Tuesday, April 25, 2017

20 Years Later: A Thank You

On Friday, April 25th, 1997, I conducted my last airshift and worked my final day after nine fruitful, wonderful years at Hoffman Communications, which, at the time, owned and operated Contemporary Christian WDYL-FM, as well as WGGM-AM, a station that saw a frequency change and several format changes during my tenure.

So, today, twenty years to the day of my last on-air show, I have some feelings to share and some gratitude to pass along.

I look back on my nine years there, almost all of it coming out of a non-descript cinder block building in a flood zone at the bottom of a hill on Jefferson Davis Highway in Chester, and my first thought is, we did some incredible radio there. After years of falling into disrepair, I'm happy to see the building alive again as a used car dealership. That building deserves to live.

We crammed three radio studios, a production room or two, two bathrooms, a "lobby" and even a drink machine my children's generation wouldn't recognize. Part of my job as Operations Manager was to fill that machine. 35 cents a can. It looked similar to the one below. You pushed the can you wanted into a slot, deposited your money, then lifted the metal thingy to allow you to take your can. Those were the days.  :)

I did, as the "boss" of the air staff for eight of my nine years, every airshift known there. If I was short employees, off I went. Sunday mornings with live choirs singing in the lobby (I have a special affinity for Rev. Jethro White and the Fireball Singers, and the Harmonizing Echoes), Sunday nights running taped programming, and many shifts producing sporting events from VCU basketball, VMI, James Madison and Virginia Tech football, even the Richmond Renegades hockey team.

That's how I met the late, great Terry Sisisky, running board on VCU hoops starting in late 1988. And who made a trip to our new studios in Chester on the morning of my last day to stop by and say hello? Yep, T-Man did. I'll never forget it.

I conducted hundreds of on-air interviews, played, and programmed, thousands of songs, printed countless music logs, and was honored to watch some special people come through those doors on Jeff Davis Highway.

Tracy Lynn, who many of you have watched on NBC12 for years, began her career out of college with us in my first year there in '88. Less than two years later, a kid fresh out of high school walked in looking for a break. Today, J.J. Surma is one of NBC12's station voices and has been the creative genius for several Washington DC radio stations for years now. Other announcers became attorneys, pastors, and one recently left CBS6 after many years to become a television news director in Louisiana.

So, today, thinking back, a few not very random thoughts.

1) I remember wondering how I would cope without a daily radio show. Radio is at the heart of what I love to do. While I've worked in radio since, I've never picked up a new daily airshift. And, after 20 years, I've handled that just fine. :)

2) You don't know how good you have it until it is gone. Yes, I came home many nights stressed and unhappy about what I look back on today as being "stuff".  With this distance now to look back upon those years, I don't remember 99.9 percent of the stuff. I remember the friends I made, the people I saw grow, and the laughs. There were many, many, many laughs.

3) I was so sad when WDYL was sold and went off the air two years after my departure. We haven't truly had a "Richmond Christian Music Radio Station" since. 90 Joy wasn't, PER wasn't, the new K-Love isn't. National radio cannot and will never replicate local radio. It may replace it, and, when it does, our community is the worse for it.

And, finally, THANK YOU.

First, to God for the opportunity I received as a skinny, wet behind the years almost 21 year old.

To Paul Scott: Thank you for being exactly the mentor I needed at the time you came into my life. You are the very definition of consistency, a steady hand, a level head, and a servant of God. It's hard to do better than that.

To Rob Kennedy: Thank you for being the good friend I needed when I arrived, and for many years to come. Thanks for lunches, the decision bump, and introducing me to illegal games of Nerf Baseball at lunch time. Also, thanks for dropping my name to Bill Roberts in 2002 when he was looking for a play-by-play guy for his Ashland radio station. Without that, The RVA Sports Network and all it entails wouldn't exist today.

To ALL My Announcers: Thank you for your hard work, your dedication, for at least pretending to like me (hee hee), for the staff meetings, occasional memos, and helping out at the last minute. I don't regret a single late night frantic call or page. Their names are too many to mention, but one must be. Amy Howard, you were the cornerstone of my staff for years, even as a "part-time" employee. Thank you for everything!

To the rest of the staff I worked with over the years, from office staff (Hi Kathy, Kelly, Debbie!) to the WGCV family when they arrived in 1992, to all the account executives, our memories are great, and we made some mighty fine radio. I appreciate you all.  :)

Snowstorms, near-miss hurricanes (save you, Fran!), The Gulf War, Oklahoma City, O.J. Simpson, the fall of the Berlin Wall, three presidential elections, and much more happened while I watched it come over the old AP wire machine in the room adjacent the studio. There were hot airshifts in summer when the AC system froze over, last minute studio guests, hours of training, commercials made out of reel to reel tape and, if you didn't have a grease pencil to mark edits with, you used White-Out. :)

Christian Skate Nights, Monday morning staff meetings, record company calls, three trips to Nashville, countless concerts and more.

Twenty years ago today, my son was almost five, Rachel was in her car carrier, a day shy of two months old. Today, things are a little different. But I know one thing that remains constant, and that is how incredibly thankful I am that I had a small role to play at WDYL/WGGM.

Wherever you may be in life today, take a moment, breathe it in, and think of all the good things. Because one day, they will be in your past. And when you are twenty years removed, I hope you have the great feelings of appreciation that I do on this day.  :)

Song #60: "The Story In Your Eyes"--The Moody Blues (1971)

It's the one song that became a hit for The Moody Blues from their seventh album, "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour" from 1971. Chock full of classic "Moodies" sound, the song is perfectly placed during Act I of their live shows.

