happening on Honey.

Another thing I loved about Honey was the jingles.  Our jingles were PAMS jingles.  They were many of the same tracks/jingles that were used by local radio stations all across the country during the 60’s.  They were just re-sung with our call letters.  These jingles were just awesome!  Today, you can hear many of these same jingles on Sirius XM’s 50’s on 5 and 60’s on 6. I am lucky to have many of these jingles that were taken from the master tapes on CD in my collection.

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With Honey going off the air, many of us would be out of a job.  Rob and I had been working together off and on whenever I was on air for a while.  After Honey went off the air, we hoped to find a job doing mornings somewhere.  In order to do this, we needed some more “tape” of us together.  Richard D gave us permission to go on the air instead of the satellite show in the morning that final week.  We had free reign to “play around” and have fun on the air.  At the same time, we’d be getting hours of material that we could potentially use to try to get a show somewhere.

25 years ago today, Rob and I hit the studio with a few ideas, many voices, many characters, some great music, and had the best week of our career!  It was Thanksgiving week.  Music was scheduled for Monday-Wednesday and Friday.  Thursday we were supposed to air satellite programming.  Instead, we were on for 6 hours that Thanksgiving and played songs with a different theme each hour (Number songs, Songs with girls names or guys names, Instrumentals, Songs with body parts in the title, etc…)  Originally, those shows were recorded to cassette tapes.  Those tapes were called “Skimmers”.  The tape recorded only when the microphone was turned on.  Some time ago, I took those tapes and recorded them digitally and transferred them to CD.  I still pop them into my car and listen to that final week whenever I need a laugh.  I am guessing, I will need to pull them out to honor the 25th anniversary of Honey’s end.

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The only CD I have a difficult time listening to is the last show, from November 25, 1994.  It was the last day of live broadcasting.  We had friends visit us in the studio (South Bronx Johnny, Helen & Beverly, my dad, and others).  The calls we got from listeners that day were very emotional.  They made us feel so loved.  The last break of our show, Boogie’s wife had recorded a message for him that we played right before he went on the air.  He did the final four hours of live programming.  He had prerecorded a sign off that lasted about 15 minutes with his personal reflections on the station, the staff, the listeners, and the end.  I remember Rob, his girlfriend Mary, and I all listening to this and just sobbing. Boogie expressed what everyone was feeling and it was the perfect ending to an amazing station.

It is hard to believe that it has been 25 years since that last broadcast.  When I look back, I can’t believe I was lucky enough to work with those legends!  I can’t believe I was lucky enough to be a part of such an amazing station.  I had only been in radio about 6 years when I started at Honey, and I learned SO much from watching and talking to Boogie and Richard!  What an honor to have had them as coaches, mentors, and friends.

The one thing that I will always remember about working at Honey – is the laughter.  There was always laughter whether you were in or out of the studio.  There was laughter whether you were on air or off air.  I always seemed to leave the building with my cheeks hurting from smiling and my sides hurting from laughter.  Today, I can pop those shows in (or some of the Richard D shows I have on tape), and still laugh!

25 years later, Honey is no more.  That makes me sad, because the world could sure use some laughter!

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Tune Tuesday – Pilot of the Airwaves

In honor of today being National Radio Day, and as a former full time radio DJ, today’s tune was VERY easy to pick.

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Charlie Dore is a singer songwriter from England, who reached the Top 20 with this song in 1979.  I was about a decade away from my start in radio when this song came out.  When I started working at WKSG, Kiss-FM in Detroit, we were “all request.”  I did the overnight show and many people called to hear their favorite songs.  I remember one listener in particular (her name was Heather) who used to request this one all the time.

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What I love about this song is that it shows what all DJ’s hope to accomplish – bonding with our listeners!  We hope that when you listen, you feel like you are hanging out with a friend.  That’s what made me want to get into radio, really.  I listened to Jim McKenzie all the time when I was working in the Parts Department at Suburban Marine.  Jim always seemed like a friend.  He had a friendly voice, told stories, was nice to his listeners, and funny.  While I worked, I was hanging out with my friend.

This was a common theme with my favorite DJ’s.  They were story tellers.  They were friends.  They included me in the stuff they were talking about.  I laughed with them.  They did radio, as my mentor Jay Trachman would say, “one to one.”  So many great DJ’s:  Paul Christy, Jim McKenzie, John Bailey, Gail McKnight, Johnny Molson, Richard D., Boogie Brian, Ted “the Bear” Richards, Ron T., Jon Ray, Kris King, Tim Roberts, Brian Cleary, Dan Richards, Jim Biggins, and SO many more!  The list of people who I worked with and admire is a long one!  They were all “Pilots” of the airwaves!!

Happy National Radio Day to all my radio friends!!

Pilot of the Airwaves

[Chorus:]
Pilot of the airwaves
Here is my request
You don’t have to play it
But I hope you’ll do your best
I’ve been listening to your show
On the radio
And you seem like a friend to me

Or a record of your choice
I don’t mind, I’d be happy just to hear your voice
Saying this is for the girl
Who didn’t sign her name
Yes, she needs a dedication just the same

[Bridge:]
Late at night I’m still listening
Don’t waste my time chasing sleep
People say I look weary
But that’s just the company I keep
Ooooh, you make the nighttime race
Ooooh, I don’t need to see your face
You’re sounding good (Sounding good)
Sounding good to me

[Chorus]

[Bridge]

You’re sounding so good to me

[Chorus]

Oh, I’ve been listening to your show on the radio
And you seem like a friend to me

[Chorus]

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Expanding on an earlier Facebook post.

