Time for another Friday Photo Flashback. This time around I’m taking you to my room….circa 1990.
The shelf you are looking at sat above my bed (a waterbed…lol). Above it was another shelf with the globe my grandmother had got me for Christmas, some ceramic pieces my mom made me and a few other things.
Just by looking at this picture, I can recall where everything else was in the room. To the right of this picture is the window that looks out to the front yard. On the wall opposite this one, my dresser sat in the corner. Directly next to it was a shelf that my cheap stereo system sat on.
(The stereo had a double cassette deck, turntable, radio tuner, and a place for a microphone. Long before I worked in radio, I made tapes for people with songs I recorded off the radio with me acting as DJ. I know I’d be embarrassed to hear those now!)
The closet was to the left of this picture. All along the walls were photos, posters, and your typical teen wall decor. The shelf pictured here was the focal point of the room.In a way, this shelf encompasses “me.”
Centered on it are the (now long gone) Three Stooges figurines. I really wish I still had them. I marvelled at the detail of the faces when I first saw them. They were fairly expensive when they came out. They represent “humor,” which has always been important in my life. To laugh and make people laugh … It’s a very big part of who I was/am.
Above the Stooges, a treble clef and music notes hang. Both were gifts from my mom. I’m sure the clef hung elsewhere in the house before she gave it to me. Music has always been important to me and continues to be.
To the left of Larry is an award I got in my senior year. I think it was for “Best Dancer” which is ridiculous. I probably only got the award because I did the Curly Shuffle once at a band party. I’ve never claimed to be a dancer. Perhaps when I hit my goal weight, I will think about a dance class with Sam.
To the right of Moe is my high school diploma. I always joke that I was in the half of the class that made the top half possible. I think if it wasn’t for band class, I probably would have done even worse. I was not the ideal student. That experience only helped me when we I finally went to college – I knew what NOT to do!
The two flags were something I got at Epcot one year. They represent my Italian and American heritage. There is more in my background on my mom’s side (English, Scottish, and German), but I tend to embrace the Italian more
The screwdriver on the shelf? I have no explanation for. I’m screwy, maybe? Yeah. That’s true in a lot of ways.
Today is an important day in comedy, as three legends celebrate birthdays.
Groucho Marx was born today in 1890. He had great success, of course with this brothers in the many Marx Brothers movies. He also found success on radio and television as the host of You Bet Your Life.
Bud Abbott was born today in 1897. Along with Lou Costello he starred in many films, as well as radio and television. The team will be forever remembered for their Who’s on First routine.
George “Spanky” McFarland was born today in 1928. He is best known for appearing in many of the Our Gang/Little Rascals films.
The amount of laughter that these three were responsible for is unmeasurable. Groucho’s ad-libs, Abbott’s wonderful setups for Costello, and the fantastic facial expressions of Spanky brought (and still bring) joy and happiness to many generations.
The following is a sort of transcript from an informative speech I did in college on how songs make it on the radio. Some radio friends may find that not all the info is here, but it was enough for my listeners in speech class.
How many of you have ever called a radio station to request a song … only to never hear it?
How many of you think that radio DJ’s get to play whatever they want?
How many of you ever wished that radio stations would play other songs from your favorite CD?
How many of you think radio stations play the same songs over and over and over….every hour, every day!
Prior to college, I worked as a radio personality and programmer for over 20 years. The questions I pose to you, are similar to those asked of me by people who learn of my background. For my informative speech, I will answer those questions by explaining what a song must go through to get on the radio, and what happens to it when it gets on the air.
First things first – this speech wouldn’t be anything if the artist didn’t record a song!
Once a song is recorded by your favorite artist, and the album is complete, record executives decide which songs on the CD are “radio friendly.” In other words, these are the people who decide what songs will be released to be played on the radio. Some of your favorite album cuts, won’t ever make it to the radio.
The first song released from an artist’s new CD is always the one that record companies hope will make music lovers like you and me, run to the store, or surf to iTunes. The hope is that based on that one song – you’ll pick up the whole CD. Hit records mean record sales and money for the record company … and the artist.
But as you will see, it is extremely difficult for a song to get played on the radio.
On average, a radio station will receive 10-20 songs looking for play on the radio. At the same time, a radio station only has room to add 1 or 2 songs to their playlist each week.
You do the math! The song had better be very good to make it to the playlist!
Two people are essentially responsible for deciding which songs are added to the station play list:
The Program Director and the Music Director
* The program director is the leader of the station.
*They put together the talent and program schedules.
*The program director oversees music, promotions, and any production that goes on-air.
*The music director interacts with record company reps.
*They listen to new music.
* They work closely with the program director to decide which songs get airplay.
Once a song is chosen as one that should be on the playlist, there is a series of steps that it will go through which I’d like to call, the song’s “radio life”.
In order to understand the playlist, we first must understand what it is.
The playlist consists of every song, to be played on a certain day at a certain time.
Music is scheduled ahead of time
Each song is assigned a certain category, which in turn determines how often it is played.
This is an actual hour’s worth of music from a local station. It shows you the songs that played in the 5pm hour this past Tuesday (in 2010).
Notice that each song has a category.
A’s are current songs in Heavy Rotation
B’s are current songs in Medium Rotation
D’s and E’s are former current hits, that are now referred to as reccurents.
G’s, H’s and I’s are oldies, which are called “gold” songs.
L’s are Lunars, which I will explain in a minute.
