Random Thoughts and Stories I’ve Seen

In the Creative Writing class I had in college, one of the exercises they had us do was to grab a piece of paper and just write whatever pops into your head.  That’s kind of where this blog is coming from.  What will it contain?  Read on and see …

Screen-Shot-2018-10-10-at-11_44_11-AM

The above quote is from Sidney Poitier.  Randomness will follow:

A forgotten favorite

I forgot how much I love French Toast.  We bought frozen French Toast sticks for the boys at the store recently and Sam asked me to make some for her.  I asked if she would rather have regular French Toast.  She did, so I made her some.  I made some for me too.  It’s been forever since I have had some.  It was awesome.

Back when I worked at Kiss-FM (WKSG) in Detroit, I would work on Saturday nights and on Sunday Mornings, we’d go to the Big Boy right down Gratiot and get the breakfast bar.  We’d grab French Toast and bacon.  It was a weekly tradition, the waitresses knew us, and always had crispy bacon for us.  Good times!

Best-Easy-French-Toast-Recipe-1-of-1-6

A Cheesy Story

I saw a story this week about a woman who has been washing her hands regularly because of the coronavirus, only what she thought was a bar of soap … was a block of cheese!  I don’t get it.   You would think the absence of bubbles or lather would have been a clue, much earlier than it was!  Of course, she said she probably left out the cheese when she was drunk … thank you, alcohol, for another funny tale.  Here is the story:

https://www.irishpost.com/news/woman-discovers-bar-soap-shes-washing-hands-days-block-cheese-181710

cheese_oh_cheese

The Perfect Quarantine Selfie

If you have been on social media at all, there are people who are in quarantine due to the corona virus.  Many pictures are of whatever they are watching on TV, whatever they are eating, or their feet up on the ottoman.  The rest are selfies.  Those selfies take time to get “just right.”  According to a new survey, the perfect selfie takes about 20 minutes to get!  Who the hell studies this?  I have taken selfies in the past, and I may take one or two, but it takes me far less than 20 minutes …. of course, I have no hair, so I don’t have to be sure it is perfect.

The survey says that the subject of the selfie will mess with lighting, angles, and edit with various apps to make sure the picture is “post worthy.” One final fact – only 8% of people will post a candid picture on social media.  Many opt for staged photos.  Now you know.

facebook-selfie-e1573133649793

Long Before Eminem …

No cheating.  What was the first song to feature a white rapper on MTV?  It happened in 1981.  It was a female singer.  Got it?  Sure you do!  Remember Blondie’s song “Rapture?” It features the first rap verse on the channel and it was a #1 song.  Here are some other white rappers and their songs you may have forgotten about:

  • It’s Good To Be The King – Mel Brooks. (It was a tie in with the movie “History of the World Part 1”  Mel was first white artist with a rap song on the Billboard R&B chart in 1982.
  • Rappin’ Rodney – Rodney Dangerfield.  In 1983, I had this on a 45.  He was holding a boom box on the cover.
  • The Rappin’ Duke – Shawn Brown.  Duh Haw Duh Haw!  Ok, I know, Shawn Brown is black, but the actor he is imitating – John Wayne – is white.  This got a lot of radio play in 1983.
  • The Beastie Boys.  They hit the scene in 1986 and were HUGE! Their album License to Ill sold over 100,000 copies the first week! (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) still is requested at weddings and parties!
  • Ice Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice.  This one hit wonder dropped in 1990 and sampled Queen and David Bowie’s Under Pressure. This was the first hip hop single to reach #1 on Billboard’s charts. Eminem once said that Ice Ice Baby actually made him want to STOP rapping!
  • Good Vibrations – Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.  Another #1 song that came a year after the Ice Man in 1991.
  • Jump Around – House of Pain.  From 1992, I’m not going to lie – I love this song!  I still get requests for this at high school dances!

Eminem shows up on the scene in 1999 with “My Name Is”.

I wonder if I still have that 12 inch single of Rappin’ Duke….

515VGQ21zrL__SY355_

2020 Seniors

My son Dante’ is a senior this year.  This coronavirus has basically robbed him (and every other high school senior across the country) of the best year of their lives!  It saddens me.  Over the weekend, he was so happy to tell me that the girl he asked out to prom said yes.  Now, the prom has been cancelled.  Kansas has basically called school “over and done” for the year.  Just like that – it’s over.

