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Monday, March 31, 2014

It Was 30 Years Ago Today...

...well, not exactly 30...tomorrow (4/1) will somewhat, approximately, kinda-sorta my anniversary.

My 30th Anniversary in Broadcasting. Excuse me...

...30 Fucking Years.

I don't even feel that old anymore. I started thinking about this earlier today and realized that if I don't write this now, I'm not going to do it tomorrow on the day of this momentous (hah!) occasion.

So...let's see...where do I start? I've had people ask me a lot of questions about my chosen profession over the years, including the inevitable ones of, "How do you get started?", "Why do you work a job that doesn't pay anything?", "Why aren't you like Howard Stern?", "Why don't you want to host a talk show?", and fuck knows how many others.

I've had all of those...the one about the money was occasionally alluded to by my family. But more on that later.

I admit to having an interest and fascination with radio as a kid, but I also have to tell you I really didn't see myself as ever having an opportunity to do anything like that. Not that I didn't dream about it.

Growing up in near the Canadian border, I got the best of both worlds, both US and Canadian radio, and that included music as well as news and other stuff. I remember certain personalities, people, music, etc.

A lot of strange stuff returns to my brain right now...today, these things would never be done on commercial radio, and probably rarely on what is now called "Community Radio." Those low power FM's and the like that try to go as mini-NPR stations, doing their own thing, and relying on the kindliness of the public.

Anyway...the whole thing for me started here:


Michelle Hartley painted this mural in the basement of Saint Joseph's College (of Maine) back in the 80's. I went to St. Joe's in '83, with no idea of what I would do for a career. I had horrific grades in high school; I was at best a bored and uninterested student in just about everything. Lots of reasons for that, but that's how it is.

When I learned that we were getting ready to go on-air with an FM station whose signal in those days reached into Portland, I thought: "Oh...this might be interesting."

We did not get on air until the afternoon on 4/1/84. I pulled a one-hour shift late in the first day. 

My first song as a DJ? I honestly don't remember.

Well, fast forward to a month and a few days later back in Vermont. One day after going home for the break, I walked into the old WDOT-AM in Burlington, and by virtue of the world's shortest job interview, I had one.

OK...so I didn't look back. Much.

It has been one long and strange trip in so many ways. And the shit ain't over yet. I have passed through more stations (existing and not), more formats and more co-workers/colleagues than I can number or even remember. I've worked in the weirdest set-ups, the flashiest studios, and have dealt with the best...and not necessarily the worst characters, but some scary ones to be sure.

When I wasn't being weird one.

We constantly remake ourselves. Sometimes it works, but often it just does not. I have spent the majority if not all of my career not being known. And to be honest, I prefer it.

I am a worker. I am a "Service Machine." This is not a bad thing, you know. There came a time in my career when my ego had to get smacked down, and fucking hard. It happened two or three times, very early in my career. I won't name names, or situations, but the deal was this: 

"Kid, you're good, but you ain't that good. You got a long way to go."

And...I'll add this: "You must never stop learning."

What I mean by that is you must never stop learning what you are capable of doing. When you get to turn your hands to something you never thought you could do, you become surprised and even stunned to find out...that yes, you can do it. And do it well.

Yeah, I've had a few points in my life where I wondered why I got passed over for things. When I was younger, I irrationally and immaturely believed I was getting the shaft. 

Then...about ten years into my career a guy who came up behind me said the same damn things and an awful lot more. I suddenly realized he reminded me of me. Guess we all go through it.

The business has changed. We can go on and on about how bad things have gotten, how the jobs have dried up, how the revenue is gone, and how we are no longer valued.

I call bullshit.

You know, I have not had a full-time radio gig in five years. I'm still jobbing, getting hours when and where I can. 'Cause this is what I do.

I love the business, and the experience. Right now, I am part of a company that is headed into a new market and frontier...radio? Broadcasting? More the latter, but it's all part of the same damn thing.

It may also seem strange to you that I spend two hours on a Thursday evening, hosting a show on a small internet station. 

www.radio-airwaves.co.uk

I do it to keep myself sane at times. I can be like I was in college and play music I like, music that I think has value and play it for others. If you like it, great, if not, that's okay.

People ask me all the time if I like what I do. My response is always the same:

"BEATS WORKING!"

If I had to do it over, I'd do it again. I'd hope with benefit of hindsight I might not make some of those mistakes again, but you have to learn somehow.

Thing is: a lot of us do not learn. There are people in this biz who are one-trick ponies. They do one thing, and it may be good, but it doesn't always stand the test of time. You need to remake, like I said; adopt, adapt, improve. If you don't, you will be on the sidelines wondering why.

I've been a DJ for nearly every format. I've hosted shows, co-hosted shows, produced shows, been a journalist, a traffic reporter, a this, a that, a manager...we all do these things. We don't always have the titles before our names, but we do them.

I think at this point, my career went about the way it was meant to go. This is not just about money, but that's nice when you can get it. I've had other jobs, but this is not a job. This is what I DO.

I also write, I play music, I do the things I enjoy doing. Yeah...I could have gotten a desk job, or some kind of management job, or whatever...I could have made more money, been more stable financially, but I would not have been happy.

Rich People have Rich People Problems. If I was, I'd deal. I didn't do too badly, though. And I'm done.

I like where this thing is going, and it opened doors to everything else. It was not always smile-inducing, these past years, and it was not always fun. But it was different.

That makes it good.

You think this many years is something? One of my colleagues at the new job has been in this business, non-stop, 51 years.

That's right. Guy's a legend...and he's now a traffic reporter. 

He still loves it.

So do I.

Do what you love, life is too fucking short to be bored or killing yourself. Friend of mine once had that great job, but he said the stress got so bad, he was pounding a six-pack of Heineken every fucking night to get through it.

Not worth it.

For me, this is.

I have broadcasting to do, even in the shadows. I make a difference in a small way, but a good one.

I do everything else because I think it makes a fucking difference. Forgive my self-centered thought...even if it is just for me, in that moment.

Been fun...and I have more waiting for me.

Peace, Out.

3 comments:

  1. Congratulations!! Wow, 30 years at the same job, that never happens anymore! Or I guess I should say profession. :)

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  2. I remember when you got back to St. Joe's after one of our vacations and you had a license plate that said WSJB on it. Congratulations for staying in the field for so long....it's a real 'chew you up/spit you out' business. As you know I changed my major to TV Production and transferred to Emerson and I burned out in the field 3 years after graduation.

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  3. Thank you Julia...as you were from my area, I'm sure you'd remember some of the radio and the personalities I recall from youth. They kind of set the table for me, and I didn't even know it.
    --
    JoJo...the license plate was an ego thing. What was I thinking?!? I also well recall a certain instructor trying to feed a bunch of us to Emerson. I could not see my parents putting up the money for it, and I was not ready for a move like that. I have a number of friends who went there, and I was around the campus in the late 80's. Amazingly talented folks, but I learned that a move like that would have killed me. Each of us make our decisions for ultimately the right reasons, I think/hope.

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