Vacation

I am on vacation.  I have the next week off and will have my sons all week.  I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am to have them over.  I am hoping that the weather will cooperate and we’ll get to do some fun things this week.   This vacation could not have come at a better time.  I’m not sure why, but I just need the break.  I have so much that has been on my mind.

For example, Thursday was typical for me.  I slept for about 3-4 hours.  It is my day to switch from “midnight” mode to “days.”  Normally on Thursday, my head hits the pillow and I am asleep quickly.  That was not the case.  I actually broke my own rule (and what I tell all my patients about electronics before bed) and was surfing the web and reading stuff hoping to make myself tired – it didn’t work.

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I read once that if you can’t shut your mind off,  just jot all the thoughts down.  The thought process is that it can help free your mind of them.  I hoped that this would work and posted the following on Facebook.  In posting it here and re-reading it, I may or may not comment on these thoughts.  Some of them are repeat thoughts, some are not.  Here goes:

“Been here in bed since 10:30. Sam is already sleeping. The cats are both on the bed, too. Mind won’t shut off. Trying not to think about something that happened earlier that really just made me angry. Random thoughts/wishes:

* As much as I love to sit and write, I wish I could find a gig that paid me to do it.

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Comment:  The more I think on this, the more I wish I could do this!  I believe that you are always your own worst critic.  I have often wondered why anyone would even want to read what I write, yet, here you are.  I’m sure many authors have wondered if people would want to read their stuff too.  Writing is therapeutic for me.  Much like radio, I can take my observations and share them.  You won’t always agree with my thoughts or opinions, and that is OK with me.

* In talking to an old radio buddy, it makes me miss doing it full time (even though it has changed dramatically)

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Comment:  While I am not doing this full time, I need to acknowledge that I am very lucky to still be doing it part time.  Even if it is once a week, whether it is live or recorded, I still have my foot in the door and I get to “create” and “perform.” I still love it and radio will probably always be in my blood.

* I wish I could review music, bands, or movies and get paid for it. Neat to see some friends of mine doing it and having success with that!

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Comment:  I follow some blogs that write movie reviews.  I know they don’t get paid for that.  However, I have a friend who writes a lot of political stuff for websites and gets paid for that.  I also have a buddy who always seems to be out and about interviewing celebrities about their films for various news stations, TV and radio.  What a cool gig that has to be.  When I interviewed people on the radio I was always told I was a “good interviewer.” Maybe I am.  Pardon me while I digress and share two instances come to mind:

When I was at B95, Craig Morgan was scheduled to come by the studio.  At the time he had a minor hit, and some tunes that weren’t being played on the radio.  I was told by my boss to put him on the air for a few minutes, ask him about his new song, play it and move on.  I did my research, and there were a lot of things about Craig that I found interesting.  Yes, I was going to ask about his song, but there were other things I wanted to as about.  I asked about his military career, his family, and such.  Craig is a very funny guy.  He and I hit it off instantly.  We laughed a lot and had a bunch of fun. About 5 or 8 minutes into the interview, my boss went into the studio in the next room and stood in front of the window.  I thought he was gonna give me the “Wrap it up” signal because we were going longer than anticipated.  Instead, he gave me the “keep going – stretch it out” signal.

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I don’t recall how long the interview went, but it was FUN.  My boss said, “You just took a guy who no one was really familiar with, and made the listeners love him, because you related to him.  You asked questions that made him so real.  It was entertaining, and enjoyable.  That’s the best damn interview I have heard in a long time!”  The kudos I received were unexpected.

Also at B-95, Jewel came by the studio and I interviewed her on the air.  She had recorded a country album and was promoting it.  I did my research and prepped for her interview.  I found a lot of stuff that I could ask about.  Jewel was homeless for a time.  She lived in a van.  I wasn’t sure if that was a topic she would want to talk about.  When she arrived I asked her off air if there was anything that she didn’t want to talk about, she said to ask whatever I wanted to.  Naturally, I asked about her album.  I also asked about her family life and pop hits. I also asked about her being homeless, in which she shared some great stories about writing songs.

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One of the things I asked about was some Wizard of Oz TV special she did in the mid ’90’s.  She started chuckling and joked about it.  She asked “How did you find out about that?!” This led her to talk about some plays she was in in school and some other childhood memories.  She was so moved and excited to be talking about those things.  It was so cool for me to see how moved she was to remember those stories and it was great radio!

After Jewel left the station, about a half hour later, I got a call on my cell phone from the record rep who brought her to the station.  He said, “I wanted you to know that Jewel just told me that you were by far the best interview she has done on this radio tour!  She was blown away that you asked her about that Wizard of Oz thing!  She said she felt so comfortable talking to you and she really enjoyed herself.  She said you made her remember some great stories that she has never shared with anyone before.  Nice work, cowboy!”

Again, a high point in my radio career!

back to my original thought – I think it would be very cool to get the chance to hear an album before it hit stores, see a movie before it hits theaters, or read a book before it hits the shelves and then offer a review.

* It’s a shame when an entire team has to be punished because of a few others.

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On my hour drive to work each night, it is often the time I catch up with friends on the phone.  We talk about family, friends, and work.  In discussing work, there was this common theme.  Rather than dealing with employees individually and holding them accountable for whatever the issue was, bosses made a knee-jerk reaction and punished the entire staff for the issues of a few people.