He posted a picture of a headstone that read “My Senior Year” on his Facebook page this week.  It hurts me to see how sad this makes him.  Oh, I am sure that some students are glad, but my son was looking forward to so much more before the school year was over.  I still don’t know how they are handling commencement ceremonies.  U of M and MSU have cancelled theirs.

A Louisiana teacher posted a letter to the 2020 Senior Class that is worth sharing here.  If you have a high school senior and haven’t seen it – share it!

https://www.wwltv.com/article/news/local/st-bernard/louisiana-teacher-of-the-year-has-a-message-for-all-high-school-seniors/289-ba3040d2-85fa-46de-bdc5-2605fcbc5bf3

6358976771981085512057249587_college-seniors-900x608

Class of 2020 – I am proud of you!

Rest in Peace, Steve Trevor

Growing up in the 70’s, there were plenty of Super Hero shows on TV.  Wonder Woman was one of them.  Lynda Carter was – and still is – beautiful.  Even as a 5-7 year old boy, there was something about seeing her in that outfit!  Lyle Waggoner, who passed away this week at age 84, played Steve Trevor on the show.  I don’t remember much about his character, but I do remember that whenever they showed him in the opening credits, there was this “sparkle” that flashed off his teeth!  HA!  I tried very hard to find a picture of just that, but couldn’t.  I am sure if you YouTube the opening credits, you will see what I mean.

Lyle also had a role on The Carol Burnett Show.  He was actually on more shows than I remember.  He played comedy well.  He was a great strait man and could deliver comedic lines as strait and as good as Leslie Nielsen!  Did you know he was almost Batman on the 1966 TV show?  He actually did a screen test, but lost the role to Adam West.

Steve_Trevor_(TV_Version)_01

December 2020

It’s funny to me what people think about.  I have seen all kinds of memes and posts on social media joking around about the quarantine for the coronavirus.  There are lots of jokes about how there will be a boom of babies born in December of 2020 because so many people are stuck at home.  Dr. Oz even came out and said that couples should have sex to break up the boredom!  If you are stuck home alone, there was another article about how masturbation can actually boost the immune system!

It will be interesting to see just how big the Baby Boom of 2020 is!

f669dbc6c461fb23719a0ce13a38281e

Work

The situation is changing every minute.  For now, my lab is open.  We had only a couple patients last night, but I was able to work.  It looks like if we have low census or the lab closes, they will find work for us within the hospital system screening people, answering phone, or stuff like that.  That freaks me out a bit, but at least I can work and get some or my hours.

It’s a time like I have never seen before.  I am guessing its the same for you.  Traffic is light.  Everything seems to be closed.  Meetings and gatherings are taking place via video chats.  Life events like weddings are being cancelled (or postponed).  People are fighting over toilet paper.  Visitors are being limited or prohibited in medical facilities and nursing homes.  It is crazy!

b112fe06-8503-44ca-9bf9-40ab12660881_1_3708c8162433db88747eb701bcecfe24

I wanted to share a few things friends posted on social media – feel free to share.

FB_IMG_1584429384982

You can probably add to the above list.  There are many things we take for granted.  When this is all over, perhaps we will be a bit more grateful for them.

The following is a prayer read by our classic rock morning man, Carl Coffey just before St. Patrick’s Day.  It was pretty powerful, too.

FB_IMG_1584453841631

Another friend posted this:

“And the people stayed home.  And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still.  And listened more deeply.  Some meditated, some prayed, some danced.  Some met their shadows.  And people began to think differently.  And the people healed.  And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.  And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.” – Kitty O’Meara

Be safe, dear reader.

FB_IMG_1584486898525

 

 

 

 

 

 

My First Job

Today’s blog stems from a daily writing prompt – “What was your first job?”.  I’m surprised that I haven’t written about this before.  The more I think about it, the more I realize that my first job actually led to my radio career!  Let me tell you how…

ml81b-JKY07394BH2-Full-Image_GalleryCover-en-US-1517604513032__UY500_UX667_RI_VtBAxwWlrDyRXgw4YldZnuY2N7ErPikQs_TTW_

Let’s be honest, what 16 year old really wants to get a job?!  I know that was the last thing on my mind!  Oh sure, I wanted to have money, but I was perfectly content asking my parents for it!  Once I got my driver’s permit, and wanted to drive the car, my dad told me I was going to have to start helping with gas money.  He thought it was time for me to work.

