Long Distance Dad-ication
June 13, 2014
"My dad rocks."
That's a direct quote from Clear Channel/Nashville OM Michael Bryan and it's one of the first things that popped out of his mouth when I asked about his father, Darrell Bryan, who, in addition to being the aforementioned dad that rocks, spent 30 years in the radio biz.
The first time I ever spoke with Michael, he mentioned being a second-generation radio pro and I've always wanted to circle back to that, wondering which of his dad's lessons he takes to work with him each day.
Since Father's Day is this weekend, the timing seems right. I have several other friends in radio who also grew up in the business and now carry the family tradition. I reached out to them, too, and enjoyed their memories; hope you do, too.
"My earliest memories are sitting on my dad's lap while he was doing a weather forecast or running around in a production room making noise while he was trying to record a spot on a Saturday. I think I still have a cart of me reading a commercial when I was around six or so. And I can still hear the bulk eraser in my head.
"He was always willing to do anything and everything he had to do to earn a living. That meant doing the morning show, being the GM during the day and broadcasting play-by-play sports at night. It was small-market radio: WSMG-A 1450/Greeneville, TN. I remember him having me do a 7-mid shift on Saturday night and he'd have to come pick me up because I couldn't drive yet. And he'd give me tips on the drive home. One of my favorites was 'It doesn't matter how clever you are if nobody can understand what you're saying. SLOW DOWN.'
The lessons he taught me are with me every single day. And it's pretty significant that our favorite times together were driving four hours to Nashville just to hear The BIG 98 and Y107 (now "The River.") To this day, we still never have a conversation where we don't talk about radio.
His name is Darrell Bryan and he spent 30 years in radio working his way into ownership. He's been out of the business for about 14 years now but I'm sure he'd tell you there isn't a day that goes by that he doesn't miss it. One of his favorite lines is still 'It's better to be lucky than good.' He's always been both. "
Kris Daniels programs Beasley Country KCYE/Las Vegas and I'm quite familiar with her story, since I worked for her dad, Country Radio Hall of Famer Larry Daniels, for six years at the legendary KNIX/Phoenix. I have known Kris since she was a teenager and have watched her build a solid, respected career in radio encompassing on-air, MD and PD positions over the years.
"I learned a lot from my dad, He always told me 'Live and Local' works; talk directly to your listeners. Musically speaking, he listened to everything that came across his desk and I try to do the same; it's out of respect for the artist. My dad was a hard worker; everything was KNIX, the radio station, which was great, but family sometimes came second. I am a very hard worker, but I'm not going to miss certain things that are happening with my kids. Family is always first. I'm lucky that I have a company that believes the same. This is something I learned and sometimes it's easy to lose track of. At the end of your career you will always have your family."
Jack Shell handles MD/Middays at CBS RADIO WYCD/Detroit. I wasn't aware of his radio roots until he posted a fantastic shot of he and his dad, Cliff Shell, on his Facebook page, from when they worked at the same cluster. Here's what he shared about his father:
"He had been in radio and TV since before I was born. I didn't even realize he was in radio until I'd fallen in love with it myself as a small boy. But one day my mom said, 'Cliff, take Jack to work with you.' So I started going in with him for his Sunday air shift. It was a good way for us to bond, outside of family vacations and fishing trips. I was fascinated by it all because I liked listening to the radio. All off a sudden, my dad works in radio. Son of a bitch!
"I was nine years old; he'd put me in the production room and teach me how to record feeds off the network and dub stuff on to carts after bulk-erasing them. I was very hands-on and I enjoyed using equipment and doing production. At one point, I got my finger caught in a Scully reel-to-reel and damned near cut my finger off.
"That time with my dad showed me how passionate he was about old-school broadcasting. He enjoyed listening to the great, AM full-service announcers. That influenced me and I still have a deep appreciation for great radio broadcasters -- because my father was one.
"We eventually worked together in the same building. He was working on the AM MOR station and I was at the FM Top 40 station doing drive time. There were times when I'd be jamming to the music, cranking it loud ... and he'd be banging on the window yelling at me to turn it down. So while my friend's parents were yelling at them from downstairs at the house – my dad screamed at me from two panes of thick glass separating a Big Band and Rock station.
"It was a special time, but sometimes he wanted to run around at the radio stations like he was my dad – but, no, at work, he was Cliff and I was Jack."
One last Father's Day story for you.
In 2006, I got an e-mail with sage advice from my buddy Bob Mitchell, now with Redneck Records and formerly a promo exec with Sony and Dreamworks.
The subject line said simply, "I lost my Pop on Monday. If you still got yours, go hug his neck today." Father's Day always reminds me of that suggestion.
"If you're a father and reading this, have a fantastic day Sunday and enjoy your kids. If you're lucky enough to still have your dad around, give him a call and muster up the courage to say "I love you," or at least "thank you."
And if you're able to see him face-to-face, don't forget to hug his neck.