10 Questions with ... Pat "DJ Grooves" Cerullo
August 30, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- 2004-2006: Hot 107.9 (State College, PA) APD / MD / Nights
- 2005-2006: Hot 92 (Harrisburg, PA) Weekends
- 2006: Hot 102 (Louisville, KY) Nights
- 2006-2009: Hot 99.5 (Washington, DC) Nights
- 2009-2012: 98.7 Amp Radio (Detroit, MI) APD / MD / Afternoons
- 2012: Wired 96.5 (Philadelphia, PA) APD / MD / Afternoons
- 2012-2014: Channel 95.5 (Detroit) Weekends
- 2014-Present: Energy 94.1, 102.7 Jack FM, 103.3 The App: PD / MD
1) How would you describe your first radio gig?
I was a broke college kid attempting to put myself through Penn State a few credits at a time. I moved to State College, PA on a whim in 2004 with one goal in mind, and that was to get my first commercial radio job. I stalked Hot 107.9 APD Mike Jax and went to all his remotes until he finally let me on the air Saturday mornings as part of an internship. I essentially traded college credit for my first on air gig. My experience in State College was invaluable and it helped build a solid foundation that I'm truly thankful for.
2) What led you to a career in radio?
I was infatuated with radio for as far back as I can remember. By the age of 14 I was doing a mix show at Lafayette College's WJRH during the summer while the students were on break. Growing up in Allentown, PA I was able to hear great radio from New York and Philly. Every day I could hear talent like Angie Martinez and Funkmaster Flex at Hot 97, Wendy Williams at 98.7 Kiss FM, Colby Colb at Power 99, and Tik Tac, Mikey, Big Bob, and Mo Bounce at Q102. It was a radio nerd's dream.
3) How would you describe the radio landscape in your market?
Crowded. A shared power title like Calvin Harris or Drake can play nearly 500 times in a week in San Antonio. Finding a niche in a market with four Top 40s and over 50 total signals has been one of the biggest challenges I've faced in my career. I'm thankful to be surrounded by an amazing staff, supportive managers, and a corporate brain trust that has given us all the tools we need to succeed.
4) What makes your station unique? How would you compare it to other stations you've worked at?
We all have the same level of drive and passion. I've never been on a team of people who were all so like-minded. From Brooke and Jubal, Tony Cortez, Shadia and Nick Trey on Energy 94.1, to AC and Iris on our Alternative station, everyone wants to win. The word "team" gets tossed around as a cliché, but here I can see it happening in real life. Listeners hear that coming through the speakers and can tell the difference.
5) Are you wearing more "hats" than you have in the past?
Radio is a constant evolution. Failure to evolve along with it will result in someone else filling your position. This holds true regardless of who you work for, or what market you work in. Learning different skill sets and being proactive is the only way to ensure longevity.
6) What are you doing social media-wise?
Making sure we are on the platforms that our audience is on and adapting to trends as they happen. Our Top 40 audience uses social media completely differently than the audience on our Adult Hits property, and our content mixture has to reflect that. Social media is constantly changing, so I like to watch what other like-minded brands are doing.
7) What are your favorite show prep sources?
Real life. Social media is a good barometer of what's happening now, but you can't replace just being yourself when you crack the microphone.
8) Who handles your imaging, and what voices are you using?
On Energy 94.1 we utilize Rick Party and Dee Garcia thanks to the Mix Group. They're a dynamic combination and Dee's bilingual skills are vital to us. Victor Brown is our in-house producer and knows this market better than anyone. Locality is such an important brand attribute for us and I wouldn't be able to achieve that without Victor!
On 102.7 Jack FM we have the legendary Howard Cogan. No further explanation needed. Sam Pieprzyca produces our imaging in-house and is one of the most creative minds I know.
Jude Corbett is the voice of our Alternative station 103.3 The App. His delivery and timing are impeccable. Matt Warren of Gorilla Sounds makes it all sound phenomenal coming through the speakers. I worked with Matt in Harrisburg back in the early 2000s and it's great to be reconnected with him.
9) What's the coolest promotion you've been involved with recently?
How about launching 94.1 El Taco? I've been a part of several launches and re-brands over the years, but nothing compared to what we did here in San Antonio in January of this year.
Here was the audio: formatchange.com/ktfm-relaunches-as-energy-94-1
Here was the TV coverage: foxsanantonio.com/daytime-at-9/941-el-taco
10) Who were your mentors? Who would you say has influenced your career the most?
Early on it was Jason Barsky (now at 107.9 The End/Sacramento) and AJ (now at IHeartMedia/St. Louis). I sat in the station parking lot at 5am to meet Jason at Max 106.3, and I'd bug AJ on the request line at 97BHT until he would listen to my air checks. Neither of them ever gave me a job, which I like to remind them of.
On the programming side I've been fortunate to work for some of the smartest people in our industry. Jeff Kapugi and Toby Knapp took a chance on me when I was 23 years old and gave me a shot at nights in DC. They laid a solid programming foundation for me as well, and allowed me to bug them with question after question. Thea Mitchem was insightful and a true mentor who gave me plenty of sage advice.
Dom Theodore helped shape my love for programming and for Detroit in general. We had a great three-year run in Detroit helping launch 98.7 Amp Radio. Our similar musical ears and shared love for pizza helped us quickly become friends.
Dan Hunt taught me more about management than he knows. He was a leader, and someone who inspired loyalty. There was no better sounding Rhythm station in America than Wired 96.5 under his watch.
Currently I get to soak up knowledge from Phil Becker on a daily basis. Phil is great at helping me think critically and step outside of my comfort zone. Alpha is setting the bar high for broadcasters in 2016, and allowing programmers to program. The level of autonomy here is refreshing, and I think the real beneficiary is the listener.
What's the best sweeper/liner you've ever heard?
Jerry Clifton voiced a sweeper on Wired 96.5 (which was Wild 96.5 at the time), in December 2003. It went something like, "Here's two more words we think Q102 should own: f**** you." I never met Jerry but have worked at many stations that he had an influence over. He had an uncanny ability to get people talking about his stations. People still mentioned Rocco The Janitor when I got Wired 96.5 over a decade after Rocco "took over the station" and launched the brand in 2003. That's saying something.
What was your last non-industry job?
I took a two-year hiatus from doing radio full-time in 2012 and 2013 to focus of my syndication business. I was burnt out and I knew it. Still I was "sneaking" into iHeart/Philly to voice track for Kyle Due in Allentown at B104 and Tony Travatto at Channel 955 in Detroit. I spent many nights there bugging Brian Check, DC, Frankie Darcell, Stan Priest, and Jare. I truly value those conversations in retrospect, as they helped me realize just how passionate about this business I am. I needed those two years off to gain perspective, and I think I got it.