This tune packs an extra punch in a short amount of time, and is a Moody Blues classic for all time. Now, there are a lot of emotional twists and turns lyrically for a small package, from confidently being in a rebuilding of one's life, likely after a lost love, to being worried for the next generation. Hot topics in 1971, and the same today.  :)

The version selected below is from their 2007 Tour, which I caught at Wolf Trap, which is where I will be again come this July.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Song #61: "For You"--The Outfield (1990)

The backstory with me and this song is rather strange. In reality, when it released 27 years ago, I only heard it a handful of times flipping through the radio as, by this time, I was fully immersed in my work as Music Director (and several other titles) for WDYL, and 98 percent of my music time was spent with Contemporary Christian Music, between deciding charts and rotations, listening to new music for possible airplay, and, of course, as Operations Manager, listening to my on-air personalities.

But for as little as I heard today's song, it struck a chord, and I, for years, did not know the song's title or who the artist was, not, at the time, putting two and two together to match the sound of this song to say, The Outfield's other work.

The mystery eventually unraveled, and I even got a copy of the song thanks to my friend Doug Sharp. It's been a favorite ever since the mysterious first time I heard it, and here it is for you now.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Song #62: "Steve McQueen"--Sheryl Crow (2002)

Today marks the highest ranked song in my Top 500 countdown from the 21st Century, and, to be perfectly honest with you, I have absolutely no idea how I and this song intersected.

However it did happen, it caused me to purchase Sheryl Crow's, "C'Mon, C'Mon" CD, where I also discovered this Top 500 song from last fall.

This tune is tailor made for using, shall we say, maximum effort, from your car speakers. :)

And, given the subject matter of the song, an actor who appeared in two of my favorite movies, "The Blob" and "The Towering Inferno", who had a certain affinity for race cars and speed, it almost feels weird to listen to it in your home or somewhere else that is stationary.

Don't speed, but crank it up!  :)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Song #63: "Lights"--Journey (1978)

This is the story of a song that, when originally released to radio, really didn't fare that well. In fact, it peaked at all of #68 on the Hot 100.

Journey would find its breakout single a year later with "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'", and, as the group continued to churn out hit after hit into the 1980's, today's tune found new life, especially on AOR radio stations, and that's how I discovered it, too.

Hearing this song immediately transports me back to the Summer of 1982 and a vacation to see family in North Carolina. I always loved going down there to visit my grandparents and other relatives. I was different. To me, four days with Grannie and Granddaddy Frank shelling peas and snapping beans on the front porch and walking through the garden was fun, and therapeutic. If able to, I would snap my fingers and go back there right now.

Over the past 15-20 years, surprisingly, lots of AC radio stations have played this song rather regularly. It must have "tested" well.  :)

Enjoy Journey's tribute to San Francisco (but was originally meant to salute Los Angeles), and my favorite Journey song.  :)

Friday, April 21, 2017

Song #64: "Red Rubber Ball"--Cyrkle (1966)

We go back 51 years today for a song I discovered in college of all places, thanks to my first professional radio job. I mentioned a dear friend and colleague, "Mr. Mike" Rancourt a couple of days ago. He did the overnight shift on WUPE-FM, and I got to know him originally from my first airshift assignment, which was following his Saturday Night Oldies show.

From that show, I first was exposed to this short but sweet song about a guy who exits a relationship and decides, rather than sit around and mope about that which was lost, he's going to look positively towards the next chapter of his life.

So, rather than the sun rising on the "new day" being a searing object burning him, he looks at it with the joy and optimism that we all did as kids when we got a red rubber ball in our hands. We started to play, and have fun.

Not a bad outlook.  :)

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Song #65: "Tragedy"--Bee Gees (1979)

We haven't heard from The Bee Gees in a year on our countdown, having appeared for the first time on this day. They return today for the second and final time with the song they released in their post "Saturday Night Fever" era.

I think the song has more in common with their mid-1970's hits like "Jive Talkin'", and the song at the link above, "Nights On Broadway", than it does with "Stayin' Alive". And I think that is a big reason why I love it so much. The use of so much instrumentation, and the drama that the song provides in building wave after wave, from the beginning to the link from verse to chorus. It's very unique and is a major reason why I think this song is fantastic.

It's also incredibly easy to sing along to in the car all alone.  :)

And we haven't even talked about the emotion of the message of the song, given greatly by the vocals, which, of course, were the signature of the Bee Gees.

It's weird to type these two words together, but enjoy "Tragedy"!   :)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Song #66: "The Voice"--The Moody Blues (1981)

Today, the second of four songs from the album that really opened the Moody Blues door to me, "Long Distance Voyager", 36 summers ago.

The song led off the album and was the second radio single after "Gemini Dream". I hated the radio edit, which eliminated the classic opening.

Somehow, my vinyl copy of this album got irretrievably warped while I was up in college, but, I do remember my great friend and colleague, the late "Mr. Mike", Mike Rancourt, throwing down the full version of this song on his overnight shift for me after I had returned to Pittsfield from Springfield, Massachusetts, the site of my first Moody Blues concert in October, 1986.

To my friend, Suzanne Smith, who went to the show with me, thank you again for the evening! It would be almost 18 years before I would see them again. So blessed to be able to go at least one more time come July at Wolf Trap.  :)

Appropriate thoughts when considering the line, "oh, won't you tell me again tonight" from today's song.  :)