Notice that Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” is in a “Heavy Rotation”. It didn’t start there. There were a series of steps that it went through to get there.
It first enters a Current “Light” Rotation:
• This is the song’s first spot on the play list
• It usually only plays after 7pm and overnight
• It usually plays one time approx. every 12 hours
• Programmers wait for listener feedback
•Positive feedback moves the song up in rotation
Current “Medium” Rotation
• This is a song that is getting good feedback from listeners, is researching well, and is climbing the charts
• This song plays once approximately every 6 hours
Current “Heavy” Rotation
• If a song makes it to Heavy rotation, it’s usually considered a “HIT”
• This song will play approximately every 2 ½ to 4 hours, depending on the format of the station.
With that in mind – let me put something in perspective for you….
Here is another playlist from another station, this time a country station:
Notice the two songs highlighted in purple. Kenny Chesney and Taylor Swift. Both of these are in a “Heavy rotation” and rotate every 3 to 4 hours.
Here’s what I want you to think about. Let’s say Megan loves Kenny Chesney, but hates Taylor Swift.
She can’t get enough of Kenny – as a matter of fact, they are not playing it enough! Taylor Swift, however, is played just way too much for her.
The truth of the matter is that they both play at the same rotation – but Megan’s perspective , and personal taste influence how she thinks about the songs….
Does that make sense?
So after a song becomes a hit and is played to death in the “Heavy” category, what happens to it?
Many radio stations have what is called a “Recurrent” category, which may or may not be divided up into sub categories (Power Recurrent, Medium Recurrent, etc…). Now that the song is a hit and familiar to the audience, it moves into this category. People are still requesting it and it is familiar to the audience.
A song can stay in that recurrent category for some time before it eventually moves into one of three places….
The Gold Category
The “Oldie” or “Gold” category. This insures that it will play at least once a day. This category also has divisions to it. A Power Gold will play more than a Secondary Gold. (See above – G’s play more than H’s, and H’s play more than I’s)
If it doesn’t go there, it may end up in a Lunar Category.
Yes, technically the song was a hit, but maybe it has a novelty feel to it, so stations may not want to play it too often. I asked a PD why they called it a Lunar, and he said, “It plays once in a blue moon.”
So, if it doesn’t go to either one of those categories…..sadly, the song goes away …….
So, now you know…
• The reason why your request doesn’t get played – because all music is scheduled.
•Because the music is scheduled – DJ’s are never playing whatever they want to
• The reason some songs on your favorite CD will never get played on the radio – radio stations are told what songs to play by record labels
• When you think you are hearing a song over and over again – it is merely based on your perception
I hope this answers your questions …. got any more? Ask away….
I’m still trying to process the loss of my friend, Tom Shaner. He passed away just before Christmas. He was my high school band director. He was more than just a friend to me (and many others). He was a mentor, a leader, a counselor, a cheerleader, a boss, a role model, an advisor, and at times, was like a second father to me.
I received word that he was in the hospital the week before Christmas. Due to Covid, no visitors were allowed. I found out afterward that he had been in ICU. Then his family announced that he was coming home to hospice care. Word came very quickly after that he had passed away. I am still in shock, as are many of his former students.
I had been watching the mailbox for a letter from him. He and I had exchanged e-mails recently and he said he was going to drop a note in the mail. I assumed that the note might be stuffed in the annual Christmas card from him. It never arrived.
My Facebook was filled with other band students remembering him. There were pictures of him and many stories, some I had heard before, some I had been in band to witness, and some I had never heard before. Those various memories from band students younger and older than me, were proof that we all shared many of the same wonderful experiences with him. They also were illustrations of the great impact that this one man had on students throughout his teaching career and far beyond.
From a previous blog:
One of the first blogs I wrote here was about the impact of teachers. I listed some of mine. Here is what I wrote about Mr. Shaner almost 3 years ago:
Mr. Shaner was my band director. If you are looking for my stance on Music Education in schools – here it is. “I LEARNED MORE TO PREPARE ME FOR LIFE FROM BAND CLASS THAN ANY OTHER CLASS IN SCHOOL”. There. I said it. I learned the importance of preparation. I learned the importance of punctuality. I learned the importance of practice. I learned the importance of team work. I learned the importance of organization. I learned the importance of patience. All of my time management skills came directly from band class. I learned about discipline and work ethic. I learned the importance of cooperation and respect. The list goes on and on. The lessons that I took from band class in itself can be an entire blog. (I can also add the importance of dedication, responsibility, self worth, dignity, and honor to this list!)
I recall one day in 9th grade, I was running late for school. I grabbed a pair of khaki pants from a basket that was in the laundry room. I walked into school and TS said “Hey, man, you know an iron can get those wrinkles out of your slacks”. Now some people might think this was mean. I didn’t take it that way. Instead, it made me aware of little things like looking good. It was a simple nudge to take an extra minute to dress right.
It was not odd for him to call someone in the office and ask if everything was ok if they looked like something was bothering them. Sometimes he would get wind of a situation someone was dealing with and he would be aware that there was a lesson in it for everyone. He would just tell some story in class with the lesson at the end and it did two things – it helped the person in the situation AND it helped the rest of us in case that situation ever popped up in our lives.