My dad played in a wedding band for many years.  One of the guys he played with worked at a boat marina right down the road from my house.  He asked if they needed any help and he said they did.  So I went in and talked with Dennis.  I knew him from the band.  He asked me a few questions and then told me I’d be helping out in the back cleaning and such.

I don’t really remember, but I think minimum wage was like $3.35 an hour when I started.  I was clueless about boats.  I remember the first couple days I did a lot of cleaning.  I swept the floors and emptied trash.  I also remember washing and waxing boats that were being delivered.  It was hard work.  Hell, I didn’t like cleaning my room, and here I was cleaning the shop and washing boats.  It was quite a change for me!  I remember chuckling at the brand of boat I was waxing – a Sea Nymph!

sea_nymph

Now, I know that according to the dictionary a “nymph” is “a mythological spirit of nature imagined as a beautiful maiden inhabiting rivers, woods, or other locations”, but a 16 year old kid knows the other (more sexual) definition and, of course, finds it funny.

Dennis was my boss.  He was also a salesman.  A couple other salesmen worked there, too.  Bob and Gary.  I remember Gary always called me Cosmo (this was long before Seinfeld).  I don’t remember much about the showroom, other than some of the boats that were in there, the racks of accessories, and a sign for one of the brands of motors we sold.

il_794xN_1945548247_6p7k

In the shop, there were some mechanics who worked on the motors. The only one I remember was Leo.  He was a big guy who I always thought looked like a wrestler or body builder!  He was very friendly, though and I liked him.  He made me laugh a lot.

Dave was the Service Manager. I think we started talking about the Three Stooges one day, and became instant friends.  When I was promoted to work in the Parts Department, I worked very closely with him.  He would send parts requisitions and orders for jobs that they were working on in the back.  My job was to gather what parts we had in inventory and order what we didn’t have.

parts1

It was while I was working back in the Parts Department that I really got a glimpse at how expensive owning a boat was! I was clueless about motors and Dave was very helpful in schooling me on some of the important basics.  He told me about the most commonly ordered parts and I learned about water pumps, crankshafts and O-rings! I also learned that this fancy gadget is called an “impeller”:

Water-Pump-Impellers-replace-Mercury-Mariner-Outboard_jpg_350x350

And this thing is called a “Flush Muff”:

H06a3c2d0a0794f449baa5209de9a9b00O

Whenever someone came to the Parts counter, I needed to ask them what motor they had.  Once I knew if it was a Johnson, Evinrude, Mariner, Mercury or Volvo, I could grab a Microfiche and look for whatever part they needed.  We had this big honking microfiche machine where I slid the films into and it would project the schematics on the screen so I could find parts.

microfiche_reader

There were plenty of times I had NO CLUE what the customer was asking for, so I called Dave up to the office.  He could usually find whatever it was in like 3-10 seconds!  He also knew the “exceptions”.  “Oh, that’s a 1979?  Well, for that motor, you need ….”  I was amazed at how much he knew.  He was such a great help!

I remember he always ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day.  I remember he was a big Monty Python fan, and we often spoke in quotes from their bits.  There were times where him and I would be working late and for no reason at all he’d hit the page into the shop and just laugh or say something silly.  So I’d be in the parts room and I would hear the “ding” in the shop followed by him laughing!  He did a spot on Archie Bunker impression, too!  We had a lot of laughs while I was there.

Dave remains a good friend.  He often offered up an ear when I was dealing with stuff at home.  He always had some great advice.  He also was instrumental in clearing up some issues I was having with some things of a religious nature.  I can never thank him enough for his counsel on those things!

As I think about it, I was very lucky to work here.  They were very understanding of my schedule, even if it meant more work for everyone else.  As a band kid, we had football games, concerts, after school rehearsals, band festivals, and so many other things.  I would often go right after school to work and on a normal day worked 3p-6p (they closed at 6).  Some days I would only be able to go in and work a couple hours.  Many times, I would only be there long enough to put in the orders for the day because I had band rehearsals.  I know that Bob probably hated the fact that I was there sporadically.

Summer time I was there more.  We used to run over to the Dairy Freeze for burgers for lunch.  I’d work full days until the week of Band Camp.  Summers were busy at the boat place!  There would be a steady stream of customers at the window needing parts.  The radio played all day while I worked.  The two things I remember ordering the most were (1) these little blue O-rings that everyone seemed to need and (2) propellers.

