Thursday Think Tank: That Time I was a Radio Disc Jockey

The Thursday Think Tanks are semi-random thoughts that may not necessarily fall directly into the category of finances, but I still feel are worth sharing. Read at your own risk!

Starting Credit Card Debt (01.01.19): $126,310.77
Current Credit Card Debt: $108,870.87
Total Paid Off: $17,439.90
Income Going to Savings: 2%

As a kid, I was obsessed with music. Keep in mind that I grew up in the 80s, and radio was still one of the best ways to consume music if you couldn’t convince your parents that Columbia House was the deal of a lifetime. So I would spend hours listening to my radio or watching MTV to consume as much free music as possible.

As I neared high school graduation, I set my sites on a career in radio as a disc jockey. I could talk endlessly and had a knack for entertaining people, and that coupled with my love of music made life as a DJ seem like a natural fit.

During my 1 (and only) year of college I decided I would major in Broadcast Communications, and become the next Howard Stern. We were from a small enough and conservative enough town that our station didn’t even carry Howard Stern, but I just knew he was the biggest name in radio and that’s where I wanted to be one day!

That summer I took a job at a local radio station in that same tiny little town. It was the smallest of small town operations, and was managed by its morning personality who I will simply refer to as “Steve.” Steve was a somewhat disheveled and grumpy human being who seemed bright and energetic on air, but was a sarcastic lump of clay off. I hardly said two words to him in my interview and was hired as an intern on the spot. I do remember him saying, “Kid, nobody wants to work in radio. There is no money, next to no growth, and the chances of you making a decent living are about as good as the chances of me living past 50, which ain’t happening.”

Despite this ringing endorsement for my chosen profession, I took the job/internship anyway and was on my way!

My first day in the studio I was hastily shown the complex system of wires, knobs, cables and sliders. I was told that to get the feed for our NBA Seattle Sonics games, I needed to unplug this cord from this bank, and put this cord over here, then I needed to rotate this knob to pot down the volume on the sub feed, and slide this slider up to bring up the game feed for everyone to hear. If the game didn’t come through for some reason, that meant there was a problem with the satellite feed, and I need to go to a backup feed by turning this knob over here, sliding these 3 sliders down, plugging the chord from there into this spot over here, and then…

You get the idea.

The station manager then slapped me on the back and said, “And don’t forget to pot up your mic during station breaks and say the name of the station and the time. You’ll do great!”

Then he left, leaving me alone in the building. On my first day.

I got through it all, and uttered my first words on the radio of my entire life, “You’re listening to the Seattle Sonics on Newstalk KXLE 1240! It’s 4:48.”

The next day my station manager told me he had listened on the drive home, and that I was never going to make it in radio if I didn’t lose the “radio guy” voice that I thought I needed to use on air. I really didn’t think I had used such a voice, but I nodded and agreed to make sure I didn’t overdo it.

The next game, again at the controls, I delivered my line in a much more subdued fashion, “You’re listening to the Seattle Sonics on Newstalk KXLE 1240. It’s 5:57.”

“What are we? A smooth jazz station?” my Station Manager asked the next day, “I told you to drop the radio guy voice, but instead you just traded it for one that is even more lame than before. JUST TALK.”

Come the next broadcast game I was ALL UP IN MY HEAD. I got so twisted around mentally that I forgot what my normal voice was even supposed to sound like! Keep in mind that I only had to say ONE SINGLE LINE. I wasn’t talking for hours or taking calls. I had to say the station call letters and blurt out the time. That was it, and yet I was mentally wrecked.

The time came and I said my line. I felt good about the delivery, and was convinced that I had nailed it despite my nerves.

Except I forgot to turn my mic on.

When I explained everything to the Station Manager the next day expecting to be fired, he actually laughed and from that moment on he was pretty decent to me. I believe he is still on the air on that same station to this day, and I hope he’s doing well.

Eventually I started working Sunday mornings hosting (I sh*t you not) a show called “Farm Swap” or something along those lines. Folks would call in and say things like, “I have a goat and an old chainsaw with no blade, and I’m looking to trade them for a grill for a 1963 Ford pickup.” I didn’t say much other than introducing callers, but it wasn’t so bad of a gig and I felt like I was on my way.

However right around this time (with the help of a big paycheck) my Dad convinced me to come work for him full time, and with that my career in radio was over almost before it ever began.

Years later I would host a mildly successful podcast where we got some decent music and celebrity guests, and we remained “on the air” for 5 years or so. People seemed to like the show, and it always just made me wonder if I had missed my calling.

There was a chance I could have been the next superstar radio personality, but there is also a chance I’d still be sitting in that same sleepy station bartering a deal between a lady with 8 slightly used mechanical cow milkers and a guy with “one too many” manure spreaders.

We’ll never know.

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