A BRIEF, INCOMPLETE HISTORY OF RADIO
By Dan O'Day http://www.danoday.com
"When training new DJs, what are the most important things to
TELL THEM STORIES...
..about how & why you got into radio, who influenced you, your best
radio moments, what you still hope to achieve. War stories about
broadcasting despite impossible conditions, accidentally locking
yourself out of the studio, on-air flubs.
Stories about personal connections that have been made with
listeners: The girl who called to request her late grandmother's
favorite song...The fan who sent you chocolate chip cookies on your
birthday...The listener who berated you for mispronouncing the
name of his favorite artist.
Stories about transistor radios under the bed covers and at the
beach. Endless struggles to control the car radio buttons. "Would
you PLEASE turn that down" and "Wait, I want to hear this!"
Novelty records and girl groups and Motown and Stax and Cadence
and Elvis from the waist up and hearing "I Want To Hold Your Hand"
for the very first time.
Stories about lovesick teenagers dedicating songs back & forth to
each other. About children turning on the radio before they're even
awake, feverishly hoping to hear those magic words from their local
disc jockey: "No school, snow day...."
About loneliness and a solitary voice reaching out to you. About
making a complete stranger laugh or reflect or remember. About
baseball games from far away on car radios. About someone driving
across town or across country, with only you and your radio
brethren for company.
Stories about Larry Lujack and John Records Landecker and
Robert W. and Wolfman Jack and Gary Owens and Dr. Don and
Kenny Everett (ask someone from the UK about Kenny) and those
crazy young jocks who brought American-style radio to Europe in
the 1960s by taking to the seas in honest-to-God pirate radio ships
(imagine broadcasting under the worst possible conditions; now
imagine doing it while seasick).
Stories about bad news and everyone immediately turning on the
radio. About sad news and where you were when you heard it. About
practical jokes and misunderstandings and mild or wild revenge.
About getting fired, packing up the U-Haul, and being scared all over
again. Getting angry, getting older and "the good old days." Static-y
voices criss-crossing in the night. Fifteen-hour air shifts, flaky
jocks, disappearing engineers.
Stories about legendary radio people you almost met in an elevator
at a convention. The major market PD who did you a favor; the
request line caller you can't forget. Practical jokes on the news guy,
disappearing stationery, and a bedroom full of promo records that
one day will be worth something.
Staying up late talking radio, swapping tapes, "borrowing" ideas,
"embellishing" your ratings, deepening your voice, losing your voice,
losing your place, losing your keys, losing your cool.
Wire service copy paper, 15-inch reels, pin-controlled automation.
Caffeine addictions and junk food and whatever the station could
trade for. Old friends, borrowed headphones, uncontrollable sleep-
Razor blades, splicing tape, grease pencils. Draping the tape edit
over your shoulders until it was safe to throw away. Cue tones, cue
sheets, in cue, out of breath.
Slip-cueing, back-announcing, and hitting the post. Egos, rivals, and
friendships. Imagination, excitement, Orson Welles and Jack
Benny and Ma Perkins and Franklin D. Roosevelt and Arthur
Godfrey and Don McNeil's Breakfast Club.
Losing jobs, gaining weight, changing names. "How do they do that?"
and "Listen to this!" Storz, McClendon, Drake...and Chuck
Blore's Color Radio. Play-by-play and blow-by-blow; sports scores
and election returns and Number One on the charts this week.
7-7-7, First Ticket, Hooper, Pulse, "You don't look anything like you
"What am I doing with my life" and 7-day workweeks and "I can't
believe I get paid for this!" Slow starting turntables, nickel on the
tone-arm, the cart machine sticks.
Stories about hotlines, hot shots, skimmers, phantom cume, time
checks, time warping, ratings, feelings, winning, showing off. T-
shirts and coffee mugs and iridescent frisbees. Billboard and
Claude Hall and Cashbox and Record World and R&R and Bill
Gavin's green pages.
Floods and tornado watches and power outages and school lunch
menus. Lost dogs, lost accounts, lost tempers.
Jiving, shouting, rhyming, whispering. Hiccup remedies, lemon 'n'
honey, and good old-fashioned adrenalin to save the day.
Embarrassed, elated, delighted. Hi-Low, Name It And Claim It, and
Dollar-A-Holler. Playlists and station surveys and Good Guys. Q, Zoo,
and Boss. Bob & Ray and Mike & Elaine and The Monitor Beacon.
Jingles, stickers, Chickenman and The Oidar Wavelength. Silly
stunts, intense rivalries...Passion. B-Sides and label colors and
songwriter credits. Favorite songs, favorite artists, favorite
Newspaper wars, live remotes, and meter readings. Shouts,
stingers, sweepers, stagers, stabs. Make-goods, live tags, rip 'n'
read and backtiming to the news. Allan Freed and Dan Ingram and
Beat the Bomb and Lucky Bucks and Battle of the Bands. Pinning the
needle, pegging the meter, riding gain. Feedback and wrapping the
capstan and "Hold on a sec, I gotta go on the air..." Sign on, sign
off, warming up the filament and Compression, Compression,
Gates board with rotary pots; Automax and Volumemax. Intros,
outros, ramps, talk-ups. False endings and records popping &
skipping and carts jamming.
Philosophical Differences and late night resume photocopy sessions.
Tight board, good pipes, will relocate. The big break, bad luck, skip
waves, skipping town with the air staff's paychecks.
Cueing past the splice, heavy phones, cue burn. Solid Gold, Hot Nine
at Nine, Hot 100. WABC and KHJ and KLIF and WOWO and WLS and
making it to the big markets.
Friday night countdowns, Saturday Swap Shops, Sunday drag racing
commercials, twin spins, doubleplays, triple shots and instant
replays. Romantic entanglements, broken hearts, big dreams, small
wins, and "Garbage Mouth Leaves Cleveland."
"NO ONE is to touch these carts! And that means YOU!"
"Were you listening when...?"
"What'd ya think?"
"You should have been there."
Excerpted from The Dan O'Day Radio
Programming Letter, Copyright 2004 by Dan O'Day. Reprinted by permission
of the author. FREE SUBSCRIPTION: http://www.danoday.com/free.shtml