6e38ce667d9cb48600b51bbc93768651

I am sure they are more expensive now, but I remember these things being about $120 for aluminum props.  I remember having to know what “pitch” they were, too.  The stainless steel props were like $300 if I remember right.  We also sent props out to be reconditioned.  Usually they’d bring it in with some big chunk taken out of it because they hit a sand bar or a log or something.  Sometimes they could fix it, other times they couldn’t.

When winter rolled around, we did a lot of winterizations of motors and shrink wrapping of boats.  That’s the crappy thing about Michigan, you can really only use your boat about 3-4 months out of the year.  I want to say by October or November, they would run on a skeleton crew.  Hours were cut because we just weren’t busy.  After all the winterizing was done, I had to do inventory.  I HATED inventory.  You had to go into every box and count everything to make sure that the inventory was correct.

It was during this slow time that I paid more attention to the radio.  Paul Christy and the Christy Critters were on WKSG Kiss-FM in the morning.  I would get to work at 9am and hear their last hour.  At 10am, Jim McKenzie came on.  I listened to him every day.  I always tried to guess his “Slow Motion Stumper” (a song intro that he slowed down a lot).  One day I actually won – movie tickets to see the movie “Can’s By Me Love” which starred a VERY young Patrick Dempsey!!

The more I listened to Jim, I always felt like he was having fun.  He was great talking with listeners.  He always had great topics to talk about.  He had loads of trivia stuff that would say about the songs he played.  This guy was getting paid to do something FUN, while I was counting friggin’ O-rings and impellers! It was during the summer of 1987 that the idea of working in radio first entered my head….all because of Jim McKenzie and Kiss-FM.

WKSG_Mount_Clemens_1985b

It’s funny how that first job eventually led me to my radio career.  I started as an intern and eventually got the overnight show.

I still hear from Dave regularly on Facebook.  Dennis and I are still friends, too.  I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to work at Suburban Marine.  I had hoped to find a copy of their logo, which was kind of a boat steering wheel like this:

81jc9ioMHVL__AC_SX522_

I can’t remember how many years I worked at Suburban, but it was probably like 2-3 years.  I remember while I was in school, I also started doing work as a stage technician (running lights and sound), and was working at Kiss-FM as an intern every morning before school late in my senior year.

If I had actually gone out to look for a job as a 16 year old, I know I would have never looked at a boat place.  I probably would have ended up at some fast food place or something.  It was a good job where I learned a lot.  It also gave me plenty of time to work on homework, study, practice my trumpet, or go out toilet papering houses at night.

Now that I think about it … I wonder why no one from work ever took me fishing?! I must have been a real pain in the ass……

unnamed-261

 

 

 

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.

pilot

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.

charlie-dore-pilot-of-the-airwaves-sha

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]

charlie

Thinking about “creativity”

creativity_main

Today’s blog comes from a daily writing prompt asking “What does a typical brainstorming session for you entail? How do you get creative?” As I thought about this, it is a bit disappointing. I feel as though my creativity is lacking more than I care to admit.

When I was doing radio full time, I prepped a show every day. I was always on top of the news, I watched (or at least read about) the “hot” TV shows that people were talking about, I was tuned into local happenings, and was always writing. I carried a notebook with me to jot down observations, and things to talk about on the air. I also wrote down ideas for future shows, jokes, or bits. Today, my life basically consists of waking up, driving to work, working, driving home, sleeping – then repeat. When you don’t observe or create on a daily basis…it becomes difficult to do.

As I prepared to write this, I found some great quotes on creativity….

Creativity Quotes:

Steve Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

Earl Nightingale says, “Creativity is a natural extension of our enthusiasm.”

Edward de Bono says, “Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.”

Ken Robinson says, “Creativity is putting your imagination to work, and it’s produced the most extraordinary results in human culture.”

And, Julia Cameron says, “Creativity is always a leap of faith. You’re faced with a blank page, blank easel, or an empty stage.”

CREATIVE LADY

Why is being creative and creativity important?

On the website for the Topeka, Kansas public library, Betsy Roe says, “It is because it makes life infinitely interesting and fulfilling. Creativity is a way of living life that embraces originality and makes unique connections between seemingly disparate ideas. Creativity is about living life as a journey into seeing and communicating the extra-ordinariness of the simplest, most every day acts.”

