In junior high school, I developed my proficiency for winning stuff from radio stations. Station KHOW had a guy called "Professor K-HOW," who had an evening quiz show. Between my knowledge, luck and dialing prowess (on a rotary phone!) I became quite adept at hauling in the loot. In 8th grade, I won $100, making me filthy, stinking rich, but also cementing my reputation as a radio geek. When I went to the station to pick up my check, I got to record a promo for the station (I did it in two takes!) It was pretty cool to hear it played on the air.
In high school, I continued my winning ways, most notably on KIMN's "Name It And Claim It," a contest where you'd call up and name the song, and they'd send you the 45. You were only allowed to win once a week, but the thrill of the chase overcame me, and I'd call up and win using my friend's names. It kind of got out of control when I tried to pass myself off as "Cindy," the girl who lived across the street. Since I didn't really sound like a Cindy, I kind of mumbled that my name was "Sidney." I became notorious around the station, and KIMN's coolest DJs, Jay Mack, used my name in one of his on-air comedy bits! We heard it while we were playing basketball in my driveway, which certainly made me BMOC around the neighborhood.
this time, my friendship with Charlie Stice became stronger. He was
a couple of years older than me, had this amazing yellow GTO, and he
drove me to school before I had my license. He, too, was interested
in radio (and Neil Young - see My First
Rock Concert), and he wanted to become a DJ, too. Continuing my
habit of impersonating my friends, I called the Columbia
School of Broadcasting and gave them Charlie's name and address.
They sent him some propaganda and an LP with an introductory lesson.
He gave the record to me, and I took it seriously. At home, I set up
my own makeshift studio, and would pretend to do my own radio shows.
(I'm trying to locate a copy of that record - mine, sadly, is long-since-gone.)
Also in high school, I discovered a weird little station called KCFR (Colorado Free Radio). It was truly an underground station, and usually didn't even do the legally required station identifications at the top of the hour. I listened for weeks before I even knew what the call letters were. Once I knew them, I looked them up in the phone book, but they weren't listed! After hours of careful listening, I figured out they were the University of Denver station. They had a signal of 19 booming watts! One of my favorite DJs was a guy named Razame Crackers. KCFR is where I first heard Frank Zappa, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Loudon Wainright III, as well as many other strange and wonderful sounds. It was also the first noncommercial radio station I'd ever heard.
cool little hippie station was KFML
in Denver, which I grew to know and love in high school. They were famous
for their non-mainstream news segments, where they'd do three stories
and augment it with hip music. (Oddly, the only one I can remember was
a story about incest, then they played a snip of "He Ain't Heavy,
He's My Brother.") KFML
would routinely broadcast live performances (I still have some of them
on tape), and they had great DJs. Notable talents were Bill
Szymczyk, who went on to be a big-time rock producer and engineer,
E. Weiss, who Ricky Lee Jones wrote a song about ("Chuck E.'s
In Love.") It was a sad day when they changed format.
To the rescue came KGNU, yet another noncommercial community station. While nursing a very sore ankle injured in a nasty forklift accident, I had the privilege of hearing KGNU sign on the air for the first time on May 22, 1978 at 10am. They're still on the air, with much the same philosophy as way back when.
Around that same time, Alan Walters became my roommate. He, too, had an interest in radio. After becoming fed up with his boss, Alan quit his job and moved to Steamboat Springs to become a ski bum. While he was there, he basically walked in and snagged an overnight air shift at KFMU in nearby Oak Creek, CO. Their tagline was "The Sound Of The Wind," because they generated part of their electricity with a wind turbine.
I finally had a friend who was a disc jockey! Alan and I kept in touch (still do) and I quizzed him relentlessly about his radio experience. After I'd moved to Boston, he returned to Boulder and picked up a fill-in gig at the aforementioned KBCO, which had become the dominant player in town. Around Christmas of 1986, I visited Alan in Boulder. We talked mostly about radio, and when he asked if I wanted to visit the station, of course, I said yes.
