Some kids grow up wanting to be a fireman or some sort of superhero… I grew up always wanting to be on the radio. It was so bad, that I used to make radio station signs on building blocks with Crayons. Thinking back on that, it was obvious I would be no graphic designer!
From the early days, I played DJ with my portable tape recorders and sisters record collections. Growing up in Austin, I tried to emulate all the DJ’s I heard on the old KNOW and K-98 but somehow I never sounded quite up to their level. This continued for years until my sisters finally got sick of me ruining all their albums with my Mickey Mouse record player.
My senior year in high school, I got an internship at KVUE-TV and helped produce the morning newscasts with Deborah Duncan. She was quite an inspiration and I had a great time, but it made it even more clear to me that radio is where I really wanted to be. So my freshman year at college, I harassed the student radio station at Texas Tech to give me a shift. Boy, was I bad… but it was a start. While in Lubbock I worked for country, alternative and Top 40 radio stations before coming back to Austin and pounding on every door for an opportunity in ‘the big leagues’.
The door opened in ’91 when I got my foot in the door at 96.7, KHFI. I did everything from washing the van to weekend overnight shifts just to prove my worth. And it paid off! Soon I was getting better shifts, getting more opportunities and getting noticed. We had an amazing team there and all loved everything about that place. So what would any rational person do? Leave for another opportunity. I packed up everything I owned and took a gamble moving to San Antonio to sign-on a brand new radio station… Mix 96.1. It may only be an hour down 35, but San Antonio and Austin are worlds apart, but I soon found and assembled another fantastic team there and we had a great run! After about 5 years management announced ‘they were taking another direction’ and I came back to Austin to try my luck at a ‘real job’.
My only other ‘real’ jobs beside radio were working at Safeway and Taco Bell. So for some reason I thought a sales position would be a perfect move for me. NOPE! After struggling to make ends meet for over a year, the greatest opportunity came along. Bob called and invited me to join the crew at his new radio station. What a great chance, but Bob did things so differently it was like re-learning everything I knew. Didn’t take long to realize I LOVED the way Bob did things. Laid back, simple, and there’s music everywhere! I sometimes ask myself, “And I Get Paid For This?”
I’ve always loved music, I mean the kind of love that can lead to a restraining order. It’s always had an emotional affect on me. I grew up on a cattle ranch in rural Oklahoma, in the coverage area of one television station, so radio and records were my main sources of entertainment.
I made my first make-believe radio station at the age of 5, with 2 “Close n play” record players, a cardboard mixing board with controls & meters drawn on w/ magic marker, and a microphone (an empty salt shaker) that I taped to the end of a Hot Wheels track. My show content was mainly weather reports and news of horse and cattle births and slaughters on the ranch.
My Mother bought me my first pair of drum sticks at 8. I set up a drum kit of varying pillows and started playing along with songs on the radio. By the time I reached junior high, with the help of my band director, I put together a drum kit from discarded drums from the school, using contact paper on the shells to make them all one color (silver sparkle). Luckily, living out in the middle of nowhere, I could practice a lot without neighbors bitching about the noise.
I was a full-on band geek through high school. I even played paying gigs in honky tonks when I was 14 with a band called the “Jazzmen”. Everyone else in the band was twice my age, and the bonus was I always got to drive the band back home, since I was the only sober one.
2 weeks after graduating high school, I got a summer job at a radio station running Sunday morning programs. They eventually let me do a couple of hours of “on air” jocking after the programs ended, and I was hooked. All the years of my “play” radio station were paying off, now I had a news wire, could actually watch 3 channels on TV, and had enough money to subscribe to rolling stone magazine to do some show prep.
I majored in computer science, finished college, but knew that this “summer job” I had taken to help pay my way through college had polluted my blood.
Eventually, I worked my way up the “radio market” ladder to Dallas in the late 80’s. Stations like “The Eagle”, “Young Country” and a slew of other stations that are no longer in existence. I wound up in Austin in 2001 after realizing I just wasn’t pretentious enough to live the life of the big D. It was a roll of the dice that really paid off, doing swing shifts, fill in, cleaning the john, etc.. until 2004 when I met Bob. He had this idea for a “whatever” radio station and needed someone to help set up the computer playback. The next few months were spent going through his garage & digging up songs that made us say “Oh wow, remember this one ?”
Do what you love and love what you do. Every so often Bob & I will go cheapo discs & the Austin Record Convention what records need to be unleashed on the airwaves again, then boasting about our finds over a Shiner or two at a pub of his choice. Bob always picks up the tab too. I often take a step back and look at my life and wonder… I’m getting paid for this ?? Ponderous