I am not in a position of authority at my job.  I was a boss on more than one occasion.  Observations that I made as an employee, helped me to manage.  Managers motivate!  When employees are motivated, they will go above and beyond for you.  Many managers tend to demotivate.  Jay Trachman, one of my radio mentors, wrote an article geared toward radio managers, and it holds true for any manager, really.  It included things that managers do to demotivate, with or without knowledge of doing it.  They included:

  1. Ignoring employee ideas
  2. Setting unattainable goals and holding employees responsible for them
  3. Treating employees like children
  4. Ignoring that employees have lives outside of work
  5. Making rules for the entire staff because of the behavior of a few members
  6. Focusing on errors or mistakes, no matter how trivial (Incidentally, the facts show that when you dwell only on problem areas destroys the employee’s confidence and self-esteem makes the employee more error-prone!)

* I hate when an opportunity seems right, but no matter how many ways you try to make it work, you can’t.

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Comment:  Without going into detail, an opportunity presented itself.  It was one of those opportunities that doesn’t come around too often.  I took it all in.  Asked questions.  Weighed options.  Re-weighed options with different scenarios.  Crunched numbers.  Re-visited scenarios.  Made a pros and cons list (my wife swears by these!).  It was an opportunity that just was not something I could jump at.  I am ok with that, though, because, it doesn’t change anything I am already doing.  No big deal.

* I am hoping the scale shows a loss tomorrow at weigh in.

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Comment:  It did.  My total weight loss now is at 24 pounds!! I couldn’t be happier!  I was a bit worried because last Saturday I DJ’d a wedding and the dinner didn’t necessarily have the most healthy choices.  Oh, and they had a doughnut bar!  LOL.  I am determined to get back down to 199 (where I was about 20 years ago, and the last time I was on Weight Watchers).  The journey continues!

* I am not looking forward to a visit to the dentist tomorrow.

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Comment:  Uneventful cleaning.  No cavities, so I was happy with that!

* I wish I could do more voice over work.

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Comment:  I looked into a few voice over services, but most cost money to be a part of.  They also require you to do many auditions daily.  I could probably do this on my days off, but it is hard to do working midnights, and without a home studio (or the money to build a home studio)!

I am lucky to have the relationships I have with The American Way, Whitetail Journey, Modern Craft Wines, Fox 66, and RPM Auto Sales.  I would love to add a few more clients to that list.  If you know anyone looking, I can certainly send a voice sample to them.

* I probably could have wrote a blog instead of this. Maybe I will just copy and paste it….lol.

Comment:  That’s what I am doing!

* There is so much sadness in the Facebook feed this week. My heart goes out to my friends who have lost loved ones or have loved ones in the hospital.

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Comment:  Scrolling the Facebook news feed this week, I was saddened to read of some friends coping with the loss of someone special to them.  I also read of a dear friend who is now home with hospice care.  Some friends have been Facebook silent, but I am aware of some health struggles that are dealing with.

Many people state that they hate Facebook.  They say there are too many political arguments, opinions, etc.   I would agree, but I also utilize the “mute” button.  There are ways that you can unfollow those who post stuff you don’t want to see.  You remain friends, but you don’t see their stuff.  You can also post things while making sure that certain people can’t see it.

I happen to like Facebook.  It is a great way to keep up with friends.  I almost never forget a friend’s birthday! I always love the pictures of weddings, first and last days of school, band concerts, dance recitals, and the addition of new babies or grandbabies.  There are sad things, too.  The passing away of parents, prayer chains for those who are sick or suffering, or the loss of a pet.  Without Facebook, I’d never know these things. It can be a place to offer words of support, encouragement, or better yet, prompt you to reach out to your friend on the phone.

While I love social media, I also feel that it is important to reach out and actually talk to friends.  I have decided that I am going to try to do that more.  Yes, texting and messaging is easy, but you know what?  I want to hear your voice!

* I hate change. I am a man of routine. Sometimes, change is inevitable. Sometimes change is exciting.

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Comment: I take the same way to work every day.  I am a creature of habit.  One of the things that helps me stay focused on Weight Watchers is that I know the point values of meals.  I tend to find something I like, and will stick with that meal.  I have been eating a lot of veggies and fruits.  I am also eating a lot of salads.  However, to change things up we had turkey tacos last night.  Not going to lie, changing it up was exciting!  That’s right – I was excited for Tacos!!

* Guy on TV said to his gal, “I couldn’t be happier.” I think you can always be happier. Happiness can grow, much like love can grow. Each day I think I can’t love Sam any more than I do, but that love grows deeper. Happiness can grow too – that’s cool to me.

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Comment:  Just re-reading that made me smile.  Think about this – “Happiness is a habit – cultivate it” (Quite attributed to Elbert Hubbard)

* The wrong motivation can kill morale and desire to give their all for you.

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Comment: See above comments about punishing the entire team because of a few others.

* I wish I was an expert on something. With the recent talks I have done for conferences and small groups, I would totally love to do that for a living.

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Someone commented on the original Facebook post and said I should be a motivational speaker.  I don’t know that I’d go that far.  I have many obstacles of my own that I have yet to conquer.  I am not sure how motivating I can be.

I have always enjoyed doing career days at schools.  I think it would be cool to host classic movies at a theater.  I have no problem public speaking.  I thought about teaching a public speaking class at one of those community education night class type programs.  I don’t know, it’s a pipe dream perhaps.  I just think it could be a very fun thing to do and would be great to get out and meet people.

* Was hoping that by jotting this stuff here, I’d get sleepy … Maybe I should at least try to go to sleep.

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Comment:  I didn’t.

* Even with all of these random thoughts, one still remains true. I am one lucky man! I am blessed beyond measure.

