8 People Who Taught Me Something Along The Way
September 1, 2015
I could have written about twenty people in this article, as there are many who shaped the path that allowed great opportunity. I hope as you read this, it will inspire you to think of your own influences, and perhaps, write them a little note, a FB post, or old school, pick up the phone and let them know.
I have gotten mine down to eight, and I will give them to you, in alphabetical order by first name, to avoid any bickering it may cause otherwise.
1. Brian Kelly: Frank Bell always bragged about Brian, so a part of me desired to befriend him, and another part of me wanted to plot a course to take him out. I didn't need competition to being Frank Bell's pet.
Over several years, I got to slowly know who Brian was, and we had a ton in common, including a love for comedy, a desire to be in Los Angeles, writing for TV, and of course, there was programming, which we shared a similar style in.
Technologies Change Landscape
When I was sidelined from programming for a five-year period of time, technologies had changed the game a bit, and it was Brian who got me up to speed on the vision of how to utilize new technologies to our advantage.
2. Bruce Logan: There's no question that one of the most successful times in cluster management was CC Charlotte under the reigns of Morgan Bohannon and Bruce Logan. Shortly after I arrived as PD of WIBT, now WHQC, the Charlotte cluster was thriving, with each station beating its main competition from Jack Daniel at WEND, to Jeff Kent at WRFX (The Fox), to Nick Allen at WLYT (Lite 102.9), to Bruce overseeing WKKT (Kat Country) to me adding the special sauce to the launch of the Beat. It was rare. It was magical.
Bruce taught me two things in that time. One of them was taking the mystery out of programming Country radio, and really out of any format truthfully. He said, "It's just math." And it really is. If you get the math right, you then have more opportunity for the art of it all to make the difference, like icing on a cake. Most stations that are broken are broken at the math level; what songs are they playing and how often?
Bruce was being directed behind the scenes to go a different route than to hire me for this position, but he trusted his gut, and bucked the system, and fought until they finally said, "OKAY, do what you feel is right."
You Gotta Fight
Up until then, I would fight for what I believed was the right path, but with constant pressure from above, I would sometimes give in, even when my gut said to keep fighting. Knowing the backbone Bruce maintained in making the decision to bring me aboard, I was not only thankful, but four years in, when we were still killing it, I knew he was right.
It's good to fight when you're right.
3. Burt Burdeen: Burt is a former Chicago radio programmer, another instructor at Columbia College Chicago, who has a passion to find the students who have a passion, and teaching us every aspect of this business from the most mundane things that require paperwork; i.e. public files, ASCAP and BMI logging, facility sheets for Arbitron, etc.
Several times over the course of my career, the fact that I knew those things allowed me opportunities to grow in unexpected areas in the structure of a station.
On top of this, Burt was always hyper focused on the effectiveness of what is coming out of the speakers. It was his influence that made me know that, done right, radio really is a breathing living organism.
4. Dave Edwards: Having a newfound faith by the time I was hired in Syracuse, Dave taught me how to walk faith out, instead of talking it out. It's easy to tell someone what you think they need in their lives, but it's more impactful to show them, simply by living by the guidelines you'd like to introduce them to.
Dave believed in me, which allowed me to believe in me, which is why two years under his teaching was the catalyst that launched me into the stratosphere.
If you don't know the name Dave Edwards, it's because in spite of his successes in Syracuse, and they were massive, he didn't brag in the trades, he didn't highlight his victories outside of sharing it with his team. He was like Detroit Lions' Barry Sanders in that way.
As a PD, he was a tactician. He would break down callout music research and auditorium music tests from angles most programmers aren't capable of seeing. That philosophy is one I've adopted, adapted and taught others.
Rock It Man
5. Dave Richards: Dave hired me to work Rock radio in Rhode Island back in the late 80's. He taught me, what truly became, my greatest skill: writing words that impact.
As his late night jock and later, marketing director, Dave stripped me of on-air crutches, clichés and unnecessary verbiage, which was only heightened when I began writing the station promos and jock liners.
Because of my inconsistency as a human being back then, Dave got stellar Rob, and embarrassing Rob, and he put up with both of them, while trying to correct the one that was going to lead me to hitting a brick wall.
6. Frank Bell: Frank was the one who took the chance on me as a first time PD, and when my relationship internally with my OM and GM became dicey, Frank remained a sounding board and never gave up, no matter what.
Now He Tours With Taylor
When I would present a new idea for clock rotations or promotions that had never been tried in our industry, Frank would be the one to go against conventional wisdom and say, "let's try it." Amazingly, the risk paid off every time in that case.
Without Frank, I believe I would think like everybody else. His willingness allowed me to never give up trusting in my ideas, no matter how "out of the box" they may have been.
Together we built a heritage station, WFBC B93.7 in Greenville, and it paved the way for other great PD's to make their way through there, including Nikki Nite, who was the one who took our rustic, but impactful product and put the gloss on it.
7. Jeff Kapugi: I've known Jeff since both of us were too young to drink, college days at Columbia College Chicago. Jeff taught me consistency. He is the same guy today as he was in College. He was always focused, buttoned up and loyal beyond measure, just now, with many years of stellar experience to top it all off.
Jeff saw the period of my life where drugs and alcohol took over, diminished my focus, shifted my priorities, and lowered the quality of my output.
In the end, he still called to check up on me. Before I was clean from destroying myself completely, he was already sharing opportunities to get my feet back on a great path.
8. Jim McGuinn: The common ingredients between McGuinn and me were plentiful: A passion for music, from Punk to Alternative to Power Pop, discovering new bands, looking under rocks to find the next big hits, which we both have had a long career of finding.
At one of my sickest moments away from family when we lived in Rhode Island, both working for Dave Richards, McGuinn took it upon himself to nurse me back to health, which included cooking and cleaning, and unfortunately for him, there was an exorbitant amount of puke, but he did it.
Jim taught me that no matter what programming purists say, music matters, and that you can be successful programming, even when you leave a little room in the procedure for the true art of discovery. My favorite period of this business was singing in bands with McGuinn and being part of his team of warriors at 102.7 WEQX in Manchester VT.
Next week, 8 people who taught me dirt nothing! Can't wait to make new friends with that article.