She continues, “We often think about creativity as making something, but in fact the root meaning of the word means ‘to grow’. When we are creative we feel as if the world and all that is in it is vibrantly alive. Creativity’s by-products are some of the major achievements of civilization–from the invention of the wheel to Mozart’s sonatas. Human beings are essentially born creative–from infancy on we find innovative ways to negotiate life. The most creative people find ways around obstacles because they see them not just as roadblocks but also as opportunities. Creativity expands our perceptions and along with expanded perceptions come new ways of problem solving.”

Pretty powerful stuff, huh? The quotes and paragraphs above have prompted and encouraged me to once again be creative! They also have caused me to look back at a time when I was a bit more creative, and to people who I admire for their creativity.

Creative influences

With 30+ years in radio, I have worked with some very creative people. Each was creative in their own way. Many of them were morning show personalities and had quick wit. Two morning guys come to mind immediately…

Two Jims – Bosh and Biggins.

I worked with Bosh in Detroit and in Saginaw. I would compare him to Robin Williams. He was always “on”. Give him a random topic and he could do a 10 minute bit on it and be hilarious. He is also a voice actor and can do many voices, bouncing from voice to voice, which he would obviously incorporate into his show. When given free reign to ad-lib, he always made me laugh and left me wondering “how the hell does he do that?!”

I worked with Biggins in Flint and Saginaw. He is one of the fastest wits, I have ever met. There is never a shortage of punch lines, some of which you could never tell on the air! The way he can come up with a pun or an association to create a punch line with little or no prep just amazes me. Sometimes I can read a story and try to come up with a punch line and just struggle, not Jim. He’s often got two or three. I’ve always wished I could be as quick witted as he is.

Mr. Molson

I have mentioned Johnny Molson in past blogs, and he certainly needs a spot here in a blog about creativity. When we worked together at WKSG, Kiss-FM in Detroit, he did the evening show. He also wrote and produced copy for our voice guy (the great Stu Bowers). We really had a lot of fun on that station, and that fun was also conveyed in the sweepers that played between records.

I always looked forward to when new pieces of imaging showed up in the studio. Stu had a wonderful delivery to the lines that Johnny wrote. He could be very serious or very playful. Two pieces of imaging that I remember are examples of both.

His serious delivery was perfect for a sweeper that talked about how every station in Detroit, except ours, emitted harmful waves that were dangerous to wild life. It talked about how important it was to listen to us and not those other stations. In that serious voice, he says, “The choice is yours. You can listen to WKSG Kiss-FM and know you are doing your part for the environment or you can listen to those other stations and watch innocent penguins in the Antarctic barbecue!”

His playful read was perfect for another sweeper I remember. His read was perfect. It started serious – “WKSG, Kiss-FM. Listening to us is better than sex!” Then, he loosens up and says, “Well, maybe not … but it did give me a chance to say ‘sex’ on the radio. Whoops I said it again! I’ll say it again, sex, sex, sex….” he giggles and laughs as the thing faded out. It was funny and probably a bit controversial for 1989, but it got people talking and listening – and that is what you wanted.

Those things that Johnny created were just brilliant. His evening show was like a morning show – it had bits, sound effects, regulars, and a lot of laughter. LONG before Whose Line Is It Anyway came to TV, Johnny and some other guys used to perform at coffee shops and on stage doing improve comedy. I had the pleasure of watching this group many times and it was hilarious! No matter what suggestion was made by the audience, he and the group were able to ad-lib and create the scenes. I still think back to those shows and remember realizing just how talented he was – and still is. He still occasionally gets together with the group and performs. No surprise that he is the creative services guy at his current station. He is consistently writing and producing award winning commercials for clients. He has also written a book and speaks about advertising.

They say the right side of the brain is what controls the creative and artistic aspects of a person. I always loved that he named his business Right Brain Visions.

CREATE

Jeff “from Burton”

Jeff Michaels isn’t in radio anymore, and that’s a shame. He’s a very funny guy. He and his buddy Tim (who I will talk about more in a minute) both started in radio at about the same time. He was just an intern when I met him. He started working at a small AM station and eventually teamed up with Tim to have the top rated shows in markets in Arkansas and Ohio.