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Comment:  The Bible says in I Thessalonians 5:18, “In EVERYTHING give thanks.”  What powerful instruction, and a very difficult thing to do! I have always tried to make this one of my “life mantras,” but some days are harder than others.  At one point in my life, nothing could make me feel better.  I was deep in that depression and suffering with so many feelings.  I was struggling bad.

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Today, however, I am a new man.  Those quotes that I always had in my mind are back and help keep me focused.  This one still remains difficult, because “everything” means “everything!”  In good times and bad times – give thanks!  What a challenge! Despite the fact that I had a variety of things (both good and bad) running through my head Thursday night, I remind myself of just how thankful I am to be alive!  I am thankful for my family.  I am thankful for my job.  I am thankful for my friends.  I am thankful for YOU.  Thanks for reading!

Now, I am off to enjoy my time off!

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Picking a Partner

Yesterday I received an e-mail from a radio buddy who is now out-of-state. He was surfing around the internet and came across an article written by one of my radio mentors, Jay Trachman. It is probably a huge coincidence that just a few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about him, but then again, sometimes the stars line up … as you will soon see. The article was one that Jay had written based on an email I sent him. Let me set this up for you.

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In 2007, I was hired for a second stint at B-95. This time I was coming back to do mornings. Upon arriving, I worked with the amazing and talented Jeff Kelly, who always had me in stitches. The program director, Coyote Collins, pulled me into the office one morning and said that we were going to do a contest. The contest was going to let some non-radio person be my co-host for a year.

As a radio guy, I really had some deep concerns about this. How do you bring someone in who has never done this before and expect them to “get it”? I was scared to death. I was doing full-time, making decent money, and this whole thing could literally leave me without a job! It made me very nervous.

I found out that we were going to run auditions at the local mall. People were going to come in, come up on stage, we’d ask them some questions, jot notes and rate them and narrow the field down to like the top 20 people. From that point, we had those people come in and record a “Hi I am contestant # ___ in the Bee a Radio Star Contest. Vote for me” greeting. Those ran throughout the weekend and then the field was narrowed again. The top contestants came in and had pictures taken and they went up on the website with “Why you should vote for me” audio. Once we had our top 5 contestants, they each came in and did a show with me. Five contestants – five days – five shows. Then the audience got to vote for who they felt should be my co-host.

Back to the article – I asked Jay what kinds of questions he thought I should ask. I asked him what things I should be judging the contestants on. The article was his response. As I sat I read this 12-year-old article, and saw Jay’s suggestions, it made me smile. At that point, we didn’t even know if any one would show up to the auditions! The fact that people did was awesome. In hindsight, looking back at the article and his suggestions and knowing who eventually got the gig, the winner was the absolute PERFECT co-host.

The Auditions

There were more females than males who auditioned for the position. One by one people walked up to the stage and the panel of judges asked questions. I remember getting in trouble because I was asking questions that you really couldn’t ask in a job interview (about family, marital status, etc). “You can’t ask that,” I was told. I replied, “Well, I need to know if the candidate is going to have life content to bring to the show.”

Stephanie

While many of the people auditioning were a little shy when they got to the microphone on stage, Stephanie grabbed it and showed no fear. I remember she was asked to tell us about herself. She mentioned that she was married with a house full of kids! I remember thinking that there would have to be many great stories to share there (I was right). Steph recently reminded me of the question I asked her and her answer. I asked her who her favorite country singer was and she said George Strait. I asked her why and she said something about him “rocking a pair of Wrangler jeans”. Pure Steph! I don’t remember much more about the rest of her audition, but I know she stood out.

There were some really great people who auditioned. Steph told me that she almost didn’t go through with the audition. I guess there was a young red-headed gal who auditioned and Steph was like “I’m voting for her!” She called her husband, Thom, and said she wasn’t going to do it and he told her to follow through – THANKS THOM! Long story short (so I can share some funny Steph stories) – She won.

The Bee Morning Buzz With Keith and Steph

We always prepped a show. We had some sort of idea of what we were going to do on the air every day. We almost always knew the day before a few of the things we were going to talk about. If I am being honest, most of that stuff was NOT our best stuff! Much of the “greatest hits” material came from unexpected moments, bloopers, and ad-libs.

Before I move on, I have to give major credit and kudos to Hal Maas. He was our news guy. He was also on the morning show at WHNN. Since we both did news at the top and bottom of the hour, we recorded Hal from Saginaw at quarter after and quarter to the hours. When it was time for Hal, we’d record while music or commercials played on the air. Sometimes we knew we wanted to ask him about stuff we were going to do later, most of the time we’d just start rolling tape and some of the passing conversations made it on air. Hal is a MASTER. Hands down, he is the best damn newsman I have ever worked with. He could set you up for a line, or have the best line of the bit. While our show would have been funny without him, it was hilarious with him. He was an equal part in the success of the show!

Hal often ended his newscast with what we call a “Kicker” story. It’s those funny little stories about crazy people like the woman who recently was drinking wine from the Pringles can in Walmart on her scooter. We never knew what the story was going to be, so many of the comments made were on the spot or ad-libs. Sometimes they were funny, sometimes they fell flat. A lot of these stories and punchlines were featured weekly on our “best of” shows.

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Favorite Bits

Let me say here that we were probably very lucky that we recorded these newcasts before they aired. You see, Steph sometimes forgot that some things (while they were very funny) were inappropriate for our “family friendly” show. Many kicker stories were followed by a Steph comment with some sort of innuendo to which I was forever saying “No! No! Not on this show!” “Absolutely not!” “Are you crazy?! I need this job” and so on and so forth…..Off air, we had some big laughs. Here’s an example:

Right around the time of the Kentucky Derby, there were many stories about a horse named “Big Brown.” He was on pace to be a Triple Crown winner and it seemed like he was talked about for weeks. Right around the same time, Barbara Walters had admitted to having an affair with African-American Senator Edward Brooke. After Hal read that story Steph said, “Well, I guess, he was her Big Brown!” I can’t even begin to tell you how glad I was that we were not live!! I pictured hundreds of complaint letters rolling in and me in the unemployment line!!