We popped over to the 'BCO studios and he showed me around -- introduced me to the on-air DJ, showed me the playlist system, the production studio, etc. He even gave me a Miles Davis record!
I came back to Boston and realized that if I was ever going to do this radio thing, now was the time. My afternoon with Alan was so inspiring that I went to the phone book and wrote down the numbers of every college station that I knew about.
WMFO was first on my list, but not because I knew it well. Indeed, it was the opposite. While I occasionally listened to 'MFO, I didn't really know much about it. Since I spend almost all of my listening time on the low end of the dial and didn't know MOFO, I figured they were pretty obscure. Then I figured that the more obscure they were, the better chance I'd have of getting on the air.
So, in January of 1987, I made a phone call that changed my life. I called WMFO to inquire about getting on the air, and to my good fortune,Chris, the Program Director answered the phone! We had a nice chat about music and radio, and he said that I might fit in. He said he'd give my name to the Training Coordinator (Mike Williams, for you old-timers), and if I didn't hear from him in 2-3 weeks, to call back.
I waited exactly 3 weeks and called Chris again. He said, "Why don't you just contact the Training Coordinator directly?" I left Mr. Trainer a message, then checked my answering machine from work about 3:30pm. Mike had called and said, "Oh, yeah. Training starts tonight at 7. It'd be great if you could be there."
Needless to say, I made it a priority. I remember thinking on the way home from Lesson One that the station was kind of a dump (I'd only been to wealthy commercial stations), but before I made it home, I said to myself, "I'm going to be on the radio!" and I never looked back. That was February 1987.
I went through the training program, and I paid my dues by helping out around the station -- stuffing envelopes, filing records, etc. When the schedule changed in May, the new PD offered me a slot from 11pm - 2am on Thursdays. Tough to go to work the next day, but I WAS A DISC JOCKEY!
My first show was Thursday, May 7, 1987,and the first song I played was Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" (I thought it was pretty damn clever.) The DJ on prior to me that night was Gary Lampal. As it turned out, our shows were scheduled back-to-back for the next 8 1/2 years. Both Gary and Chris remain my good friends.
For me, doing radio is one of those rare instances where the reality is even better than the fantasy. I wouldn't have volunteered those thousands of hours over all those years if I didn't really love it. I've learned that, in addition to being a great creative outlet for me, radio combines heavy doses of both creative and analytical elements -- something I seek in all of my vocational and avocational pursuits. In addition, I've made a whole circle of dear friends who I wouldn't have met otherwise.
Over my first 15 years at WMFO, there have been many high points, and a few very low points (most notably Sean Patrick Murphy's death and Mikey Dee's strokes.) Here are a few of my favorite MOFO moments:
I came up to the station one sunny Saturday afternoon in December (1989?) to record some music for my answering machine. Sean Patrick Murphy was on the air with his "Folk And Good Music" show. His guests were Robin Lane and her bass player. They set up in Studio A and performed live. Sean was his usual manic self, running around and offering me cheese and crackers. I just hung out on the couch and relaxed, watched the sun pour through the window, and listened to Robin do an amazing set.
We had a station party (1991?) where several DJs brought their instruments for a jam session in Studio D. We were having a great time, but a few of us migrated into Studio B, where someone had found a stash of old 45s. Mikey Dee, Teresa Flavin, AK, and I just kept flinging them on the turntables while singing along and making really catty comments. We kept that up till 2:30 in the morning.
Getting to hang out in Studio D while PermaFrost played "On The Town with Mikey Dee," in March of 1996.
Of course, there are many other good memories, but those three stand out as moments in time.
How long will I keep doing it? I can't predict the future, but I have no plans to quit. Radio is such a huge part of my life, I can't really imagine not doing it. It truly is a passion that I hope to continue to nurture for many years to come. Stay tuned!
©1987-2014 Drugless Douglas