10 Questions with ... Steve Hammond "The Gatekeeper"
November 5, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
My love for radio started when my dad gave me a transistor radio when I was seven. I'd listen to it until the batteries died, then take my wagon to the local park to look for pop bottles to cash in to buy more batteries. I don't remember the names of the jocks, but I knew they had the greatest job in the world. Being a jock is all I've ever wanted to do.
After graduating from The Ohio School Of Broadcast Technique in Cleveland, I began my career in Van Wert, OH, where you could throw a stone from one end of town to the other. In fact, my first personal appearance was hosting the cake walk at the local elementary school, for which I received $15 and a leftover cake.
Fortunately, things only got bigger and better from there. After a few more years at small market stations, I landed a job in Canton, OH, then Youngstown, OH and made the big time with a gig in Columbus, OH, where I had the #1 afternoon show for five years.
After reading an ad in one of the trades, I took a shot and became the evening jock at KSHE in St. Louis for over three years. Some company financial problems resulted in what we called "The Tuesday Afternoon Massacre," which resulted in me, and many others, being between gigs.
I came back home to Akron, OH, and took a part-time gig with WONE. In less than a year, they made me the afternoon-drive host. But, after 11 years, they brought in a new morning host which meant the PD, who had been doing mornings, needed to be moved to another shift since company policy requires the PD to do an air-shift. Guess whose shift they gave him? That's how I find myself On The Beach. I'd rather be in a studio, behind a microphone.
1) What do you do to maintain a positive mental attitude and stay motivated?
I remind myself that I'm too good to be off the air and that the right gig will come along at the right time. It always does.
2) How are you occupying your time, besides looking for a job?
My wife works full-time, so I've become very domestic. I do most of my "chores" in the evening, after office hours and while she's at work.
3) What's the longest stretch you've had on the beach?
13 months. It was hell. I worked as a house painter, DJ at a strip bar and stocked shelves at a grocery store. I was so thankful when KSHE hired me.
4) What's the best way to get your foot in the door?
If I knew that, I'd be working. I've always believed in being the best jock possible and entertaining my listeners. Maybe that's not enough these days.
5) How are you finding the "courtesy level" at places you've applied? (Callbacks, e-mails, rejection letters, etc.)
In the old days, you almost always got a rejection letter in the mail. I used to keep them to remind myself of the stations that blew their chance to hire me. Now, you're lucky if you get a rejection e-mail. Most of the time, you never hear back from anyone.
6) Are you finding salaries/benefits lower than you ever thought, about the same, or have you seen some pleasant surprises?
Mostly lower salaries with little or no benefits. One station offered to pay me what I was making at my last gig, but no benefits. The PD told me they have a trade-out with a local doctor and I could see him twice a year if I need to.
7) What's the most unbelievable question you've ever been asked in an interview?
I was asked if I "take marijuana." I told the PD, "You don't take it, you smoke it." That was the end of that interview. I had a huge dinner that night at the hotel and charged it to the station. I'm so bad.
8) What has been your biggest career accomplishment?
In 1986, I was working for a station in Canton. On April Fools Day we ran a fake commercial I produced announcing that Van Halen and Quiet Riot were playing a free show at the McKinley monument. So many people believed it that the police shut the park down and the mayor threatened to sue me and the station. It made the newspapers. You can't buy publicity like that.
9) What do you miss most about music/radio? The least?
I miss being on the air, in the loop and the free concert tickets. If I tell you what I miss the least, I might not get another gig.
10) Having been through all you have dealt with in this biz, what advice would you give people trying to break in?
The same advice my favorite jock gave me when I was still in broadcasting school. "If it's really what you want to do, go for it. But there's no money in it, kid."
Care to contribute a recipe for our "On The Beach" cookbook?
If I told you any of my secret recipes, I'd have to kill you. I make a hot buffalo wing sauce that should be sold all over the world.