A line that DID make it on the air had me waiting for the complaint letters: Steph was telling me about how her and Thom were watching this little squirrel who was outside their window tossing acorns onto their trampoline. She kept saying how it was the funniest thing and they couldn’t stop watching him. Then she says, “You should have seen him bouncing his nuts off the trampoline!” How we weren’t called into the boss’s office, I will never know!!

I was often the butt of jokes from Steph and Hal. One time we were talking about elementary school pictures. I mentioned that kids in grade school always have pictures with teeth missing. I told them about my 2nd grade picture which I had three or four teeth missing. Steph had the best ad-lib, “Let’s get the visual, Hal. That’s back when Keith had hair and no teeth, now he has teeth and no hair!” That was ALL her! It still remains one of my favorite lines!

With all of her kids, she was often on the phone with them as they got ready for school and such. Sometimes I would be giving her the “eye” that said, “the song is ending – we need to talk here” so she would get off the phone. One day, I heard something seconds before we had to go on the air and it cracked me up. Naturally, I had to point out on the air that “Steph just said to he kid – ‘don’t forget to wear pants today’!”

One day, Steph and Hal did something that comedy legend Jack Benny would often do – there would be a joke early in the show and as his show went on, that joke or a variation of it would show up later to bigger laughs. I don’t really recall what we were talking about, but Steph called me a “bald-headed freak” going into a newscast. Hal did all his stories, does his kicker story about a groom who baked an engagement ring in a cake for his fiance (who swallowed the ring). Steph says something about it being ‘karat” cake, and as I went to say how bad a punchline that was, Hal chimes in and says, “Karat cake – did you get that you bald-headed freak?!” to which I was left rolling on the floor in laughter!

Another great bit (well, we thought it was) was about Sarah Jessica Parker. One of the radio personalities that I exchanged bit ideas with shared a website (www.sarahjessicaparkerlookslikeahorse.com) which shows Sarah Jessica Parker’s face next to horses that look like they are in a similar pose. For whatever reason, this website kept coming up in conversation. The Red Wings won the Stanley Cup that year, and we were talking about how each team member got to take the cup for a day. The bit we did asked what listeners would do if they had the Cup for a day or what celebrities would do with it. Hal, without skipping a beat said that SJP would “eat her oats out of it”!

One of my favorite bits started with an argument. Steph asked for a sheet of paper, so I grabbed one off the printer in the studio. Whether someone had sneezed on it, or someone got some food on it, something had hardened on the edge of the paper. She literally asked me “Why do you have to give me the one with the booger on it?” I told her I didn’t do it on purpose and that I had grabbed it off the printer. She told me how gross it was and that I was sick for putting “boogers on the paper.” Hal jumps in and says, “That actually has the makings of a great country song.” and I started singing “Our love’s like boogers on the paper … but it’s snot” which led to hilarious laughter. Another great ad-lib.

Speaking of boogers. We got into a discussion one morning about raisins. I don’t recall why. I told her that I couldn’t eat raisins made from green grapes. She asked me why and I told her that they looked like boogers. I even call them Booger Raisins! I am sure we had some sort of phone bit with the topic and listeners were calling about it or foods they couldn’t eat. I remember we were sitting in our boss’s office and he commented how “Maybe the topic of boogers wasn’t such a good thing to discuss while people were eating breakfast. But I thought it was funny as hell!”

One of the great tricks I played on Steph came from a kicker story from Hal. The story was about someone who got struck by lightning twice. Steph said “Lightning doesn’t strike three times in the same place” and Hal said, “No that’s knock three times on the ceiling if you want me” (a hit for Tony Orlando and Dawn) which led to a long discussion on our COUNTRY station about this 70’s song. I waited for Steph to leave the studio and quickly found the hook from “Knock Three Times” and had it ready on our audio player. I waited for her to read the sponsorship for the traffic or weather (I don’t remember) and as soon as she started to read it – I played the hook from that song. She couldn’t hold it together. I faded it out. Waited for her to gain her composure and as soon as she started reading it again, played the hook again! I did this off and on a few times because it just made me laugh.

One thing that I will forever associate with Steph, and she can probably remember how this topic came up (because I can’t), was a character from a Flintstones spin-off. On Saturday mornings, there was a Pebbles and Bam Bam show which features the kids from the Flintstones as teenagers. There was a character who always moped around and had a cloud over his head that was raining. His name was Shleprock. She probably called me that once, I don’t know, but whenever I see that character – I think of her.

The station partnered with a bowling alley to do a bowling league. We invited listeners to come out and bowl with us once a week. We had bowling shirts printed up and many of our listeners came out and joined the league. Steph’s bowling was always the talk of the show the next day! She would throw the ball down the lane and dance and swing her arms and try to “control” the ball and where it was going. It was hilarious! I’m not sure who had more fun, the listeners or us!

We worked together for two years. We had three bosses. Two that “got us” and liked what we did on the air, and one that may not have. I can’t be sure. We were told that they wanted to save money and they brought in a semi-syndicated live show which was based in Grand Rapids and Flint. Our positions and salaries were eliminated.

