Photo courtesy: Howard Stern / Paramount

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

When we last left our intrepid radio personality-to-be, he had just missed his chance in the business…or did he…

I DID finally get my meeting with the program director of KROD  AM radio station, after he was done with production.

I didn’t know what that meant, but here we were a few weeks later, me sitting in the converted AM studio, making commercial tapes, adding  tones to the end of each break so the computer knew when to trip it back to the satellite so that the programming would start back up…yup, this was my job.

Wasn’t too glamorous, but dammit, I did it…I OWNED IT!!  It was my room for the 3-4 hours at a time that I had to do this.  I was even earning college credits for my practicum course!  I was doing what I went to school for!

Back then the AM station, Big 600 KROD, was on satellite programming, and we had these big reel-to-reel tapes that needed to be triggered so that the local commercials would play. Then audio tones were added afterwards, so it would trigger back to the satellite network.

Well, someone was responsible for “dubbing” the commercials down on the reels ever day, and this was my job!  Major responsibilities here…and I loved doing it.  I was finally “IN,”  rubbing elbows with the names and voices of my youth.   Being able to call them my contemporaries and dare I say, friends.

Weekends consisted of running the board for sports, and making sure the commercials scheduled would run.  This is pre-computer days. Someone had to babysit the board.  And it was  typically sports and talk radio at that time.  Its when I first met John Tiecher and Duke Keith, two of the BEST voices in radio, ever!

As I would dub theses commercials and tones in the AM production room, they would be hosting SportTalk.  I got to see first hand how a show is produced.  Then I got my chance to actually sit in the big boy chair and produce shows of my own.   Well, it was more like, sit there  and make sure  Imus In The Morning was still being fed from New York down to us here.

Sometimes in the afternoons, I’d roll out with by buddy  KC  and actually set up remotes and live broadcasts, which meant we would set up all the equipment for the live shows, then sit and eat and drink cranberry juice for 2-3 hours.    I got  to run sports games too, like baseball games…which was as boring as boring could be…baseball…on radio…pretty boring.

BUT  it was those hours I put in,  the hours of learning and observing,  that dedication that got me noticed by the “higher ups”  at the station!  The dedication I put in…the hard work, driving the van, setting remotes up, doing more volunteering than jobs that I got paid for…it all was about to pay off!!

Well, actually, one day,  the program director at the time asked me, in his lispy-high voice he had… “Hey, there’s an opening for a weekend overnite jock, you want it?”  Nothing ceremonial about it.  It was very matter-of-factly.   But my answer was,   “Do i?? YOU BET!!” What is that anyway…??

Back in the days before computers and automation, we ACTUALLY had live jocks  playing music on the radio….and the idea of cds were still pretty new at that time!!

Here’s what the typical overnight on-air shift consisted of:  coming in about an hour early, checking to see if there was any production you had due,  and pulling all the cds for the next 5 hours or so of your shift, meaning  going thru the music log, finding the song on the cd in the back rack  and literally having ready to play!

Then, you got the commercial log and pulled all the commercials for the hour!  Same concept  except for the fact the commercials were on these 8 track looking cartridges we simply called carts.  (clever, huh?)

Then,  you sat there, and did your best NOT to be bored for 5-6 hours from midnight til 5 or 5:30 am when the morning show guys would start to filter in.   And this is years before the internet!

Imagine…NOTHING to do to pass the time except *gasp*  pay attention to what was going on over the air and trying NOT to fall asleep!  I did a LOT of reading.  Read the trade magazines and music paper as I could get get myself familiar with the the format and industry.

 Interesting sidenote: we had these professional cd players that would countdown and at :30 seconds til the song was over, would make a “click” sound….man, how many times did I fall asleep  during a 3-4 minute long song only to be awakened by that click, wide-eyed and awake, ready to go into the next song.

At some point, the parent company purchased a rival radio station and that meant, I had a partner in crime at night.  And it was glorious!!   Now I had a new way to help stay awake and pass the time.

Paul and I would toss a Frisbee or football down the hallway, from studio to studio  just to stay awake.   We would even play UNO, and make movie bets:  winner had to buy the loser a movie. And by the way, UNO with two people is a bit difficult.  But we managed.

Needless to say, when a phone call would come in, you would take the time and talk to the listeners.  At that late at night/early in the morning  you got to talk to some pretty interesting people…and it wasn’t always drunks!   There are a lot of people awake late at night;  working or just plain insomniacs.

Legal assistants were my favorites…they were the more are I say  intelligent conversations you could have at 2 in the morning.   Oh sure, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the  occasional  “partying, woooooo!!” call from time to time, or the “what caller am i?” when we weren’t even anywhere near a contest!

And I DID look forward to Blas from Vado to call.  He woke up at 3 to go check on the cows and chickens on the dairy and farm he worked at…there was Chris from La Luz  who loved talking music and Pink Floyd…there was “my good buddy Ken”  who worked at a plastics molding maquilador and even dropped of some hunks of plastic just cuz I asked him to once!

And then there were the drunk strippers who would start calling in at around 3 and 3:30…they were fun, ‘cuz they just wanted to hear their song. Nothing  more.   And sometimes, if you played their request…sometimes they would call back and thank you…and offer a dance for free if you ever would visit them.

I never did that…honest.  But I digress…

So my buddy Dave and I were sitting at Nero’s, waiting for the next girl to take the stage…uhmmmm, wait…better not tell that story, yet.  Save it for a different column.