Tias Schuster and the Paint Roller
April 21, 2014
Are you willing to do whatever it takes to win? As a programmer, I love testing the flexibility of the people around me, to determine, first off, their willingness to do anything, as long as they feel it can help us win, and secondly, their ultimate capabilities.
In 1996, in my second year launching WFBC, B93.7 in Greenville, SC, our parent company, which was Keymarket at the time, and later Sinclair, before being gobbled by Entercom, had purchased a Bee costume for the station to use at sales events. We put out an ad, looking for someone who might have had experience as a team mascot, and what we got was a post-teenager who wrote in Special Skills on his resume, "Ability to endure extreme temperatures."
And that's how Tias Schuster got into radio. From being inside the Scooby Doo outfit at Carowinds Theme Park in Charlotte to becoming Buzzy the B93.7 mascot, simply because his resume made the marketing director laugh.
GETTIN' THE FOOT IN FIRST
Tias quickly became that guy who just loved being around the radio station, so if he didn't have something to do, I'd find something for him, even odd tasks, like, cleaning out my car; a test to see what his limitations were.
Tias knew no task he wouldn't do, but the ultimate test came when on the front page of the Greenville News, there was a picture of the historic Greenville Memorial Auditorium and a headline that said that it was to be torn down that Fall.
B93.7 was successful almost immediately, winning all dayparts after middays, but the morning shows in Greenville were strong and ours had yet to beat "Love and Hudson," at WMYI, "John Boy & Billy," at WROQ, or "Ellis and James" at WSSL.
REMEMBER THE YELLOW WHITE OUT
There was White Out on my desk in the color Yellow, used as a correction for what was then the Yellow Pages of Rock, an amazing directory sent out yearly by the Album Network, with its humorous YELLOW OUT as the inside joke that our industry changes its people more than it does our underwear.
Defacing property is a crime, and I knew that, but somehow defacing a building that was about to be torn down seemed like a free billboard to me, so I took the Yellow Out and on the picture of the Greenville Memorial Auditorium, I wrote, the names "Hawk N' Tom."
Later that day, three part timers came to my office to BS; Tias Schuster, Skip Church and a kid named Greg Brown. I had them close the door, then, I held up the picture of the Greenville Memorial Auditorium with the names, "Hawk N' Tom" on it. I asked, "Who thinks they could get this done?"
PART TIME SYNERGY
Immediately, they all got excited and began devising a way to get the job done, including how to get a ladder and paint on the other side of the now fenced in property, etc. And then I dropped the bomb on them.
"If you get caught, you will probably lose your jobs, and if you get caught, I had NOTHING to do with it."
That night, it rained, which probably was the greatest thing that could have ever happened, as when they climbed the ladder with the paint bucket, there was an overhang on the auditorium that protected the very area of the building that I had written on in my office. And in addition to shielding them from the rain, it shielded their efforts from cars that would pass them in the night.
THE EAGLE HAS LANDED
At 4am, my phone rang, and the message left had something to do with an Eagle landing, so I got in my car and drove past the Auditorium in the center of downtown Greenville and big as life, there it was, just like on my desk, in yellow.
"HAWK N' TOM," the name of my morning show, was sprawled out across the front of the auditorium. The awesome sight was exciting and scary all in the same breath, as I saw press coverage in my future, and maybe jail time, and both thoughts broke me out in a cold sweat.
The press coverage did come, and there was a lot of it... newspapers, TV news and the best coverage, the community talking about it. And with that, a morning show was launched, and both Hawk Harrison and Tom Steele, on several occasions since then, have given that moment as the catalyst that launched their 18 year reign in AM drive.
FREE CAR WASH
It wasn't a surprise when Tias Schuster rose in the ranks in Greenville, then set out for success in Wilkes Barre-Scranton PA, then Norfolk VA, before coming full circle to OM over the female branded stations at the cluster where it all started for him.
On my next visit to Greenville, I'm cleaning out his car. It's only fair.