I am not sure what the PD did with his days. I know he spent zero time programming the music on WJNC. That’s because the announcers had total freedom and control over what was played, when it was played and how often.
Sounds good until you come to the fact that you could only play what the station had in its library. And there was the rub. Next to the control console was a bin with 45’s in slots labeled by type. “Inst” for instrumental (no vocals), current male, current female and current group. Current was only a relative term at WJNC. I think the newest songs were 6 months to a year old. There may have been a Carpenters song. Maybe a Donnie Osmond. Contemporary it was not.
Then behind the control room was the LP library. It was, as I recall, quite extensive. Possibly 2-3 thousand albums of middle of the road artists in loose alphabetical order. Jack Jones, Al Martino, Doris Day, Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole, Perry Como and so on, ad nauseam.
Beyond the loose formatics of don’t play two females back to back (not sure why, but this was taught like it was the golden rule) you were pretty much on your own. At least I was, for a while.
Working on the radio in that era was a busy proposition. You had to pick the music, play the music, time out to join network news to the second on the top of the hour and prepare the stacks of commercials to be played off carts and read live from scripts. Plus you had to tend to the cranky automation running the FM and gather news for the hourly newscasts. It was a pretty hectic work day and the hours from 10am to 3pm I worked on the air (Midday) went by very quickly for the most part.
Once you learned the technical aspects of the job and mastered the foibles of the equipment it was a fun job. The console was wired oddly – you played three of the cart machines on one pot or volume control but the three were sequential. So machines 1, 2 and 3 were on one pot, 4, 5 and 6 on another-sounds logical but cart technology in those days was not real sophisticated. It was not uncommon for a cart to miss it’s recue and play again or if the cart was recorded sloppy, for it to “burp” on recue. The trick was to “pot down”, turn the volume control down after a cart finished. This meant you had to remember to play them in the right sequence. It went pretty smoothly once you got the hang of it. I concentrated my efforts of making the music at least palatable to my 20 year old sensibilities.
One of the office gals was friendly. In those days I viewed all the people I worked with as “Older” so I am not sure how old she was. In retrospect she was probably in her forties. She was a blonde southern gal and she may have been a cougar although I was numb to that at the time. Faithfulness to my pregnant wife was not even something I thought about. It just was. She told me she noticed that music I played was “Up tempo.” That when she was driving and listening to me her foot was heavy on the gas. I thought that was a compliment. She was, in her very nice way, trying to warn me.
After about a month, PD called me into his office for a meeting. The subject was the music I was playing. It wouldn’t be the last time I was called into a meeting with radio station management about the music, but this was the first. He allowed as how I needed to “tone down” my music tempo. That the owner, Bob Mendlesome, was telling him I was playing too much “Rock and Roll.”
I was flabbergasted. And pissed off. Out of the lousy library of music (to my 20 year old ears) I was playing too much “Uptempo” music? I went back and my attitude was “Screw them.” I know what I am doing. I had always had a problem with authority. Now they were saying I didn’t know how to pick music? I’ll show them.
Big mistake #2.
So for a few days I picked nothing but the slowest, most syrupy and boring music I could find. I mean the most up-tempo thing I played was a waltz. Listening to my show must have been like taking a sleeping pill. I went WAY too far, over-reacted and it was obvious I was being rebellious.
Back in PDs office a few days later the meeting was quick and not pleasant. If it had been me I would have fired me. But he was stuck with me. Finding someone to work the shifts he had me filling would be more work for him. So his solution, no doubt at the behest of the owner, was to program my music.
So, for the rest of my mercifully brief time at WJNC the PD had to supply me with a stack of records to play, and a little playlist written out for me. Bob hated this because it meant he actually had to DO something. I hated it because I took it personally. It was the beginning of the end for me on the airwaves of North Carolina.
I was told that as part of my compensation that I would be assigned to do “remote broadcasts” for extra dough. Charest was clearly uneasy about sending me out to represent the station with my long hair and beard but I pressured him about it and he finally relented and sent me to a “bar gig” where I was to learn southern hospitality in a big way.
I am sure Bob got a big laugh thinking about it. Watch this scene from the “Blues Brothers” movie:
The difference was I was on the stage by myself (and there WAS chicken wire between me and the audience) playing records. The same hostile audience. The same reaction as I tried to play what I thought was “dance music” for the shit-kicker crowd. The nicest thing they called me was “longhaired freak.” The worst involved my parents and some sort of incest.
I got my hair cut and shaved my beard off the next day. I may have been rebellious but I was beginning to be smarter about it.
It was winter when we were in the South. To a born and bred, never left New England boy the concept of warm days in February with no winter coats was exciting. We went to a beach one Saturday and spent the whole day soaking up the sun.
Big mistake #3.
I am Irish and fair skinned. The hours of sun turned me into a pain pig. That Saturday night I was a puking, shaking, sweating mess. I was really sick and so I called Bob to see if he had anyone who could fill in for me, at least for the morning portion of my 12 hour Sunday.
Bob had no fill in announcers and no sympathy for me.
“If you was in the Marines they would throw you in the stockade for abusing guvmint property boy! Jest get yourself in there, you’ll be OK.”
I really was beginning to dislike him.
NEXT: Slave labor in the production studio, the first experience as a “Sock Hop” DJ, my shortcomings as a newscaster exposed and the end of my time at WJNC.