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Cruz’n the Borderland: The Spirit of Radio – Part One

I remember it well.  I was driving to the Westside from the Cielo Vista part of town.  I had just exited Executive Center, when I quickly glanced at my watch,  1:20pm.  Yup, 20 mins after one.

I was on my way to speak to someone “in the know.”  Someone in the business and industry I had, my whole life, dreamed of working in.  Someone who would  give me the insights and behind the scenes.  I was heading to a place where I was going to earn credits and a good grade for my college classes, and maybe even *gasp*  get hired and work at!!

And as I looked at my watch, and saw it was 1:20 pm, it was in that moment I KNEW…everything  I had dreamed, wanted and hope for as a job, even as a career…had come to this once simple fact: I was late!

“Hey, man…I’m busy in production now so maybe you wanna come back Wednesday or something…we can talk then.”     Yup, off to a shining start.

Growing up in El Paso, I always loved music.   It had no artistic value to me, though.  My life as a drummer in  6th grade band consisted of the band starting up, playing  the first few notes  note of Crazy Clock, and the band director, Mr. Gerrado  stopping everyone, flailing his arms in front of him and saying “no, no, no…drummers…sit down!”

Everyday, 2 semesters….me, Gabe and Greg sitting down.  A lot.

In hindsight, we got to spend a lot of time talking about wrestling whilst the rest of the band played on.  *tsk*  Should have taken that art class instead.   At least I realized early on that  I wasn’t cut out  for the music scene.

soundwarehouseAt least, not being able to PLAY it. ..but, I did have the passion for it.  I always surrounded my self with music.  I think I was the youngest member of the KISS Army! (thanks, mom!)…after all, this was the mid 70’s.  There was no KIDZ BOP, or Disney Radio back then.  No MTV.  We had radio.  That’s it.

And Sound Warehouse, where I would ride my bike to once a week and buy the latest record or cassette or even 12” remix and ride right back home and lock myself in the room and take it all in!    I can still see the 12 year old me, flicking my fingers thru the records in the racks, “got it….got it..need it…got it…”

And I listened to all music…ok, well MOST music.   Flash back to 5 year old me, dragging my playschool plastic record player into the bathroom so I could listen to my Sesame Street records while I took a bath.  Oh man, I’ll never forget how mad my mom was that day.   No, mom…I never thought about what would happen if I got electrocuted while in the tub, listening to RUBBER DUCKY…thanks for the physics and electricity lesson.

20120718-fat-boys-and-pizza-pizzarulesI remember the first time I heard rap. My friend Adrian Leyva bought a cassette in the mall of the Fat Boys  and I freaked out!  Three dudes, on the cover…wearing t-shirts with FAT BOYS written across their chests.

“These guys are fat, and they are calling themselves fat!!”  I loved it. I just knew the music contained with in HAD to be good, or at least different.

My other buddy Audie lent me a record of Dougie Fresh and Slick Rick’s The Show, backed by LA-DI-DA-DI.

PURPLE RAIN, Prince, 1984
PURPLE RAIN, Prince, 1984

Audie is the one who was responsible for telling me about this most awesome movie he saw over the summer called Purple Rain and how the lead in the movie was this tiny little black man who just wailed on the guitar.   I just HAD to see this.

And I KNEW this was where I wanted to be.   Surrounded by music, in a literal sense.

The family would drive to Amarillo at least twice a year to visit aunt and uncle and cousins, and all we could listen to was AM country music.   I’m talking classic country…from the 70’s and 80’s, the best kind around, on an AM radio.  That’s the only way to listen to that classic-style country.

I remember the first time  I heard Jimi Hendrix.  It was his Smash  Hits cassette and I was blown away.   How I was taken aback and totally lost in the sounds of this 3 piece band…the sounds his guitar made….

Clip: YouTube
Clip: YouTube

I would wake up listening to Jim Zippo in The Mornings on the old KINT 98.  And later, The Breakfast Flakes with Raymond Mesa, Rick Glancey, Chip Terberski, Coach Jamie Chavez.  And who didn’t listen to Crosno in this city growing up??  Even them young upstarts on the rock n roll station, The Q….Courtney Nelson and Big Al….good ol’ Jeffrey Scott.

These were names I knew, voices I had burned into  my brain.    And all I knew at the time was, I could do THAT!  I wanted to…it seemed easy enough.

I imagined the DJ to be there in a little room, talking on a microphone, and when the music played, the band would come in, play, leave, and then just  stand by when they were ready to get called on again!!

I wasn’t very smart, but I did have a hell of an imagination!

Flash forward to a summer time gig working at Power 102….it was my first true taste of what the industry was about.  Met some friends, learned the secrets and answers to questions I never even knew I had!   But I did know, I wanted more of it.  Enter college – EPCC – and while in line at the Student Activities Office  getting my picture taken for  my student ID card,  I saw a sign!   I mean, I saw a real sign!

Volunteers needed for student run radio station.

2tablesmicI spent a lot of time there….too much in fact. And it did get me the coveted title of “Program Director”  which meant “guy who spends a lot of time here”.

We had a sound-proof booth, a couple of Technique 1200’s  turntables and a mixer…broadcast equipment that allowed us to play music in the Annex.

We had the support of the Student Government at the time, and were fortunate enough to get grants to simulcast to all the other campuses via a microwave signal.  We had big hopes for our little station.

At the time, I was taking broadcasting classes, and the last class we had was a practicum class  that actually placed you in a working environment and you were graded on your performance.  Which meant, I was going to study in the field I had always dreamed about, working with people I would listen to all thru out high school…Courtney, Big Al, Magic Mike, Will Douglas just to name a few.

Now at that time,  I was into rap, all kindsa RnB and and Prince, so I was very hesitant about working at a ROCK station.  I mean, I knew the artists, I just couldn’t tell a new AC/DC song from an old one.  (I still don’t think I can to this day, to be honest.)  And I was given the choice to work in either tv or radio…I chose radio. And now, here it was.

I got the chance, the break, the DREAM….and I was late.

“Hey, man….I’m busy in production now so maybe you wanna come back Weds or something.  We can talk then.”

Well, damn.   I had to wait until next time.  And because  I had to wait,  you do too…

About Victor Cruz

Victor Cruz was born in El Paso in the early 70s. Graduated from Burges High School and went to EPCC, where he got his first real taste of radio. He has bounced up and down the dial locally and continues to call El Paso home where family is. FULL BIO

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