I remember he would occasionally call my show as some character and ad-lib some ridiculous story or joke. Eventually, that character became “Jeff from Burton.” I asked him to cut a bunch of lines for me that I could play over song intros. I think I wrote some, but many of them he ad-libbed. One I remember went something like “Hi, I’m Jeff in Burton. You’re listening to Keith Allen on B-95. He eats crayons (breaks into huge laughter and abruptly stops) … wait, that’s me.”

His warped sense of humor stemmed from some great creativity!

Tim Timmerman

While all of the people I have mentioned are all very creative, this guy is one of the most creative – Tim Timmerman. As I stated, he worked with Jeff Michaels and they dominated the markets they were in when they were doing their morning show. They understood how to drive listeners to their website with video content, and how to connect with their audience. Separately, they are both very talented. Together, they were dynamite!

Before they worked together, Tim had a show in Port Huron. Once a month, he’d drive over to Flint and after my show, we’d go into the production room and brainstorm. If I had to pick a time when I was most creative – this would be it. We’d look ahead at what was going on and jot down possible ideas. Some ideas came from bouncing thoughts about topics off each other. Some ideas took longer to emerge than others.

I think that first get together, we wanted to create some phoney commercials for each other. I voiced his stuff and he voiced mine. One of the first ideas was a fan club. What if we both had fan club? We wrote and created a very convincing spot inviting people to become a member of the Keith or Tim Fan Club. “You’ll get a membership card made out of high quality construction paper that gets you free water at area restaurants and an autographed Post-It note.” I used to play it once a show. I remember a gal came up and wanted her membership card! So I went out and made one for her!

Before Christmas, we were talking about whatever the “hot” toy was that year (probably a Playstation or something like that). We made a fake commercial for “Keith Allen” and “Tim Timmerman” Action Figures! “Get your kids what they REALLY want this Christmas! Collect all 42!” Shameless self promotion and funny stuff.

Also before Christmas, I thought it would be funny to say I shopped at a non-existent store every year. I said that our engineer ran a patch into their PA system for me, so I could listen any time I wanted – so I wouldn’t “miss any deals”. I found this extremely cheesy version of Jingle Bell Rock (played on strings – you know, your typical bad music that plays in department stores), and used that as the background music. I put on a voice that made me sound drunk and I would talk about what was going on in various departments of the store. I had a punch line for each bit and as the PA announcer, I was about as incompetent as I could make him. Every time I “checked in” after every punch line, I would usually say something like “Thousands of people are out of work – and this guy still has a gig!” or something like that. That bit stemmed from a creative brainstorm session with Tim.

At election time, as you know, there are countless ads for politicians. So Tim and I created spots promoting us. “Keith Allen for DJ”. You know how at the end of the ads it will say something about being “paid for by Joe Crawley for Congress” or “paid for by Democrats who want your vote committee”? I wish I still had a copy of my phoney ad – I actually called my mom and had her say, “Paid for by Keith Allen’s mother.”

One of the things Tim and I would look at when we brainstormed was what month it was. There is no shortage of “May is ____________ month” months. Some of the months that we found were just crazy. One of my all time favorite bits was one we did for June. June, in case you didn’t know, is National Accordion Awareness Month! I would think you’d be aware of an accordion if it was nearby! Tim and I produced a simple sweeper that would play between songs. It stood out like a sore thumb, because it was so ridiculous. Here is that sweeper in a nutshell:

“B-95’s Keith Allen reminds you that June is National Accordion Awareness Month. Here’s an Accordion Awareness Month update: (Insert some silly 10 second clip of accordion music). Listen all month long for more Accordion Awareness Month Updates!”

The idea was to make the listener wonder “What the hell was that?” Mission accomplished!

Time to get back in the creative saddle

Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu says, “The creative process is mysterious; a conversation, a ride in the car, or a melody can trigger something.”

The great Miles Davis says, “I’m always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up every morning… Every day I find something creative to do with my life.”

With all of the positive changes that have happened in my life over the past couple years, it is time for me to be more creative. I used to write songs. I used to write jokes. I used to write stories. I used to create. I have decided to once again grab my little notepad and begin observing. Once again, I will look for things that might otherwise go unnoticed. I will take note of things that can spawn an idea for a bit or joke. I will be inspired by those who have had some creative influence on me and use my “right brain”.

“Creativity is intelligence having fun!” – Albert Einstein.

CREATIVE

Go! Be Creative!

“World Radio Day” Thank You

.facebook_1518503022031

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!