I remember one time Steve and I were goofing off during a rehearsal. It was the day before festival, so it was not the time to be fooling around. He stopped the band and asked us what was so funny. Because we did not have an answer he pointed to the door and said “Bye. I’ll see you after rehearsal”. We sat at the end of the hall and pondered how much trouble we were going to get into not only with him but with our folks. He sent Kelly, the band president down to the end of the hall to get us. He looked at us dead in the eye and said “I did not want you to go with us to festival tomorrow, but the band as a whole voted and said you should come”. He proceeded with the rehearsal. The following day, I was the first to arrive in the band room. He greeted me with a smile and I was completely confused. He was SO angry the day before. I asked if he had a second and he said to follow him to his office. He sat down and looked at me, like he had no idea why I was there. I apologized for my behavior the previous day and told him it would never happen again. He stared at me for a few seconds and got up quickly (which scared the hell out of me). He extended his hand and said, “It takes a lot of guts to admit when you are wrong. It takes a real man to apologize. Thank you for taking responsibility for your actions. I have a lot of respect for you.” He took it a step further and made sure the entire band knew what happened. He said he thought that they should know that I cared enough about them to apologize for my actions. Talk about respect? I have the utmost respect for that man and all of the lessons I still carry with me to this day. I am glad that we have remained in contact all these years later. He was a major influence in my life and in the lives of many students.
His Own Hashtag!
The one thing that showed up in almost every post about him on Facebook was how strict he was about being punctual. “If you’re on time – you’re late!” He always told us that! In other words, if rehearsal started at 4pm, you had better be in your seat with your instrument ready to play at 3:59pm (or earlier!). SO many people mentioned this in their posts. I chuckled and thought he would think it was great that the hashtag #ifyoureontimeyourelate was in almost all of these posts!
The Band Room
The band room represented a safe haven for most of us. It was like a family gathering place. Almost everyone hung out there before and after school. Most of us ate lunch there, too. We did homework there, we talked about life there, we laughed there, and we cried there. Many of us never used our lockers because we kept most of our stuff in the band room!
Mr. Shaner always had something playing over the speakers in the band room in the morning. Sometimes it was just the classical music station, while other times it was an album featuring artists like Maynard Ferguson and Doc Severinsen. I was introduced to so many great albums by hearing them in the band room.
Many student’s first stop was the band room every day. We’d drop our instruments off in the instrument storage room and walk over the the white grease board where Mr. Shaner wrote all the announcements. At the bottom of that board, he always had some quote. The one I remember most hits me a bit hard with his passing: “Live every day as if it were your last – someday, you’ll be right.”
In my senior year, I was the Band President. All the officers had mailboxes in his office. He would often write notes for all of us on Post It notes and stick them in our mailbox. Mine often read simply “See me”. Sometimes, the sticky note was stuck to some flyer or something and it would read “See me on this!” Every now and then, an officer would find a page from the Far Side calendar in their mailbox, just because.
I had a typing class my senior year. I hated it. I would get my work done early and I would sit there for the rest of the hour doing nothing. Eventually I’d as the teacher for a pass to go to the band room to work on stuff I needed to get done. This became a habit and one day I walked to his desk and before I could ask he said, “No. You may not have a pass to the band room.” I looked at him and said, “I was hoping you could give me a pass to the IMRC.” The teacher looked at me puzzled and I continued, “The Instrumental Music Rehearsal Center” (which was something Mr. Shaner had said in class that week). He wrote the pass and told me to beat it!
While in school, I have many wonderful memories of band class and Mr. Shaner. I remember how he would tell us stories about the little old lady that he went to church with, which always made us laugh. Whenever one of his kids had a baby, he’d announce how his wife, Carol, “became a grandma again.” I remember how if there was a part of a song that didn’t sound right, he’d pull out the grade book and go down the line and make us all play individually – for a test grade. Then there was “the parting of the stands”, when he would step off the podium and go directly to whoever he needed to yell at.
When I was a junior, I wanted to be a band director (until I stumbled into radio). Mr. Shaner ran an after school Conducting Class for whoever wanted to be in it. It was part music theory and part conducting. Each of us in the class got to lead the band in a warm up chorale every day. I really enjoyed that. One class he asked each of us to bring a song to the class and explain why we liked it. I remember there being a lot of different types of music and his reaction to each was always enlightening.
The above picture was taken of him conducting the Jazz Band. We rehearsed after school and we got to play at Pep assemblies. Jazz Band was so much fun. It was just a small group of us, and he seemed to really have more fun with us. I remember one of the songs we played was Delta Dawn (the Tanya Tucker song). The sax section had the melody and the harmonies were just fantastic. I was given the solo on a song called “In a Sentimental Mood”. I was scared to play it but he was so encouraging and I remember not being so nervous after he talked to me.
At Christmas time, he would invite the band officers over for dinner or a movie. I remember how strange it felt to be at his house at first, but we were welcomed as friends and family. I can’t remember how many times we drove by his house honking our horns after graduation.
The “Radio” Preview?
At the end of my sophomore year, he had put an announcement on the grease board asking if someone wanted to help take songs from vinyl and transfer them to cassette so he could listen to them in the car. All the music publishing companies would send out record albums with demos of their music for the upcoming season. Band directors would listen to them and then order whatever songs they wanted. He needed someone to announce the title of the song before it played on the tape. That way, when he heard something he liked, he knew what the song title was. I volunteered to do it.
Naturally, before each song, I played DJ and if I knew something about the artist, I’d ad-lib something. I told jokes, and was just silly on them. He must have enjoyed it, because I did it for him the next two years. If we were recording something in class he’s say something like, “Hey, Golden Tones, why don’t you announce this for me.” I remember announcing Duke Ellington’s Mood Indigo by saying, “Here’s a swinging little number called Mood Indigo.” Without missing a beat, he said “Shirley is gonna go around now saying ‘Hi! I’m Mood Indigo!”