Perfectly Aligned

The words “Steph – B95” have been on the pad of paper where I write ideas for future blogs for some time. I knew there were stories to share – I wasn’t sure how to present them. For example, I think the fact that she called the Tampa Bay Devil Rays the “Tampa Day Bevil Rays” is hilarious! Oh, I suppose one day, I’ll have to tell you the story about the “Hoover Maneuver”!!

At any rate, just like the “stars aligned” to set me up to write this blog, they also aligned to make her the winner of the contest and my co-host. I couldn’t be happier for that. She brought so much realness to the show. She was funny. She was entertaining. She was genuine. She was literally our target audience!

Jay told me to consider the following things in a co-host:

* Do they have something to say?
* Do they have a colorful way of expressing themselves?
* Are they reasonably comfortable with who they are?
* Are they emotionally varied?
* Do they like their lives?
* Do they respond to things you say?

He then said, “Get them to talk, and listen to how it feels. If they’re expressive and varied, and they make you respond to them, then you’ve got a decent chance of success.”

She was PERFECT!

After B-95

You would think that when we got let go, we’d have gone our separate ways. I mean, we got her to leave her full-time job to work in radio – only to get fired two years later for no reason! Thankfully, we have been friends ever since! Over the years, it is not odd for one of us to call each other with some story and say, “Man, that would have been a great bit to tell on the air!” I have looked back and seen her children get married, go off to college, give birth to her grandbabies….there is no shortage of great stuff that she could share on the air.

Over the past few years, she has been a true friend and was always there to lend an ear in tough times. She was honest and supportive through my divorce and rejoiced with me when I got remarried. How cool is it that a radio contest not only gave me a co-host, but a life long friend?!

Thanks for the wonderful memories, Steph!

Remembering my friend, Jay

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In 1994, I was working at Honey Radio.  Richard D. had a box full of jokes and show prep that he had collected over some time.  He recycled many lines and adapted them to make them current.  One day, while prepping his Top 12 at 12, I noticed a brown “newsletter looking” booklet.  The title of it was “One to One”.  I glanced at it and there was an article, some “this day in history” stuff, artist notes, and many one liners.  That was the first time I saw it.  It was 4 years later that I came to know more about the author of that publication, began to learn from him, and gained a wonderful mentor and friend.

WFBE – 1998

B-95 hadn’t been on the air too long when I joined the on air staff in 1998.  I was brought aboard to do mid-days.  Art Opperman was the Program Director.  During one of our aircheck meetings (when you sit down with a tape of your show and the boss offers suggestions and such), he heard a break that I had done and he liked it.  He told me it would have been better if I had edited it.  “Time matters” he said.  With that, he reached into his briefcase and handed me a few photocopied articles by Jay Trachman.  They were “Talent Tips” articles from “One to One” that he had been given by one of his Program Directors.

I remember he said to me, “This guy is good.  He knows his stuff.”  I did some research and found Jay’s number.  I explained who I was and asked about this publication.  We chatted about radio a bit and shared a few stories.  I immediately signed up for “One to One” and began applying the things in it to my show.  Art was right – Jay was good!  Each week a new tip, a new suggestion, and, of course, funny lines for the show.  I really felt that I was becoming a better on air personality because of the principles and ideas from Jay’s publication.

A year or two into my stint at WFBE, Jaye Albright was brought in as a consultant.  I remember telling Jay about this and he praised her for her work.  They had been friends a long time and she was on board with the same thinking as Jay.  Jaye was a joy to work with and we spoke often of our mutual friend Jay and the stuff from One to One.  Most DJ’s get a bit nervous at the thought of sitting down with the PD and consultant, but this was not the case for me.  I always found our chats very positive and beneficial.

In one of his weekly publications, Jay stated that there was a “rare opening for a rater”.  A rater was sent all of the comedy lines that Jay had written for that week.  The rater went through it all and rated each line – the best rated lines made it into the publication.  I jumped at the chance.  This meant that each week, after sending the rated material back to him (via fax!!!), we would then go over what he called “maverick items”, which were lines that were topical and wouldn’t keep another week.

I grew to look forward to those weekly chats with Jay.  It wasn’t like work at all.  It was a weekly chat with a good friend.  He often offered advice about a bit I wanted to do, helped me craft a promotional idea.  The more we worked together, the more we spoke to each other about our families.  I came to know his family, even though we’d never met, because of our chats.  He was a good friend.

Some of the most basic radio principles he taught me, I shared with my staff when I was a program director:  Talk to one person; Time Matters; Edit – Brevity is essential; Don’t lie to your listener; People bond with people; Be Yourself; and Entertain.  I will forever remember his definition of that -“If you make your listener feel something – whether you make them smile, make them cry, make them angry, make them think – then you have “entertained” them.”  THAT was one of the most powerful things I ever learned from him.

There came a point where Jay decided that he would stop publishing One to One.  His “family” of readers were sad about this and much of the final year’s publications had letters to “the editor” praising him and thanking him for all his hard work and advice.  It was a very emotional year.

I don’t recall if it was before he decided to stop publishing or shortly after, but I remember he told me that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer.  It must have been before he stopped publishing, as I remember a few phone calls where he told me how tired he was from the treatments.

We spoke often even after One on One ceased publication, whether it was by phone or e-mail.  I am glad that I still can access the last year of One to One, as they remain in my inbox.  I also have a few of his final e-mails to me.  He still spoke of Will, Joy, his granddaughter Sophie and the rest of his family.  He always asked about my son, Dante’.  He loved hearing stories about him and shared Sophie stories with me.

