Monday, March 9, 2009

Radio Days (Part 3)

Around this time, I was dating my future wife long-distance, visiting her in North Carolina or meeting in Atlanta whenever we could. Hearing my morning show woes, the girlfriend told me of a morning show out of Charlotte she loved called the Bob & Sheri show. I got to hear a few episodes of it during a visit to NC and really took to it as well. Bob & Sheri are kind of the anti-morning zoo show in that they're more conversational and personality based than crass-humor or radio bit-based. At the time, they still played music, too, but largely they just chatted about the usual morning show topics from their perspective. I really dug the show and thought it was exactly the sort of format that would do well at my own station. Our demographic was 25 to 50 year old women and so was theirs. Seemed a good fit. Unfortunately, any Bob & Sheri sensibilities still had to be squeezed in between the umpteenth repeat of My Heart Will Go On, and once again had to be concise, so in practice it didn't work as well. Still, it gave me something to shoot for.

At the end of the next ratings period, we were both walking under a heavy heavy cloud, feeling that the sky would fall at any moment. We knew how it would happen, too. There would be a meeting called (in my experience, never EVER a good sign), probably with us individually, possibly with us both, and we would be told that numbers were down and we were fired. And, sure enough, one day a meeting was called, but for the entire staff. There we sat, all doom and gloom as we waited in the ad-sales room for someone to open the conference room doors. The doors were opened, we all shuffled in and looked around to see streamers and balloons and decorations and a giant sign that said "CONGRATULATIONS!"

Oh, hell, I thought. They're firing the lot of us. That sign really means "Congratulations, you suck worse than ANY radio station has ever sucked before; leave your keys on the conference table; you have five minutes to leave the building."

Turned out, though, that the decorations were there to celebrate the fact that our station's ratings had come back and we turned out to be #1 in the market for the first time in forever. Not only that, but our morning show had respectable numbers and was the #2 show in the area, after John Boy & Billy. Now, I'd like to be able to say these numbers were based largely on our talent as radio people, but that's not entirely the case. A major factor in this is that the station that was our number one competition in the area wound up moving their broadcast tower out of the area, putting their signal out of reach for a great many listeners. A lot of them turned to us as a replacement. Management had known this was a possibility (though I don't recall them letting me know about it), but it was not a guarantee as there were several other stations in the area with morning shows. I say all that to say this: we had our reprieve. Furthermore, with the numbers as good as they were, a lot of the people who'd been up our ass all year long finally climbed out. At long last we were finally left, if not alone then at least at a comfortable distance.

Meanwhile, back in my real life, things were getting pretty serious between me and the wife-to-be. I hated living 600 miles away from her and had actually not been too worried about being fired before, as that would at least give me the excuse to move to North Carolina. She'd already offered me her folks' Avion camper to stay in, should it come to that. And though we had not yet officially become engaged, we had been shopping around for rings and were very much in discussions. I figured give the station until July or August and then turn in at least a month's notice in time for them to find a new morning show person to replace me. In the meantime, I would try to save money for the move, which turned out to be easier because I got a pretty massive pay raise at work for no adequately apparent reason.

In late July, I picked my date to drop the news. Before I could do it, though, another staff meeting was called in the conference room. I didn't care, I felt invulnerable, but still the news was something of a shock. Our GM announced that our station had been sold to another local group of radio stations. This was a state-based media company that Cat had once worked for, one which was so notorious for being cheap that they actually made the DJs bring their own toilet paper to work. Our GM assured us that this was no longer the case and that the new company had agreed to take all employees with no layoff plans for the immediate future. The fact that the new company also had a reputation for never ever giving raises (something I'd enjoyed receiving on a more than annual basis since starting in professional radio) threw our recent massive pay raises into a new light. Turned out our old owners were trying to compensate for the cheapness of the new regime by giving us pay raises in advance, knowing the new company would have to honor them.

Of course, after learning the station had been sold off, my big departure news seemed kind of tame. It also came as a surprise to no one, as the staff had been wagering on how long it would take me to head for NC since the girlfriend and I had started dating.

I stepped down as morning show co-host in early August to allow Lee to take over again as Cat's morning show partner. (Which only made sense, as they were married in real life.) On my final day, I announced on the air that I had big news and then spilled the details of my departure. Cat, in turn, had some major news of her own to announce: she was pregnant. We then spent the next four hours trying to convince the listeners that it wasn't mine and had nothing to do with me leaving town.

That was not my last radio gig. I found a regular on-air slot in North Carolina, working for the very station that originated the Bob & Sheri show. That job also came with a fairly high degree of drama and many lessons learned about how commercial radio works. Overall, though, it was a positive experience, though if I never hear "Mambo #5" again in my life, I will not be too broken hearted. At least it wasn't Rod Stewart.

1 comment:

crsunlimited said...

I can't believe you just hinted that Mambo #5 was better then Rod Stewart. I thought you had taste.

Mambo #5 ranks right up there as worst song ever with Zoot Suit Riot. It was a one hit wonder based on old 20's and 30's Swing. Needless to say I hate that type of music. Although I normally love one-hit-wonders.

Rod Stewart on the other hand has quite a few songs that I like to listen too. Yeah I wasn't forced to listen to light all the time so maybe I don't have an aversion to him.