He was so encouraging about my radio career. He’d listen when he could. He was always so supportive and interested in my radio job. He often talked about things he’d heard other DJ’s say. In an email he sent last year, he told me: “saw you in front of the microphone on Facebook this morning. I’m always pleased to see you doing what you always do so well.”
Open To All Ideas
He always seemed to want our ideas to come to fruition. It was tradition for the band officers to do a skit in front of the rest of the band. For our sketch, I thought it would be funny to have each officer step into the spotlight and lip sync to songs (this was long before lip sync battles were a thing). He gave the green light and we had a blast!
The skit that year led to us doing a lip sync contest. I asked Mr. Shaner if we could do it as a fund raiser. He was not really sure it would work, and he asked me many questions about it and how we were going to handle things before giving it the go ahead. He was willing to let me throw it together.
He called it Puttin’ On The Hits! We opened it up for everyone, but they had to audition. Someone did Time Warp from Rocky Horror (that won), someone else did Going Back to Cali, and me and my buddy, Steve, did the Ames Brothers Rag Mop. Prior to the show, ticket sales were low. We thought we were gonna cancel it because of that. However, the sales at the door that night sold out the show. We had a full house that night and it was a huge success.
Band Banquet Imitations
My Junior year, the officers were discussing the agenda for the annual Band Banquet. We needed one more speech, so I said I’d get up and do an imitation of Mr. Shaner. That night I was nervous. I got up and started my speech by saying “The longer you’re in band, the more Mr. Shaner starts to grow on you…” with that I ducked under the podium and threw on a bald cap. I then put a baton in the back of my shirt collar like he did. I “yelled” about how nobody practiced, talked about retiring and some other things. As the laughter died down, I realized I hadn’t written an “out”. I went on to thank Mr. Shaner for the many times he opened his office to listen to me talk about life, and issues I was dealing with. I don’t recall all I said, but I got pretty emotional and ended by telling him I loved him. He got up and we hugged. Somewhere I have a picture of that moment.
Remember, that happened my Junior year ….. so when my senior year arrived, he got me back good! I used to have the video of it, but I am not sure what happened to it …. so from memory, here’s what happened:
He always had a spot on the agenda to speak at the Band Banquet. So when it came time for his speech, I introduced him and sat down. He stood up and reached into a paper bag. He pulled out a wig and put it on. The entire hall erupted in laughter. He ran around the hall doing all kinds of gestures that I really hoped I had never done. At one point, he stopped at pointed to the custodian who cleaned our band room and yelled “Get outta here, Bill!” which was something we all yelled at him. By the time he got to the microphone, I was crying from laughing so hard. But he was far from done…..
He began to tell silly stories as me. One of them was “You know, Margaret is always asking me to come over and go to dinner or to the movies, but I tell her I’d rather play pinochle than do that!” (The guys and I would always play cards together, and Margaret was one of my best friends.) As the stories and laughs continued, he paused, said something about a costume change and turned with his back to the audience.
NOTE: Now, if you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you know that we did a lot of TPing when I was in school. We had a group that went out called the TP Bandits……
He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a piece of toilet paper that he made into a mask and the laughter became ten times louder!
He looked absolutely ridiculous! It was the funniest thing I have ever sat through! My sides ached from laughing so hard!
The thing about Mr. Shaner was, he could take you from laughing like crazy to crying like a baby. Immediately after he took off the TP mask and wig, he spoke to us about the achievements of the year and offered up wisdom. I remember he mentioned how after graduation, friends will go separate ways. He said that you could go 30 years and when you met back up, could pick right up where you left off. Looking back at that now, I am lucky to have had his friendship 30 years after that night!
After his speech, I told him that was the worst impression of me I had ever seen!
I’m not going to lie, I hated graduating. I didn’t want to head out into the real world! I was comfortable in the band room. There was talk about an Alumni Band, and I was asked to head it up. I gathered all the addresses and we got it up and running. It, in itself, became a great way for all of us band “kids” to come back and hang out with Mr. Shaner. We marched in the homecoming parade every year and even played on the field once or twice. He was very supportive of the group. When he retired, there was an attempt to get folks together, but it was less successful. I truly believe that this had to do with the fact that he was not there to run rehearsals and chat with. There was always so much laughter and fun when we all got together, but without him, it was not the same.
I remember stopping by the band room one summer and he had lost a bunch of weight. He said he had been doing Weight Watchers. I had been struggling with weight for some time and I asked him about it. He was very encouraging and suggested I go. I remember losing 85 pounds and he cheered me all along the way!
One day, my girlfriend at the time and I went to see the Community Band play at one of the colleges. I was surprised to see Mr. Shaner playing his cornet in the band. There were many other concerts I attended and saw him play. It was always a treat for me. We often bumped into each other at shows. I remember seeing him at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra show, and at a Doc Severinsen show (among others).
