We Are the Choices We Make

WSM(15)From my earliest days, I knew what I wanted to do in life. Drive a car, fly a plane and be a disc jockey.

I know, they don’t seem like big hairy audacious life goals, but to an eight year old, they were.

Disc Jockey

You might be surprised to learn that the goal of becoming a professional disc jockey on an AM radio station came first. I actually had to have my mom drive me to the radio station and pick me up after my shift and I’m sure it was a kick for both of my parents to hear their youngest son on the radio.

My mother was a radio listener. My father never was.

Driver’s License

By the time I got my driver’s license and was graduating from high school, my radio work had earned me enough money to buy my first car and head off to college.

My course of study in college was in physics and education. I was on the path to becoming a teacher. My parents didn’t feel that becoming a full-time disc jockey was a career with any future and wanted me to have a college degree and a career I could fall back on.

While pursuing my undergraduate degree, I worked to get an FCC license for an FM radio station for my college and became the first general manager of WJJW 91.1FM. Between classes I DJ’d on my college radio station, and on weekends, holidays and summers, earned money working in professional radio.

I never had a student loan and between my radio work and playing a trombone in professional marching and concert bands, I not only paid for my college education but saved some money too.

1968 was when minimum wage paid the most money per hour in the history of the minimum wage law in America. You can’t do what I did on minimum wage today.

Airborne

Flying a plane wouldn’t happen until 17-years later. I was promoted to general manager of WIIN-AM/WFPG-FM in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The previous general manager had worked out a trade deal with our local airlines, which also provided our news/talk AM planeradio station with local traffic reports during beach season. When I took over the job, everything was already in place for flying lessons and I took advantage of the arrangement and learned to fly.

Soloing a plane over the South Jersey Shore Beaches in the summer time on the weekends was such a thrill.

Teaching

IMG_3351Whenever people would ask me what I wanted to do next with my life, my answer was always the same, teach. Yes, I wanted to teach at a college or university the very profession that I had spent my entire working life doing, radio.

When Clear Channel was doing major RIFs (Reduction In Force) in 2009, I one day found myself with a surprise visit from my Regional Vice President. For the past year, I had spent being told who I needed to terminate next in my radio stations and I knew this time it was me. It was the worst year in radio I ever had.

The good news was, I saw in Radio Ink that Western Kentucky University was looking for a broadcast professor to teach sales, management, history and other radio/media courses. The position perfectly described my background and because of my two college degrees, both in education, I knew I had found the final path of my professional life.

I moved to Kentucky. Helped Dan Vallie to create the KBA/WKU Radio Talent Institute and over the course of seven years did research on the future of radio, along with creating this very blog, that I’ve been writing weekly for over five years.

Disc Jockey, Second Act

Before retiring from the university, Joe Limardi, then operations manager for WSM 650AM in Nashville, invited me to come to Music City and do a radio shift on The Air IMG_2368Castle of the South. Joe Limardi had been a guest professional broadcaster in my Capstone Class at WKU and it was during his lectures with my students that I learned that Joe had grown up listening to me on the radio back in our hometown of Pittsfield, Massachusetts on WBEC 1420AM. Joe always thought of me as a disc jockey and little did I know I inspired him to pursue a radio career.

IMG_2352I had not been behind the mic on a radio station in 35-years. I had a 10-minute lesson in how to run the control board from Joe and then was off on my own to do the next four hours on The Legend WSM.

Soloing on WSM that day was a thrill, one I had not had since my flight instructor got out of the plane one day and said, “Take it around by yourself.”

But my disc jockey second act didn’t end that day, I continue to do a VT midday shift (EST) on WMEX-LP out of Rochester, NH and heard worldwide on TuneIn Radio.

One thing is clear, we are the choices we make.

Don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t do it.

 

 

 

 

12 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

12 responses to “We Are the Choices We Make

  1. Gregg Cassidy

    Great journey full of adventure.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dick,

    Ya got me with this one. As a little kid I wondered about the flashing red lights we’d see from our new suburban home. Once I found out that there were 4 stations near our new home I had to see what went on behind the scenes. I was lucky enough to be part of 3 out of those 4 stations. Late night listening brought in stations like WKBW Buffalo, WLW, WSAI and WCKY, Cincinnati, WLAC,Nashvile. Not only was I involved in some way with those stations (and I had keys to the WGR/WKBW transmitter building!). The Army brought me out west to experience KHJ (AM and FM), KFRC, XERB (XPRS) and others. Never did I imagine hearing my voice on any of those stations – but I did!! The feeling of “piloting” K-Earth 101 or WLW Cincinnati, or even WSAI (now WCKY) in Cincinnati..knowing that you could be heard by MILLIONS of people is only eclipsed by the day you became a fully licensed driver.

    Being a “Disc Jockey” has served me well since my first radio job in 1966, I never aspired to teach, but had to as a programmer. Not everyone was a good “student” but some of those who appeared to listen have gone on to bigger and better things. My high school girlfriend was the type who-at the end of our relationship-said I wouldn’t amount to much. I think I showed her.

    Thank YOU for showing us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dave, what a great story. Thank YOU for sharing that with me.

      Life is an incredible journey. Not every turn bring something you had hoped for, but every turn does teach you something new. How you react to life’s speed bumps can make all the difference.

      May we both never out-live our dreams.
      -DT

      Like

  3. Dave Jagger

    What a great story, Dick. Funny how those three things were the same life acomplishments many of us in radio including myself wanted to do.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Dave Jagger

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Steve Jay

    Dick,
    Always enjoy reading your blog and your take on things.
    You mentioned your involvement with WMEX-lp, so I looked up the station’s website. I didnt realize Larry Kratka did “Nothing But Old 45s” over there. He also does the show for us at WAPJ-FM in Torrington, CT.
    I left commercial radio in 2006, got a “regular” job, and switched to non profit community radio. What with I-Heart’s switch to programming originating from a central location, and the popularity of Sirius satellite radio, it seems the last frontier for local radio is becoming the non profit community FMs.

    Steve Jay

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Steve, thanks for stopping by the blog and making a contribution. Very much appreciate your readership.

      Community radio stations have taken over the role that commercial radio stations used serve. Glad to hear you’ve found radio home in Torrington, CT.

      Ironically, the iHeart type broadcasters are turning into a 2nd class satellite radio service. Satellite radio offers some unique programs hosted by one-of-a-kind personalities and I keep hearing its programming in more and more places as I travel this country. Places where local commercial radio stations once owned the airwaves.
      -DT

      Like

  5. Mike Landry

    Great story, Dick. I did the disc jockey thing for 12 years, along with 23 years of teaching at the elementary, high school, and college levels (still teach a bit of college in retirement). Never got the desired pilot’s license like my dad and my father-in-law — just a lot of Microsoft simulator flying, but that’s okay.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My son did a lot of Microsoft simulator flying, both for real planes as well as radio controlled ones.

      He is excellent at flying RC planes and his chiropractor who owns a plane took him up and let him take over the controls and he flew that like an experienced pilot too. That simulator training is powerful.

      Thanks for sharing you story Mike.
      -DT

      Like

  6. Brenda Hurlbut

    Dick, I started listening to you on WBEC from the very first time you were on there!! You & Paul Trembley started DJing about the same time!! Miss those days!! Hope to see you in October at HS reunion!! Hard to believe 50 years!!

    Liked by 1 person

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