Saturday, December 09, 2006

Radio, me, and WKRP

As some of you may know, I am a veteran of the radio booth. I love radio and every chance I get to be back on the air, I jump at that opportunity. Occasionally, people who have heard me on the air will ask me what inspired me to get interested in radio to begin with. I certainly had influences, one of which was my Grandfather, who was blind later in life when I came into the world. He needed radio hosts to be descriptive so that he understood exactly what was going on-especially when it came to sports. His favorite broadcasters were Cincinnati Reds stalwart Marty Brennaman and Atlanta Braves regular Skip Caray, son of Harry. My Grandfather was a staunch conservative (gee, I wonder where I get it from), and he also enjoyed his talk radio, and he knew good radio from stuff that just wasn't up to snuff.

One of the other influences that I had may surprise you: A television show, namely WKRP In Cincinnati, a late '70's sitcom about a third-rate radio station that was once a top-rated station looking to turn things around. What was amazing about this short-running show is how true-to-life it was about the radio business and even the lifestyle of people who work at a radio station. Having been there and done that, I can attest that the program took the life of DJs and radio people and made light and humor of it on a grand scale.

Yes, those are real pictures of Cincinnati. Having lived there for a couple of years, I can point out most of those landmarks and places in the opening theme to the reader. I can even tell where those people are crossing the street at (it looks to be the corner of Sixth Street and Main downtown). Just as in the television show, the radio business in most cities is extremely competative. In Cincinnati, it is a cutthroat affair, and one where Clear Channel rules the roost. (Note: I know there are a few people from the Cincinnati area who read my work. As much as I loved WLW, and still do, I felt the station went downhill when Clear Channel gained total control-as did the other Clear Channel stations in the town.) Good radio people are often over-worked, and put in extra hours of preparation before and work after their shows. I have heard some of the best radio personalities that America may never hear because the big conglomerates wouldn't give them a chance. They are underpaid for the amount of work they put in, and that is especially true for news and sports people-and at some small stations, the talent aren't paid at all,and have to find sponsors just to get on the air. Radio is truly a labor of love for those who involve themselves in it.

WKRP had many hilarious episodes, but my favorite has to be the very first one, where the station changes format from dry "elevator music" to what we in 2006 would call Classic Rock. Dr. Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) had to live with the sour music, and was overjoyed with the change, but didn't think he was quite up to doing rock anymore-at least not at first.

This was classic-it has also been the dream of many a DJ to "pull a Johnny Fever"...I can attest to that.



At Saturday, December 09, 2006 9:12:00 AM, Blogger TheRep said...

I used to love that show! It had a great cast and good eary story lines, it lost steam as the seasons went on unfortunately.

My favorite scene was when Venus Flytrap taught Physics to a gang member in about a minute. I love that style of teaching and remember the lesson to this day.

At Saturday, December 09, 2006 10:50:00 AM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

That was one of my favorite scenes too. Aside from the opener and Venus' "physics lesson," my other favorite was the show where Johnny and Venus did an anti-drunk driving marathon with two Ohio State troopers in the studio. They were to do a six-hour show.

The arrangement was that they would drink continuously to demonstrate how drinking impairs reaction time and judgement, and it was supposed to eventually make their radio show sound like gibberish. The only problem was that the more they drank, the quicker and more alert they became!

At Saturday, December 09, 2006 10:53:00 AM, Blogger DigiHairshirt said...

C'mon, Dave, the BEST episode was the frozen turkeys getting pitched from the helicopter for the holidays!

At Saturday, December 09, 2006 11:49:00 AM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

They weren't frozen-they were live!!

At Saturday, December 09, 2006 12:52:00 PM, Anonymous joe lance said...

I worked in radio for a short time, too. It was right on the cusp of the change from turntables, reel-to-reel machines, and "carts" like you see him load for the commercial break, to CDs and other digital media. It is wild to think of those good old tape-splicing days.

And I'd love to snag one of the Technics turntables they had there.

At Saturday, December 09, 2006 3:13:00 PM, Blogger DigiHairshirt said...

Dave, you are right. I believe I was confusing it with a story I read that the writers based the episode on a real radio station that dropped frozen turkeys.

I watched it again on YouTube. One of the best lines - "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!"

At Saturday, December 09, 2006 11:36:00 PM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

Ahh yes, the good ole days! The thing is that if your studio getup is wired right, you can still use a Technics turntable and they still sound great. In fact, if you know what your doing, your listeners can't even tell that it is a record and not a CD.

Even so, it is hard to imagine radio now without the digital stuff that we have become so used to today. Not only CD players, but computers have changed everything..if you have a CPU in the studio, you can have your entire playlist programmed onto a computer, you don't even have to load the CD's.

The downside is that all this technology is destroying the classic DJ at many radio stations. Stations are going all digital in many markets to avoid paying a studio staff. It is really a sad sight.

At Saturday, December 09, 2006 11:39:00 PM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

Ms. Stephanie;
I think the only episode that was funnier was the one where Les Nessman decided to try doing traffic reports-by flying the plane (a World War I antique) himself! He nearly crashed into the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge over the Ohio River doing it!

At Sunday, December 10, 2006 9:16:00 AM, Blogger TheRep said...

I loved the scene where he beat on his chest to make it sound like he was in a trafic copter .I think of it every time I hear them do a trafic report in Knoxville.

At Sunday, December 10, 2006 5:17:00 PM, Blogger Mike Faulk said...

David, you're beginning to spook me. We've compared genealogy and politics at length. Now vocation! Are we related?

I began a career in radio at WMCH in Church Hill - Sundays - sign on to sign off - all gospel - mostly live preaching.

I worked my way through college at the campus station, WUTM-FM, where, ultimately, I was News Director for a year, at WCMT-AM/FM the local Martin station, and at WTJS-FM in Jackson.

Too much coincidence, buddy! And Joe Lance, too? Maybe blogging is the 21st Century version of pirate radio?

At Wednesday, December 13, 2006 9:55:00 AM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

With podcasting capabilities, anyone can now get on the air!!!!

I e-mailed you a bit more privately about all of this...God Bless.


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