Don’t Break Anything …
I can’t recall if it was before or after Christmas, but my son was about 1 or 2 years old. We had stopped by his house just to say hello. Their house was full of things on shelves that were breakable. I was so nervous with my son. Mrs. Shaner told my son to pick a gift from under the tree. He picked a book that came with a CD that he listened to often growing up. Mr. Shaner and I sat at his kitchen table talking. I kept wanting to get up because Mrs. Shaner was “entertaining” my son. He kept telling me, “Carol is keeping an eye on him. He’s fine.” Come to find out he was in their room jumping up and down on their bed ….. LOL
I’d always mention getting together for coffee when we’d talk on the phone. He’d always say, I don’t do coffee, but I’ll meet you for hot chocolate. We did that often. In those times we were together, we’d talk about life, family, and the various things going on in our lives. There were so many times I’d walk into his office at school and say, “Do you have a minute?”, and we’d talk just like this. I always enjoyed his insights to things. He was so helpful when I was going through my divorce, offering some sage advice. He always helped me to see things just a bit differently.
Even in his last email to me he offered up encouraging words. He spoke of how much he enjoyed seeing my daughter in pictures on Facebook. He suggested a few books he thought I would enjoy and offered support about my bible classes. He was such a wonderful friend.
Some Closing Thoughts
Every once in a while, you meet someone who makes a huge impression on you. Tom Shaner was that man for me. He was more than just a teacher. As I stated, he was a mentor, a counselor, a leader, and a true friend. He taught me and so many other students life lessons that we have carried with us throughout our lives.
He led by example. He was almost always the first one to arrive to things and the last to leave. He was firm, yet caring. He was serious, yet funny. He showed us the importance of hard work. He showed us the importance of humor. He instilled in us pride for our organization and in our accomplishments. He made music and making music fun! The list goes on and on …
What an influence he was to hundreds of students over the years! I commented on someone’s Facebook post this week by saying that “no matter what year you graduated, no matter what section you played in, no matter what you ended up doing for a living, or where you ended up, we all had one common thread – Tom Shaner.”
He has been such a big part of my life, I am not sure where I would be without his guidance. I am forever grateful for the moments that I shared with him. I don’t know that I could ever put into words what a blessing he was to me. I am so thankful to have had him in my life.
He always said “If you’re on time, you’re late,” so I am going to assume that he was right on time for the heavenly concert that God needed an extra cornet for.
“What feels like the end is often the beginning …”
I will be the first to admit that this blog is more appropriate for the end of the year. However, with the events of the past few days (which I will elaborate on in a future blog), it weighed on me to write these thoughts down.
2020 brought many things to an end. Sadly, the one thing that didn’t go away was Covid-19. The virus has forced many local and small businesses to shutter their doors forever. The virus cut short the lives of many Americans and people all around the world. It has also put many things in jeopardy of disappearing forever – going to a movie, free samples, touch screens in public, buffets, and even shaking hands.
While not official, I am pretty confident in saying that 2020 has forced the end of my radio career. Stations have their DJ’s broadcasting from home live or recording shows from home. I enjoyed doing it part time and it allowed me access to studios to do any free lance voice work that might some my way. I am sure that if I needed a studio, I could call and get into one (thanks to a few friends). I don’t do enough of it to warrant buying equipment to set up a studio at home. I have come to terms with this and will always look back on my days in radio fondly. I’m a pretty lucky guy to have worked with so many great people.
I am also sure that I am officially retiring from DJing parties and weddings. The equipment has become too heavy for me to lug in and out. The money people are willing to pay is much less than it used to be, and it has stopped being fun for me. There are some events that I would probably still enjoy doing, but those are the low paying gigs. At one time, I really enjoyed doing it, but it has become more like work.
With the end of things, come new beginnings. One up side of not working at the radio station on weekends is time with my kids and my family. Over the past few months, I have watched my daughter accomplish some firsts – and I am glad I didn’t have to miss them because I was working.
There was a time when I was working full time, working part time in radio, and doing DJ stuff on the side. I was never home. That may or may not have been intentional due to my home situation at the time. However, over the past 4 years, my life has changed drastically for the better. I like being home. I love being with my wife, my daughter, and my sons. I cannot wait to be home with them, even if it is just to sit on the couch and watch TV!
So as 2021 approaches, you and I are faced with 365 blank pages to write as we wish ….
I’m sure that the new year will bring challenges, especially since we will still be dealing with Covid-19, political unrest, division, and hatred. But with each blank page – we can make a choice to be positive, be happy, enjoy every minute, and count every blessing.
Well, here it is – my 300th blog post. To be completely honest, I have a few more than 300, but some were kept private. So this is my 300th “published” blog. Over the past few blogs, I knew this milestone blog was coming, and wondered just how a blogger celebrates this kind of achievement. I found that most look back and reflect on stats.
I don’t know about doing that. Does it matter that the most popular day my blog is viewed is Thursday? Are you impressed that in the first 299 blogs I have written 64,488 words? Does it thrill you to know that each blog averages about 921 words? I highly doubt that means anything to you.
A Short Reflection
300 blogs. It is amazing to actually look back and see the wide variety of content that I covered since beginning this blog:
The blog is full of many posts about music – some about specific tunes (Tune Tuesday) and some filled with many songs.
There have been many blogs about television – whether it be actual shows or just theme songs.
I have also written many blogs about movies – some as part of blogathons hosted by other bloggers and some of my personal favorites.
There have been blogs about holidays from throughout the year – some contain specific memories and some are just general thoughts.
I have written special blogs to family and friends – my mom, my dad, my grandparents, my godfather, my kids, my wife, and my lifelong friends.
There have been no shortage of radio stories about listeners and coworkers.
Some blogs were just full of random thoughts and observations.
There were blogs about celebrities – some funny, some musical, some just for the hell of it.