Every January, I still get an e-mail reminder saying “Jay Trachman will be celebrating his birthday – send him a birthday greeting”.  I also get the Facebook reminder on his birthday on January 15.  I realized that Jay would have been 80 this year.  He passed away in November of 2009 at age 70.  What amazes me is that as I read some of these articles from 15 years ago, they still hold true.  Yes, the landscape of radio has changed a lot, but the “tips” are still good ones.  The comedy lines, however, are a bit dated.

There have been times over the course of the past 10 years that I have wanted to reach out to him.  I miss being able to bounce an idea off him.  I miss being able to ask him about the business.  I miss his guidance and his friendship.  As I think back over the many conversations I shared with him … I am thankful to have had such a wonderful mentor and friend.

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“World Radio Day” Thank You

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I guess it never ceases to amaze me that there is pretty much a day for everything.  While everyone knows that it is “Fat Tuesday” (the day to eat those huge overstuffed donuts), I was reminded that today is World Radio Day.  I was thinking about one of my deceased radio colleagues last night as I watched a movie and was going to blog about him today.  In thinking a bit more on this, I figured “Why not give props to those who played a significant role in my former full time career?”

WKSG

Jim McKenzie: I guess I start with Jimmy – after all, he is the reason I decided to get into radio in the first place.  I spent many hours working in a boat marina as a 17 year old kid.  Music on the radio, the contesting on the radio, and the radio personalities are what helped me pass the time on both busy and slow days.

Jim did the midday show and he always sounded like he was talking to you as a friend.  He was loaded with music facts and stories.  I never felt like I had his talent, but I certainly felt with the proper direction, I could do what he did.

Paul Christy:  He was the program director and morning show host.  He is the man responsible for giving me a chance – and ultimately my big break.  I started off interning (yes, working for nothing) while I was in high school.  I worked in the news room and then eventually helped out with the morning show.  Eventually, Paul had me run his Saturday morning show – a show which was recorded on reel to reel on Fridays (kinda like today’s voice tracking).  I would interject the live weather report, sports information, and lottery numbers.

Paul was in a pinch one night and asked me to do the overnight show.  I was scared to death.  I told him I hadn’t done a whole who before and asked for direction.  Bluntly, Paul said, “Don’t worry about it.  Answer the phones.  Play the songs.  Be yourself and have fun!”  That was it.  I must have done ok, because they ended up letting the overnight guy go and I was asked to fill in “until further notice”, which ended up being a good year or two before big changes came to the station.

Johnny Molson: John did the evening shift when I got to Kiss-FM.  He was funny.  He could ad-lib.  He was one of the most creative writers I have ever known.  He knew how to use radio to create the “Theater of the mind”.  He was instrumental in my learning to think out of the box, engaging the listener with words and sounds, and how to use a good “drop” (more on this later).

In the 30’s and 40’s, The Golden Age of Radio was full of shows that allowed listeners to use their imaginations.  They pictured what Amos and Andy, The Lone Ranger, and Superman looked like.  Each person imagine what Jack Benny’s old Maxwell car looked like and what fell out of Fibber McGee’s closet because of the use of “sound effects”.  John knew how to incorporate things like this into his show.  One example I will never forget is when he would “hit” one of our staff members on the head with something.  Chaz was often the target.  John would simply throw something at a cookie sheet hung on the wall, which made it sound like he was being hit.

Today, John remains a good friend who is working in the creative services department of his current station.  He produces some of the most creative and powerful commercials and gets results for the sponsors.  Our friendship is one that has lasted nearly 30 years.

WHND – Honey Radio

Before I say any more, let me say that working at WHND was not work at all.  It was like play.  We had so much fun.  Anyone who tuned in and listened to this station could tell that the DJ’s were having as much fun as the listeners.  Honey was the first “Oldies” station in America.  I was honored to work here and honored to work with everyone here.

Richard D. Haase: Richard D. remains to this day one of the guys who offered me some of the most amazing advice.  I was probably a big pain in his ass.  I was always asking him something.  I had this want and need to be better.  I wanted to be the best.  I was forever asking him to listen to my show tapes and offer criticism and advice, which he did always.

One of the things I learned from him, was the importance of talking to one person.  To create the illusion that it is just me and you listening to our favorite songs and hanging out together.  I understood what he meant, and began to drop phrases like “everyone”, “all of you”, and “out there”.  He also connected me with a mentor who would take that premise and continue to grow into a better personality, the late Jay Trachman.

Richard’s show was full of “benchmarks”.  Poor Richard D’s Almanac (This Day In History), The Off The Wall Record (a rare song that he played each day), and “The Top 12 at 12” (His countdown of the top 12 local songs from a specific year).  He also featured many characters on the show that were sometimes referred to and never heard (another gimmick of old time radio).

His show was also filled with insanely bad jokes.  I often kidded him that even Milton Berle (who was known for stealing others jokes) wouldn’t touch his stuff.    He often poked fun of the other DJ’s on the station, which I found to be a unique way of cross promotion.

There were many days that we’d sit in his office and talk about radio, computers, and life in general and we’d laugh until tears rolled down our faces and our sides hurt.  Richard was a legend who had been on the air for many years, a far cry from being young!  Yet, when we worked together, we were like a bunch of elementary kids laughing and hooping it up.

Rob Main: This is the guy who I mentioned as the beginning of this blog.  Rob was a guy who used to work with Bill Stewart, Ron Tavernit, and Jon Ray doing the morning show.  He was a master of voices.  He did, in my honest opinion, the best Elvis “speaking” voice of anyone I have every heard.  He also did a spot on Charles Bronson and Mohammad Ali.  What was great about him was that he also did other original voices, which became characters on the show as well.

