So, I thought today was my radio anniversary. I thought today was the day 35 years ago I applied for my first ever job, which just happened to be at a radio station. I was wrong — it was a month ago.
It was on June 30, 1980 I filled out an application for an on-air gig at the local country station in my hometown. I was still in high school, but it was summer break and I was looking for some extra cash. I also had a job possibility lined up working the stock room at a drug store, but I figured radio would be so much easier. Sit there, spin records, talk, check off commercials? Sign me up!
It was country music, which I abhorred (I was already deeply in love with prog rock at the time), but it seemed like such an easy gig. Moving boxes in a stock room just didn’t compare.
I must have passed the interview because a few days later (I’m sorry, I don’t remember the date) I got the job at WSWN-FM in Belle Glade, FL. (The station’s still there, now it’s called WBGF The Bar and it’s a rock station. Oh, that they would have let me play rock back then!) There wasn’t much of a format to follow – there was a stack of 45 rpm records and a few albums in the studio, and my job was to just make sure there wasn’t any dead air. No music log, no rotations. There was Mutual News at the top of the hour and Florida Network News at the bottom. Maybe a maximum of 4 or 5 commercials an hour that we were supposed to play whenever. Music was on records at the time. I still remember cue burns. I still recall which labels used cheaper material and whose records would cue burn after just one play.
And while we were a (barely-formatted) country station during the day, at 8 PM this dude called Nat the Cat would come in and play soul and r&b records until midnight. Yes, those were the days. Imagine a station doing that today. After Nat, back when we kept the transmitter on all night, there was the Larry King show. Yes, that Larry King. Oh, and there were high school football games we carried live — and some on “tape delay,” which meant playing it off a cassette player while holding it up to the microphone.
I didn’t intend for it to be a career. Somehow it just happened. I just kept doing it. Eventually I moved to Stuart, FL, then to Orlando, then Miami, and finally to L.A. Not a bad track if I say so myself. Along the way I’ve done about everything in radio except be an engineer or a salesperson. I’ve been a DJ, a program director, a talk host, I’ve invented formats, and here in my new halcyon days I’m a news anchor.
I’ll keep doing it until I figure out what I want to be when I grow up.