I shared the love story of my wife and me.
I shared with family and friends the news on our miracle baby and blogged about the days that led up to her arrival.
Of course, after she was born, there have been many wonderful stories and things to share about her as she continues to grow up.
I was honored to have my brother write a guest blog for me (and hope to have more in the future).
I opened up about many personal things – my divorce, thoughts on suicide, the changes in my personal life, reflections on life and death, my faith, and so many other topics I kept to myself.
There have been some “Question and Answer” blogs that contained things asked of me by friends and family.
Looking back, I am impressed with myself. Who knew I had it in me?
If you have a Facebook, you know that they will occasionally give you friend suggestions. They will offer up “People You May Know.” Many of those suggestions stem from mutual friends. There are people that pop up and I have 65 mutual friends with them because we went to the same high school together, or we both have the same radio friends, etc…
With this blog, we don’t have that feature. However, through searching things for things like movies, TV, music, and such, I have found many bloggers that share my interests. I follow quite a few blogs and continue to add more to my “read” list. Some of those bloggers offer up personal stuff like I do on occasion. Some respond with personal stories to my personal blogs. Through that, I feel like I know many of them.
Max is a good example of this. He has blogged about things I remember and vice versa. We also share many of the same musical tastes. He actually helped me set up the index on the side of the blog. Since doing that, more of my older blogs are being read than before. We swapped e-mails and eventually phone numbers. When I called him to talk about the index and creating some pages, it was like talking to someone I had known for years. How cool is that?
After 300 blogs, I think it is important to note some of the things I have learned since the beginning. If you are a new blogger, maybe some of my observations can be useful to you.
Even with spellcheck, I make mistakes. I found going back through some older blogs that there are some typos. Some are spelling mistakes, some are grammatical. My one radio buddy, who also works for a newspaper, told me I need an editor. He then proceeded to tell me I couldn’t afford him! I need to be better at proofreading.
There really is no way to know which blogs will be popular. I have written blogs that I think will get a great response, only to see that is not the case. At the same time, I have written blogs that I feel are just “ok” topics, and had a ton of hits on it. You never really know. It hurts your ego a bit when a blog you think is great is barely read, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.
Keywords matter. I try to include as many “tags” as I can with each blog. I have found that this will ultimately lead to more followers and readers. My most read blog? It is about a scammer. I got an e-mail saying that someone noticed I spelled a word wrong and said I should download some app. With research, I found the app is actually something you want to avoid. The keyword “Scam” or “Scammer” has lead to many reading that blog and some even commenting saying that they got the same type of e-mail.
The personal blogs I wrote about suicide, divorce, staying positive, dealing with a narcissist, and depression led to many new people following this blog. Some went as far as to reach out and share their own stories about those things. You know, sometimes, it helps to know you aren’t the only one dealing with those issues.
Each blog represents a moment in time. It represents what I felt at a certain moment in time. Early on in my therapy, I was angered easily. I didn’t realize how certain things by certain people triggered it. I was not a pleasant person. Over time, I have learned to not let those things trigger anger. I have learned coping skills. I am a different person than who I was.
Think about your favorite TV show. Did you like it immediately? The first time I watched Seinfeld or Cheers, I was not impressed. Over time, I came to enjoy the shows more. At one moment in time, you may feel one way, and over time you can feel another way.
Many of my blogs are memories that I want to preserve for the future. Other blogs are about things I have observed. At the time, I felt a certain way about things – over time, my thoughts or feelings might change. It helps to keep that in perspective.
Write about what you are passionate about! Chances are if you are passionate about it, a reader will find it interesting. This same principle was suggested to me when I worked in radio. Share things that “make you feel!” Some readers love my musical blogs while some prefer my more personal ones. I am passionate about everything I write, however, not all things will appeal to everyone. Anyone who comes to this blog will see my love for all things entertainment, but also see my love for my family and my children!
Another principle from radio that translated to writing a blog is to simply “observe life.” Look around and take notice. A successful stand up comedian is one who observes little things, talks about it, and the audience says “Oh yeah! I have noticed that too!” George Carlin was a master observer! Take those things that you observe and relay them. You know the whole “which way should the toilet paper roll go on” thing was simply something that someone wondered about, right!?
I always loved the above Far Side Cartoon. It points out another lesson I have learned. Be yourself. You don’t have to agree with everything I write. That’s ok. You have a right to disagree with me. However, when I write, I’m going to be myself.
While it can sometimes feel like work, I find blogging to be fun. I enjoy writing. I also enjoy hearing from readers who comment on my blog. That’s as much fun as writing them.
There are some blogs that I just sit and write. Others (most of them), it takes time to plan out. Either way, I try to give myself time to think it through and get the flow. It takes time and sometimes, you have to MAKE time to write.
So there you have it ….
Blog #300. As a follower, I need to say thank you. I am truly glad that you are here. I always welcome your suggestions. How can I make this blog more enjoyable for you? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Please feel free to let me know. What do you like? What don’t you like? Feel free to suggest other blogs I might be interested in. Feel free to share this one with others.
Thank you so much for reading. Here is to the next 300 ….
By far not the most original blog idea, but this stems from a daily writing prompt. What is cool about something like this, is that I can probably return to this idea a few times and come up with some different answers. The idea is to take all 26 letters of the alphabet and describe yourself with each one. It shouldn’t take too long. Why not do your own in the comments? Here is Me … from A to Z:
A Always early (“If you’re on time, you’re late!”
