Wednesday, August 20, 2008
When I went off to college in 1977, I was convinced that I was going to be a famous FM radio DJ. One of the reasons I decided to go to school at the University of Wisconsin in Madison was because it's Radio, TV & Film program had a great reputation. Once I got to the school however, I was shocked to find that the only thing passing for a college radio station was a run down "carrier current" station called WSRM. "Carrier current" means that the station was not actually broadcast over the airwaves but was only available in the dorms. Since Madison is a huge school, this wouldn't have been so bad if the large dorm population actually listened to the station. It turned out however that nobody cared about what was going on at WSRM and the stations were not promoted to the students at all. Listenership was so bad that one night I got on the air and announced that I would give away $100 to the first person to call me on the air... nobody called.
Thinking that it was criminal that a University of the size and caliber of Madison didn't have a real college station, a group of us got together and formed an organization with the catchy and inspiring title, "Students for Progressive Radio" or "SPR". Our rallying slogan was "Make Waves" (Get it, as in radio waves). Despite impressive efforts to petition the school, some great benefit concerts (including one by the Police & XTC!) and some really cool T-shirts and buttons, we made no headway and to this day there is no student run station at the school.
Looking for a real radio outlet, I volunteered as an intern at the popular rock station in town. WIBA FM was an album oriented, free-form FM station which billed itself as "Radio Free Madison". The station had absolutely NO format, the DJ's picked all of their own music, said what they wanted to say and basically had free rein during their individual shows. WIBA FM was so cool that at 6pm every week night, they had a popular block of programming they called "The Quiet Hour" where they played a bunch of mellow music that ranged from classic early ECM (Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny) to singer songwriter stuff. I guess the idea was to present mellow music for you to have dinner to. The thought of a commercial rock station devoting an hour of air time to such a thing these days is beyond preposterous.
I worked my way up through the ranks at WIBA FM from an intern to a substitute announcer (as the only Jew at the station, I was always good for filling in during Christmas), to a part time weekend shift. A week after I graduated college my boss, program director Dave Ervin, offered me a full time job DJing the overnight slot, shook my hand and said:
"Congratulations you are one of 1% of the population that has gotten a full time job in your chosen profession, right out of college"
Thus began my first full time job, DJ'ing on a free-form rock station from 11pm to 5am, 5 days a week. Starting salary: (the princely sum of) $12,000 a year!
To be continued...
Posted by Global Noize at 11:56 AM