The Not-So-Poison Words Of Ivey
May 27, 2014
I was recently reminded of how a small acknowledgement of someone's talent and skill level can be the wind, filling the sails that generates positive movement toward achieving your goals -- even ones that seem out of reach.
R Dub in San Diego had reached out to my wife, Sarah Lee, about co-host duties with Rick Moorten at Jammin' Z90. When she and Rick met, he told her a story about how he appreciated the time I had taken with him when I was considering him for an opening I had at B97 in New Orleans.
Rick had let Sarah Lee know that he was at a crossroads at that time, and the discussions we had actually gave him hope.
The Power of Positive Words
I was humbled, and immediately taken back to the same story from my vantage point about a man named John Ivey. Mr. Ivey landed in Rochester, taking over the PD position at 98PXY, at the same time my world was crashing.
I had first attempted to get a job with John in 1990 at WZOK/Rockford, a market I had already been a jock in.
Here's why my world was falling apart: My car was stolen one night while I was in a nightclub. The very next day, I was let go from my on-air job at WWKX/Providence. Then my girl started showing signs that a man without wheels and a job, no matter how white his teeth are, is not that attractive of a man. I hear it happens in threes.
Being out of a gig, I had sent demos to every corner of the US of A, literally 40 demos all around the country to stations that had openings and stations that did not. I heard nothing and with each passing day, my rent was due. I was quickly in the hole financially, and about to hit up mom and dad in Chicago for some free room and board.
Wait a Minute, Mr. Postman
I realized that radio may have run its course, and figured I would return home with my tail in between my legs, and as I was packing for the ride home to Chicago from Providence, it arrived in the mai ... an envelope from Rochester, New York, which contained a simple handwritten note that said, "Thank you for your interest in working at 98PXY. While I don't have a position for you, your demo shows great improvement, so keep in touch and keep at it." It was signed, John Ivey.
You would have thought I was Jim Carrey in the Cable Guy and John Ivey had just called me PAL.
He didn't hire me, but he had a word that let me know two things: He knew, specifically, who I was, and he recognized growth from his time from Rockford to Rochester. And that was the wind that hit the sails, and gave me hope to keep going.
My girl dumped me on Valentine's Day, a guy named Valentine (Yes, THAT Valentine) got the gig I wanted at WWKX, and that was the straw that sent me driving and crying all the way to my momma in Illinois. But, then, like the shrimp boat in Forrest Gump, the winds blew and with the winds, floodgates of opportunities would open. And life's hard times had changed me for the better. The biggest change being my work ethic. I no longer put my energies on me, but on others, the team, and when that change happened, success came at me fast.
Road to Recovery
Jim McGuinn, who I had worked with at WRX/Providence underneath the tutelage of Dave Richards, needed a night jock at Alternative WEQX in Manchester VT, my passion format, but also needed a promotions director, and he knew one guy who could do it all for 14k a year, and so I did. When Jim left the station to join Bill Hard's trade publication in NJ, the Hard Report, the late great Brooks Brown offered me the job as PD.
I turned it down because my friend, Jeff Kapugi, had handed that same demo that John Ivey referred to in his note to BJ Harris at the Power Pig. BJ called me immediately. "If you come to Tampa tomorrow, you have a job. If you come to Tampa next week, you have a job. If you come to Tampa next year, you have a job."
I packed up my Ford Festiva, the same car that was stolen -- it was beat to pieces but still ran --and we traveled the East Coast down to Tampa. At first it was weekends and overnights and fill-ins, but later became Marketing Director, and in the last year at the Power Pig, I was the main fill-in host for Bubba the Love Sponge, and the heir apparent, given the pre-approval from Randy Michaels and Marc Chase. But I knew this about Bubba: He was ... and still is ... the best, and wasn't going anywhere, so I packed it in in Tampa and became the night jock in Syracuse at 93Q, under one of the greatest PDs ever, Dave Edwards, who still works there, but on the brain side, in engineering.
First by Mail, then by Phone
We took a station that would teeter back and forth from number one, two and three in the market and went two years, dominating, book to book, and it was during this time that the phone rang.
"This is John Ivey from 98 PXY in Rochester, and man, you've come a long way on-air."
The night jock at PXY was up for a big gig, and John Ivey had come calling. He told me that the process might take a while, but it was most likely going to happen.
The year was 1994, and I reminded John about a handwritten note he had sent three years earlier, that had he not, we wouldn't be talking because I was definitely quitting the biz. He didn't remember the note, but he did remember the growth.
Even though I was APD/MD at 93Q and the night jock, I told John I'd do weekends for him if he had the need. I started that weekend.
It Takes Years to Become an Overnight Sensation
Soon after, John was being courted by Y107 in Nashville, which he worked for three quick months, before being lured to Boston's KISS 108. I commented about how his career was like a rocket, and he said, "Yeah, I'm a (expletive) overnight sensation.
That's when he told me he had been in radio for 18 years at that point, a career that had started in '76 in Owensboro, KY with stops in Nashville, Evansville, Omaha and the Quad Cities, before hitting Rockford, where I had first sent him my demo. It was then when I became extremely patient in this industry, realizing that hard work will get someone's attention, always, in the right time.
Of course, John got to KIIS in LA after six-plus years in Boston, and has been there since 2001 ... an amazing career.
Why do I feel like ending this article by singing, "Wind Beneath My Wings?"