B Blessed (with friends, family, and so many things)
C Coffee drinker. (Not sure how I’d make it through the day without it)
D Daddy to Dante’, Dimitri, and Ella (I love them all so much!)
E Emotional. (I am probably too emotional. I cry at sappy TV commercials!)
F Friend. (I have some of the greatest friends. I treasure those friendships.)
G Gaining weight. (About 25 pounds over the course of my wife’s pregnancy)
H Happy. (I am the happiest I have ever been in my life.)
I Italian. (Proud of my Italian heritage.)
J Jokes. (I love hearing them. I love telling them.)
K Kind. (One of the greatest things we can be is kind to one another.)
L Laughs a lot. (Laughter is important. Life is better with laughter.)
M Music lover. (“Where words fail, music speaks.” Music is SO important to me.)
N Night Owl. (Yeah, I work midnights, but I have always been a night owl.)
O Old Stuff. (Love old TV shows, old radio shows, old movies, etc…)
P Procrastinator. (One of my bad habits. I tend to wait till the last minute to do things)
Q Quotes. (Might be a line from a TV show or movie, or a famous quote to apply to life)
R Radio Personality. (The thing I wish I was still doing full time.)
S Sam’s husband. (She has made me the happiest man alive. She is my one true love)
T Trumpet. (Wish I was still playing it in a band.)
U Unique. (The easy answer, but it’s true. We are ALL unique!)
V Vague (Like this answer, for example)
W Weird Al Yankovic. (We’re both weird and I have all his albums.)
X XOXO (I always kiss and hug those I love!)
Y Young (Something I wish I was again!)
Z Zoo (I love the Zoo. Love going with my kids. Favorite animal: The Otter)
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.
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.
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!
Halloween is barely behind us, and we are just a day or two into November. Christmas is over 50 days away, however, it is everywhere! Even before Halloween, many stores had their Christmas displays and decorations up!
For years, people have pondered, discussed, and debated the “how early is too early for Christmas” topic. In September this cartoon was all over the internet:
Just before Halloween, Sirius XM radio began adding their holiday channels to their line up. Countless radio stations across the country flipped to “all Christmas” music yesterday and Facebook and almost every major news outlet had stories about it. I really don’t know why people were acting so surprised by this, because it happens every year! Is this the earliest stations have flipped? No. I recall a few years where some stations flipped to all Christmas BEFORE Halloween.
There was a time when Christmas music didn’t even start playing on the radio until Thanksgiving weekend. I recall scheduling 3 to 4 Christmas songs an hour throughout that weekend, and then cutting back to 1 an hour after Thanksgiving weekend. As Christmas got closer, the number of songs we played increased to 2, 3, and eventually 4 an hour. We almost always went all Christmas music at 12 noon Christmas Eve and then would continue through 6pm Christmas night. That’s not the case anymore.
People inevitably ask me the question – “Why do stations go all Christmas so early?!” The answer is a simple one – ratings! Its not always the case, but most of the time, these stations who play all Christmas music do very well in the ratings books – which means more $$ for the station. Some retail stores do not have the pre-recorded satellite music, so they will pipe the “all Christmas station” throughout the store. That means more listeners to that particular station.
Is it good or bad?
So this brings me to a Facebook discussion some friends were having (after one person voiced his disgust at the fact that his station flipped to all Christmas) yesterday. His argument was that “holiday music increases stress and is unhealthy for people.” I knew exactly what he was referring to.
A couple years ago, a psychologist named Linda Blair said that listening to Christmas music too early in the holiday season can have a negative effect on people. She stated that it can affect mental health triggering “feelings of stress.” She said that hearing holiday music is a reminder of all the things that you have to do to get ready for the holiday. She said the music will cause you to worry about (and become overwhelmed by) the things on your “to-do” list like travel planning, shopping, and planning for parties.
She also said that people who work in retail, especially those who work at places like shopping malls, face a higher risk of what she called “Christmas music-induced stress”! “Hearing the same songs over and over each day could make workers struggle to ‘tune it out’ and they become ‘unable to focus on anything else,’ she said. “You’re simply spending all of your energy trying not to hear what you’re hearing.”
That story first hit the news in 2017, and has already be reprinted this year on many social media and news pages. Blair never really cites any concrete evidence, or study results, so how do we know that this is actually the case? Maybe she is just a Grinch who hates Christmas Music?? Who knows?!
On the other hand …
In response to Linda Blair’s findings, there is another article (this one citing “scientific studies”) that says the exact opposite! In those studies, it was proven that listening to “uplifting music” – like Jingle Bell Rock, Frosty the Snowman and A Holly Jolly Christmas, to name a few – has been known to have a positive effect both physically and psychologically.
“According to these studies, the feeling associated when listening to music can be sorted into two categories, perceived emotions (when we appreciate the emotional tone of the piece, but not feel that emotion ourselves) and felt emotions. Felt emotions are when we connect to the feeling behind the piece we are listening to and it can impact our emotional state.”
As someone who has worked in radio for 30+ years, I know first hand the connection that music has to memories. Do a google search on “music memory quotes” and there are plenty of them. One quote in particular holds true for the next point – from Michigan’s own, Stevie Wonder:
“Music has a strong tie to nostalgia.”
This is why hearing a song from your childhood may bring back memories of elementary school, a high school dance, or a major life event like it was yesterday. It’s also why listening to certain Christmas songs can make people feel warm, fuzzy and child-like. Part of the reason why Christmas music is associated with joy is not necessarily the music itself, but the memories that come with it.