Shortly before Honey Radio left the airwaves, Richard gave us the opportunity to work together on the air so that we could create a good demo tape for a morning show.  Those final weeks were some of the best memories I have in the business.  While there was always a “roadmap” of what we wanted to do….he would often break in as a character and I would just follow along for the ride.  It was some of the most insane moments of radio ever.

He was SO good, that he would often talk to himself as two or three different characters!  I was often the referee who had to come in and break up the squabble that the characters were having!  We were two guys in the studio – but if you listened, you’d swear that there were 10-15 guys!  It was amazing.

Rob was the one who took “drops” one step further.  No show had a shortage of them.  A drop is a clip from a movie or TV show that is played mid-conversation, in a sweeper, or as a way of trying to crack up the other person.  He had stacks of drops.  Many from popular movies like Shane, Robin Hood, The Wild One and others.  Some of the drops were from other sources.   Today, I can watch a serious movie and if a “drop” line comes up, I will start laughing because of an instance when it was used on the show.

Health issues led to an early death for my friend and I miss him a lot.  I can hear him laughing with me though, whenever I hear a “drop” from Van Helfin, Alan Ladd, or Jeff Chandler.

WWWW (W4 Country)

Tim Roberts: There is a reason that Tim is one of the most respected men in Country Radio – because he is one of the best programmers in the country and he knows his stuff!  Tim helped me to understand the importance of preparation.  I can still recall the “Bit Prep Sheet” that he gave me.  I remember him stressing to always have a “Feel Good” or a “heart” story to talk about.  His direction expanded on the things I had learned about editing and creating a bit.

I was only a part time air personality for Tim.  Yet, he coached me as if I were a full time talent.  He respected my thoughts, and often asked me to think a bit more broadly.  Create.  Edit.  Make it better.  He got me to think about things that I could bring to the show that I may not ever have thought about.  He helped me hone my delivery.

There is a reason Tim, and so many of the talented people who work under him have won awards – THEY DESERVE IT!

WFBE (B95)

Brian Cleary:  I’ll never forget my first coaching session with Brian.  We submitted a show to him a week before.  He wrote a critique and suggestions that were discussed at the actual session.  I remember her handed me a piece of paper that had one of my bits typed out word for word.  It was long.  He even typed out the “uhs” and “ums”.  He then asked if I had planned the break ahead of time.  I said I had.  He asked if I wrote it out, I said no – I had an outline.  He then handed me a piece of paper with that same bit written out with red lines through various sentences, “uhs” and “ums” crossed out, etc.  It was like getting a rough draft of a paper back from your English Teacher.

I remember thinking “Dude, you have way too much time on your hands”.  However, the more I thought about this, the more I realized that it was a lesson in time.  “Don’t waste your listener’s time” was what he told me.  “Know what you are going to say”, “Know how the bit will end”, “Edit.  Edit. Edit.”  He was building on things that I really already knew, BUT he took it to a whole new level.

I remember after the first day we did our radiothon for St. Jude, he pulled me aside and told me “I’m so used to hearing the jokey Keith on the air, I wasn’t sure what to expect today.  However, you did an amazing job and you really know how to get the importance of what we are doing to the listener”.  I’ll never forget that.

WCEN (The Moose)

Joby Phillips: Whenever a new program director comes into the building, everyone freaks out.  You never know what the plans are.  It is not uncommon for the PD to come in and fire everyone and bring in their own people.  Joby came in and taught me a lesson that I took with me as I went into management.  “You are all here to do a job.  I trust that you can do it.  If I think we need to correct something or address something, I will.  Do what you do best”.

In today’s society, we see micromanaging in almost every occupation.  I truly admired Joby for this attitude.  When I programmed my station, I had good DJ’s who knew what they were doing.  I let them do their job.  If there was an issue – it was addressed.  Other wise, I left them alone.

In critiquing, both Joby and Brian always started out by pointing out your strengths or something good about the show they were going over with you.  Then you went on to work on the thing that needed improvement.  Positive reinforcement.  Discipline when you have to and praise often.

A few others

Jay Trachman: What an amazing guy.  He was the authority on One to One communication.  His weekly tips were always something I took to heart and brought into the studio.  He helped many personalities and sadly passed away before I could get him to do a critique session with me.

Jaye Albright: One of the reasons I loved working with Jaye, is that she believed much of what Jay Trachman believed.  Her coaching sessions when I first began at WFBE were loaded with information.

Joel Raab: Joel is right up their with Tim Roberts.  He knows country music.  He knows the audience.  He is respected in the business and is a class act.  As a Music Director, I often found our weekly music calls frustrating.  Music can be a passion.  When you hear something that you think is amazing, its important to remember that not everyone feels the same way.  Joel always was on the side of caution.  He looked a music a bit different and it helped me to really think about songs more objectively.

Brian Wright: Brian was the last real consultant/coach I was able to work with before going in to the management end of the business.  Brian’s laid back demeanor and wise observations and suggestions were of great help to me as I began to critique my own staff.

….in closing:

I have met some of the most amazing people throughout my radio career.  I have had the chance to work with some of the best.  Maybe we worked together, but didn’t mention you in this blog.  Please do not be offended.  I consider myself extremely lucky to have worked so many talented people.  Maybe you worked in Sales, maybe you worked in Production, or maybe you were a member of the on air staff with me. Maybe you are someone who started as a listener, and are now a friend.  If radio was the connection that brought us together – I am truly thankful for it…and you.

I miss doing radio full time, but I still enjoy the time I get to do it once a week.

Happy World Radio Day!