Radio DaZe

Radio DaZe:

So after an interminable amount of “instruction” by Mr.PD who to be kind was probably horrified in anticipation of the reaction to come when the rest of the WJNC met the new long haired, bearded midday announcer, I was led to our new abode.

Housing was pretty good and fairly cheap in Jacksonville. For both the Marines and the support staff there were thousands of rental townhouses. He had secured me one and it wasn’t bad. By this time it was late Saturday afternoon and I now knew that I would be working 12 hours the next day.

12 hours?

When I agreed to the job for the princely sum of $150 weekly I assumed (a mistake I NEVER made again) that it would be your typical radio 40 hour week, which probably meant more like 44 or so. The PD evidentially justified my salary by losing a part-timer and saddling me with a split shift on Sundays. 6am-12 noon, 6pm to 12 midnight.

When he explained this to me he must have noticed the shocked look on my face.
Oh, it’s easy, son,” he drawled. “The first part is a regular shift but the second part is mostly public service shows and the last two hours you play jest play classical music. You could read a book or whatever.”

What choice did I have?

We got the U-Haul trailer unpacked and returned and the apartment more or less set up. My buddy Jeff was to take off the next day while I was working the morning part of my marathon. So we celebrated like we were back in college by consuming mass quantities of alcohol.

The next day I awoke with hangover that would have killed a lesser man. I looked at the alarm clock and swore at it. 5:45 am and I had to be at the station at 6 am.

I am sure in my mind it looked something like this scene from “FM-The movie”

But the truth is the big bellied Sheriff who ARRESTED me for going 70 mph in a 25 mph school zone (SCHOOL ZONE? It was SUNDAY morning!) saw no glamor in it. All he saw was some long-haired Yankee kid, stinking of gin and breaking his balls was his job. He was good at it.

In North Carolina, I was to find out, exceeding the speed limit by more than 25 mph was considered “intent to commit homicide.” I was well and truly screwed.

They threw me in a cell, one of two times I was ever incarcerated, this being the only time it was legitimate. As I recall, and the whole incident is a little hazy by this time, my wife and drinking buddy Jeff bailed me out with every last cent we had between us. I was to appear in court the next week.

How we managed to get me out in only an hour I will never know. But I made it to the station only about 90minutes late and oddly enough never heard anything about it other than the ration of shit I caught from the guy I was relieving.
I will never know how I made it through that first shift. My head was pounding. I was working a new board and trying to program that nasty FM automation system in between records (no automation system on the AM) was a challenge.
Plus the cops had my license so my wife had transport duty. She was less than pleased about the idea of hauling my ass home at midnight. As I recall she was less than pleased with most everything.

My punishment was a stiff fine, equaling every cent we had and more, plus a six month suspension of my driver’s license. On reflection I often wonder why my employers didn’t question the fact that I rode a bike to work most days. Even when it rained. I must have smelled like a wet dog.

I hated everything about WJNC. The program director had outright lied to me about the format, calling it close to a top 40 station. I quickly discovered that the most recent records on the playlist were over a year old. Most of what I had to choose from were moldy old LPs from what we called “Middle of the Road” artists, like Jack Jones , Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Dionne Warwick, Astrud Gilberto, Matt Monro, Robert Goulet , Jerry Vale and so on.

It was pure hell for a 19 year old, one job out of college radio and playing 8 minute “Yes” tracks.

The stations equipment was old and balky. A good example was the “silence sense” alarm for the FM station. This was supposed to go off with an annoying tone when the FM had dead air, which was quite often. The darn thing was supposed to mute when the AM station’s microphone was open but it didn’t. So quite often in the middle of a 15 minute long newscast where you were trapped with a live mic, this tone would be your background.

When I pointed this out to the PD he just shrugged and said “Well son, make sure the FM doesn’t go off the air.” Thanks. Thanks a lot.

Another good equipment foible was the reel to reel machine. Because they were expensive there was only one reel machine in the control room. The Sunday night public service marathon required the back to back airing of taped programs, one of which was the General Managers (and owner’s) weekly tirade of politics and religion. The other reel to reel machine was downstairs in a production room and could be remote started from the control room. It was a brisk walk to get there and a pain in the ass. The production machine recorded fine, but on playback it was sensitive to the size of the feed reel, speeding up as the tape spooled off. So I made sure that the GM’s rant always played on that machine. The last few minutes of his weekly epistle sounded like he was channeling Alvin and the Chipmunks. No one ever mentioned this to me and I knew better than to bother telling the PD about it.

I was subversive and hated authority. I began to find ways to aggravate the management without getting caught. It would eventually lead to me being fired for…stealing!

NEXT: WJNC PD has to earn his pay and hates it. I get the “Star” treatment at a bar and I find out there is more than one meaning to “on the beach.”


The Rant D’Jour is one big cliche. Enjoy.

I have a love hate affair with clichés. If one more person comes up and says to me “hot enough for you?” they will…Rant D’Jour


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About James Rising

A recovering radio addict wrestles with the written word.
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