So, listening to Christmas songs may make you feel nostalgic for your childhood or just generally happy, because your brain has already created positive associations with the music. And it’s been proven – research conducted by researchers at McGill University proved that when people listen to happy, upbeat music, they can recall happy memories within a short amount of time. The entire article can be found here:
“In the experiment, the researchers had participants listen to four different genres of original music they had never heard before: happy (positive, high arousal), peaceful (positive, low arousal), scary (negative, high arousal) and sad (negative, low arousal). The researchers found that when the participants listened to happy, upbeat music, it brought about happy memories.”
That being said, there are Christmas songs that can bring about sad memories, too. So I guess there is that possibility, too. For the most part, though, Christmas music is happy and upbeat. That would suggest that listening to Christmas music brings about nostalgic thoughts which brings about happy memories and you being a happier person.
What’s my take on it?
While I don’t listen to Christmas music 24/7/365, I do have Christmas songs on my iPod. When I am listening to it and a Christmas song comes on out of season, it depends on my mood as to whether or not I am going to listen to it. There are some Christmas songs that I can listen to no matter what the season, because (as the latter study suggested) it makes me feel good or happy.
I remember when I worked at Honey Radio in Detroit, we would throw in “summer songs” when it was summer time. We’d play “Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summmer”, “Wonderful Summer”, “Summertime”, and others and then cut back on them in the fall and winter. I have never understood why songs like “Let it Snow”, “Winter Wonderland”, or “Jingle Bells” (which are basically winter time songs that never really mention Christmas) didn’t play throughout the Winter.
There are people who complain just because they like complaining. Bottom line is this – radio is free. You have many choices up and down the dial. There are many other stations that are not playing Christmas music 24/7, so if you don’t want to hear it – DON’T! Pop in a CD, listen to your Spotify, plug in a USB with your tunes on it, or find the satellite channel that plays the format you enjoy. Problem solved!
I have always looked forward to the Christmas season. People tend to be friendlier. People seem to be kinder. There is a sense of happiness that comes with the season. Elvis Presely’s “Why Can’t Everyday Be Like Christmas?” captures that sentiment. Just because you don’t want to listen to Christmas music, doesn’t mean that others don’t want to. Christmas music and the holiday season bring about a joy that seems to be lacking today – don’t be a Scrooge!
Like the assassination of JFK for some people, or the Challenger explosion for others, 9/11 is one of those life changing events that is forever etched in the minds of those who lived through it. No doubt, you remember exactly what you were doing and where you were when you heard the news. So do I.
In radio, an aircheck is a recording of your show. It consists of just your talk breaks. Many times your boss brings you in to listen to a past show together. You listen to the breaks you did, talk about what was good, what was bad, how to improve your performance and so on. On September 11, 2001, I was in my boss’s office going over a show.
I was working at B95 in Flint at the time. Brian Cleary was my boss. We had just listened to a break where I told a stupid joke when our morning gal, Kristine Turner, came in to tell us that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. At the time we all thought it was some sort of freak accident. We walked out of the office and down to the newsroom. The TV was on and there was a live shot of the World Trade Center with smoke pouring out of it. Even the news people on the air were talking about how this was some sort of accident. And then we watched as the second plane hit the other tower on live TV! At this point, we understood that this was going to be no ordinary day. When I went on the air at 10am, I became the link to what was going on to people without access to TVs at work. I recall breaking format and playing news updates. I remember the South Tower collapsed just before I went on the air. We then heard of Flight 93 going down in Pennsylvania. Then came the news of the North Tower collapsing just before 10:30am. It was the busiest and craziest day of my radio career. I remember staying after my shift and manning the canopy that we had set up in the parking lot to take donations for the people in New York. I also remember being exhausted when we wrapped up for the night. We all knew that the days and weeks ahead were going to be VERY different. I don’t think any of us knew just how much the world was going to change that day. My ex and I had just found out that we were expecting our first child, who was due in April of 2002. I remember being scared about the world that our baby was coming into. What we also didn’t realize was how these horrible events would bring our nation together. What follows is something that I posted on Facebook last year and reposted today:
“18 years ago today the people of this country forgot all about race, gender, political stance, religion, and stood together as one after the events of 9/11. What followed was a surge of patriotism that hadn’t been seen since World War II. American Pride soared. Today the country is extremely divided, and not just into two parts, but many.
Today we live in a country where everything seems to offend somebody. We tend to forget that the things of the past have made us and this country what it is today. History is history. We can look back in hindsight and see that there were things in the past that were (at the time) considered to be okay, but now we know they are not. We study history, to learn the things not to repeat. We also study history, to show us the things that worth repeating. Let’s take a lesson from history, a day 18 years ago, let’s put away the divisions. Let’s remember that no matter what race, color, or gender you are, we are all human beings. There are plenty of scientific studies to show that it takes more effort to frown than to smile, and to hate rather than love. Today, as we remember those people who were on the planes, in the towers, in the Pentagon, or were first responders… remember the love, sadness, and the patriotism that brought this country together. Life can change in an instant. Practice kindness. Love one another.” The emotions of that day will never be forgotten. We will never forget the acts of heroism we witnessed or the outpouring of support that was shown by Americans everywhere. The uniting of a nation is one that I will always remember. Today I remember the people whose lives that were cut short. I remember the innocent. I remember the heroes. Today I reflect and remember. I hope you will too.