10 Questions with ... Bill Black
September 30, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I've worked at great radio stations like WZHT/Montgomery, AL; WFXE/Columbus, GA; WHXT/Columbia, SC; and WHTA and WAMJ/Atlanta. I produced imaging for Pat Garrett for several years. I've also had a syndicated mixshow called "The Car Phone Mega Mix" with Jerry Smokin' B as well as did mixshow for The Rickey Smiley Morning Show heard in over 50 cities
1) What's the biggest challenge to being a first time OM/PD?
I inherited four great radio stations from Colby Colb. He did a great job of getting them to the top. The hardest part for me is maintaining what was done before I got here.
2) How do you handle the stress of the job?
A programmer's work is never done. We are always working. Checking e-mails, returning calls, putting out fires, you name it. I live about 30 minutes outside of Cleveland. The drive into work allows me to think about what I have to tackle going to the job. The drive home allows me to think and analyze the day. Once I get home I have two little girls who only care about DADDY and what's for dinner. So it's a healthy balance.
3) What got you into radio?
My dad did radio programming, so it's all I've been around my whole life. When he died in '88, I really didn't want to do it because in my mind, I felt radio killed him. He was always working ... and never took vacations. I thought that was just the way of the business. I took a job as a mixer after he passed ... then my PD at the time kinda "tricked me" into going on air. He told me the jock who hosted my mix show wasn't coming to work tonight and I would have to do the breaks myself. I didn't want to go on air because I hated my voice ... but after my beeper (remember those?) kept blowing up from girls after my first break I decided radio was okay with me!
4) So what lesson did you learn from growing up with radio professionals in your family?
Radio is a drug. It gets in you. It consumes you. You get lost in it. The music is a high. Knowing your audience and how to touch and feel that audience were things my dad used to say have to be in you. School can teach you how to BE a personality ... But school can't teach you how to HAVE a personality. Be true and relevant to your audience and they will return that. It's funny because my dad would say all of this stuff to me ... but I never understood it until years after he died
5) What's your vision for the future of radio and the Urban format?
If we as programmers (myself included) don't step up and start doing a better job of training and grooming the talent we have, we're gonna be in trouble. Who is our next young-end syndicated morning show? Talk amongst yourselves and let me know ... I'll wait.
6) So what have you found to be unique about the Cleveland radio listener?
The Cleveland radio listener is VERY progressive. They are normally ahead of the curve
7) Can you give us your views on music research ... call out and auditorium testing?
This actually ties in to the last question. I'm a fan of research and callout. But lately, I really pay attention to the Shazam app on my phone. Instantly I can see what songs are the big sellers in various neighborhoods in the Cleveland Metro. I looked last week as I was scheduling music. It tells me what the people REALLY want to hear! And normally it's in line with my callout research.
8) Other than those in your family, what others in this business have either mentored or influenced you?
That's a lot of people...
- Larry Steele was the PD who gave me my shot on the radio.
- Monica May groomed me and was the first person to show me Selector (THANK YOU)
- Michael Long
- Phillip David March - He believed in me and taught me how to be a great PD
- Chris Conner
- Stanley Toole - Sometimes I think he is my other Dad!!
- Dwight Stone - We've been fans of each others work for years and now are like brothers! We trade war stories and pray together often
- Terri Thomas - Always has the greatest advice!!!
- Hurricane Dave - This guy taught me how to have a family and still be active in Radio ... an inspiration and a Godsend!! We talk probably 3x a week!
- Derrick Harper - My musical counterpart - He's like a walking music encyclopedia
- Nicole Sellers - The stories....MAN!!
- Jerry Smokin B
- Steve Hegwood
- Mitch Faulkner
- Pat Garrett
- Casey Kasem taught me (not personally ... but by listening to the countdown) how to tease you with a tidbit about an artist and you sit through those all those commercials to find out who he was talking about. The original PPM appointment setter.
- John Broomfield - Thank you for believing and teaching me patience!!
- Colby Colb's legacy is crazy in hip hop. I used to see his name in the liner notes and now he's my boss! Kinda cool huh?
- Jay Stevens - His vision and insight are so on point
- Coach Weaver is a guy I just met, but we sat on the phone and talked about the business for two hours. I had been a fan of these articles for years ... and now look... "TOP OF THE WORLD MA"!!!!!!!
- Bruce Demps
9) What are your top five all-time favorite songs? And tell us the significance for choosing each song.
- "I Can't Help It" - Michael Jackson takes me back to when radio played album cuts. Michael sang the hell outta this and his passion in it is crazy.
- "Check the Rhyme" - A Tribe Called Quest - This song just gets me going ... it's the track ... its Phife ... its Q-Tip ... it's hip-hop at its finest!
- "Can't Tell Me Nothing" - Kanye West... this track played over and over and over and over and over and over and over in my car when the Graduation CD came out. The orchestration of the track, the motivational lyrics, I was at a great point in life... whew!!
- Any song from Grover Washington Jr.'s "Winelight" CD ... my Dad played a hole in this album ... I didn't really know a lot about jazz until this album. It takes me back to Saturday morning chores and road trips!
- "Something About You" - Level 42 ... laugh, but I bought this 12 inch four times because I kept getting it scratched. This one takes me back to middle school and it was just a banger ... I remember hearing a DJ mix this with Shout by Tears for Fear as a kid and I wanted to know how he made those two records segue into one another. That started my DJ bug
10) What advice do you have for programmers in putting together a music playlist and sound for their station or stations? And does the approach vary depending on the format?
See question #7
You told us how you started, what's your advice for air personalities just starting out who have dreams of programming?
Ask a lot of questions ... find out who the OG's are in the business, ask them a lot of questions. Ask your PD why he chose a particular song. Hopefully that PD will then teach you about research and the flow of the station. Maybe ... they'll show you selector and you can begin to understand why we play a record 50x a week and others 13x... again, I asked my PD ... and 25 years later ... here I stand
How do you see yourself growing in this business?
So on WENZ, I'm noticing I have an ear for picking very good on air talent. I'd like to be a corporate talent scout or a regional MD for a radio company. Not just picking the music, but being sure they are edited correctly and make sure we are playing the right versions, etc.
If you had not gone into radio, what other profession would you have chosen?
I'd have the largest mobile DJ service in whatever city I'd be living