Scott LeTourneau and the Perfect Aircheck Session
August 5, 2014
At age 19, I got an internship at B96, WBBM-FM Chicago, under the guidance of Program Director Buddy Scott, Promotions Director Jon Scott, News Director Karen Hand and Music Director Jo Bohannon. At that time, the midday talent was a young guy himself, Scott LeTourneau, who went by the name Scott O' Brien.
The year was 1985, and just 10 years later in '95, I would find myself in Greenville, SC in my first programming job competing against Buddy Scott, no pressure or anything.
Buddy was overseeing WSSL and WMYI, heritage Country and AC stations in the Greenville, Spartanburg, Anderson and Asheville markets.
I was given the reigns of the oldies station, WFBC, which had just flipped to Top 40, under the name B93.7.
TEN YEARS AFTER
The staff at B93.7 had already been hired, with Hawk Harrison and Marty Selby in morning drive, The Hawk & Marty Show; Buzz O' Brien in PM Drive and then others holding down midday, night and overnight positions without, yet, being given the shifts officially.
This wasn't the first time that I had worked with Hawk & Marty. When I was marketing director at 93-3 WFLZ, the Power Pig in Tampa, Hawk and Marty were the night team that eventually went to PM Drive, just as I departed for my first full time on-air gig at WNTQ Syracuse, where I did nights for two years until July of '95, before getting the PD gig in Greenville.
So, there they were, Hawk and Marty in AM Drive in Greenville and here I was going from hanging banners at their events, to becoming their boss.
And for Buzz O'Brien, it could have been even worse. Last time our paths had crossed, he was Scott O'Brien and the midday jock at B96 in Chicago, so how would you feel if your intern was now having you bow before him?
BE KIND TO EVERYONE, HERE'S WHY
Yes, I make my employees bow. It's worked for me thus far.
In my first one-on-one with Scott O' Brien, he was honest about the interest another station in the market had in him, and with his former boss, Buddy Scott, in town, it all made sense where he could be heading.
All I could do was express my hope that whatever he decides, that it all goes well and reaps a great reward for him, professionally and personally.
I shared the vision I had for the future of B93.7 with him, hoping if he would buy in that he would decide to stay.
He let me know that the moniker of Buzz O' Brien wasn't working for him. He didn't feel it was real, and wasn't comfortable with it. I understood that immediately and without thinking about it, fighting it, or sharing it with my management staff, I said, "Done, you are now Scott O'Brien, the way it was when we first met."
Being a Bee station, the owners had the idea of giving the talent names that had to do with everything Bee related, and HONESTLY, I got the job, partly, by presenting myself as ROB-BEE, but while cute, it wasn't going to translate well into the new world of the information age we were now launching into with CompuServe, Prodigy, AOL and this thing called the World Wide Web.
We already had a mascot named Buzzy, so who needs Buzz and Buzzy? Not FBC, that's who!
Scott did something that made me realize I would always be loyal and fair with him. He ended up staying; choosing me, the unproven programmer, versus familiar grounds of working with the talented and proven Buddy Scott.
FUNNY HAHA OR FUNNY PECULIAR
Some jocks are funny without trying. Some know how to relate as a human without trying. Some know the local things to talk about and how to discuss those things in a way to appeal to more than just the targeted user. Some know how to fit it all concisely over the lip of an 8 to 12 second intro.
Others aren't funny without trying. Others don't relate as easily to the human spirit and have to work harder to find that common ground. Others don't have that knack to find the local things that can help brand you as local. And some don't know how to make it fit well over an intro.
This is what makes a great PD, great! Having to reach similar goals utilizing human beings, all with extremely differing skillsets, hoping that all of the work comes together for a common goal, that ends with a victory flag waving in the wind.
Scott O' was amazing at fitting the content over the lip of a song. He was amazing at knowing the content he should be talking about. He did the work to know, ahead of time, what was going on in the town, and he spent a good amount of time whittling the thought process down, until it was packaged just right.
GRUELING AIRCHECK SESSIONS
Scott loved to laugh, but wasn't the funniest man on the planet. Scott, while a breathing, speaking, walking, talking specimen, wasn't always keyed into how the things he'd say could more powerfully impact the other specimen who also breathed and the like.
My air checking sessions are grueling, with a lot of rewinding and re-listening to breaks after they've been corrected, to the point that the jock will begin to cringe upon the replay; which is absolutely the point. In that horrendous atmosphere, Scott accomplished something no other jock ever did.
Being the prepared talent that Scott is, I created two scenarios for him, one of which would give him growth, the other which could shut his creativity down before it could start.
Sometimes, being overly prepared means a jock is so closely tied to the content that they can't deviate one iota from its original form without creating panic in their brain. It's the difference between the tightrope walker who has a net, and the other who doesn't. They both make it across without falling, but we're more in awe of the one who didn't use the net.
BE PREPARED TO BE SPONTANEOUS
The other thing preparation can do for a talent is free them up so much that the creativity NOW has greater freedom to come to the surface of the mind. It sounds weird, but it's something I heard Scott Shannon say once, "You gotta be prepared to be spontaneous."
In my aircheck sessions, I'd end by scratching some notes on a pre-made form that shared the things they were doing great, and the things they could improve upon. The goal was that there was always more things they were doing great, and for the most part, this would ring true, except for some extreme cases.
But the thing that happened with Scott O' Brien had NEVER happened up until this point and NEVER happened again.
I had written the things he was doing well, and then when it came to the things he could improve upon, I truly couldn't think of any.
THERE IS NO "I" IN TEAMWORK
Our work together had paid off quickly. We were able to make his preparation work FOR him, to free him up, to allow him to bring forth the MOST innovation, both in prepared form, and then again, with spontaneity if he found himself with the freedom to improvise.
Right before my eyes, Scott became a jock who went from sounding ultra-prepared to a jock who learned how to make being ultra-prepared sound spontaneous.
I would find myself belly laughing at his content, retorts to callers, and his comebacks to the traffic girl. Humor found its way into the palette of Scott O' Brien's artistry and into more than 80% of his on-air content.
It proved itself worthy in results too, as Scott hit number one in PM Drive, with a 26 share and stayed in that ballpark consistently book after book; the kind of ratings' numbers you just don't see anymore.