Sunday, February 21, 2010

Growing Up In My Own Little Radio World

(Photo of me playing music in between music sets
at a Wild Wednesday at Sherwood Forrest...
Courtesy of Peter C @

I noticed that a couple of my Facebook friends recently became fans of a group called “When I was younger I would record my favorite songs off the radio onto tape”, and I had to laugh, because it sounded like something that someone who would eventually end up in the radio business would have done. I wasn’t one of those who recorded songs off the radio, but I got pretty close to it and if there’s ever a Facebook group with the title of “When I was younger, all of the records that I owned had cue burns at the beginning of each song,” I would be one of the charter members.

You see, when I was younger and I wasn’t listening to WCFL, WABC, WLS and WBZ on my transistor radio, I would “play radio” in the bedroom of the house that we lived in on Marshall Street in Flint, Michigan. My little make-believe radio studio consisted of two suitcase record players that I would set up next to each other on my Mom’s ironing board. I would read the advertisements with lots of copy in magazines like Reader’s Digest, Life and Time for my commercials and newscast copy would be the “News In Brief” page from the Detroit News. It was my little make-believe radio station and I would literally do make-believe radio late late at night in my bedroom for hours on end. My Mom must have thought I was nuts – but at least she knew where I was at night and I wasn’t out in the streets with the other hooligans getting in trouble.

There were no boundaries when it came to my make-believe radio station. I would do Top 30 play lists of all of the records that I owned and occasionally I would have my own little countdown show. If I got burned out on the records’ “A” side, the “B” side would become that artist’s new release in my little make-believe radio world. Most of the records that I owned were by the original artists, but there were a few “hit” records on my make-believe radio station that were recorded by sound-alike artists on the “Hit” record label that you could only buy at Ben Franklin for 39¢ each. There were also a few records – such as Sam The Sham and the Pharaohs “Ju Ju Hand”, The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, “Doo Wah Diddy” by Manfred Mann and “Black Is Black” by Los Lobos that I shoplifted from the Cook’s Drug Store on Richfield and Western Road. I would cue up every record that I played during my “air shifts” which eventually led to all of my records having a cue burn of varying lengths at the beginning of each song.

I wasn’t the only person involved in this little make-believe radio world that I was living in – occasionally my buddy would spend the night with me playing radio. He was more into cars and stuff like that – but he would sit with me in my bedroom as I played radio. He didn’t think I was nuts when I told him to “hang on”, because I had to talk up the next record that I was going to play – he just went along for the ride – and what the hell, the music was good. At one point in time – we thought that this little radio station was too cool for us to enjoy and we had this grand plan of wiring up the neighborhood and selling subscriptions to our radio station and this was long before cable television was ever introduced in the area.

You would have thought that with all of the training that I got playing radio in my bedroom that I might have been a little better at it in real life – but I discovered just how difficult doing real radio can be when I got a little older. I had some grandiose dreams of being a disc-jockey and tried my hand at it, but discovered my true calling in radio was behind the scenes and I had a good run in the business for nearly a quarter of a century…and to imagine -- it all began in that make-believe radio studio in my bedroom.

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