10 Questions with ... Bobby Holiday
January 27, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
A 29-year career you want me to keep "brief," huh? Okay. I got started in '86 at WQCY (99Q) in Quincy, IL. It was a Top 40 back then and I did nights. I got my first taste of Urban radio in '91 when I worked at WOWI (103 JAMZ)/Norfolk, VA. That station was ahead of its time playing hip hop throughout the day (as opposed to dayparting it at night like most Urban stations did back then). Everyone wants an opportunity to work in their hometown and I got mine in '94 when I did weekends on WGCI/Chicago. Let's see. What else? Oh! I got my chance to do radio full-time in a major market when I did afternoons in '98 on WPHI in Philadelphia, PA (it was then PHILLY 103.9). Like most radio pros I've been through my share of firings/layoffs/RIFs ... and I'm still here.
1) What made you want to get into radio?
Shockingly, I wanted to get into TV. I was influenced by this talk show host in Chicago who had this show called A.M. Chicago. No one knew she would go on to rule the talk show scene for a long time. Her name was Oprah Winfrey. So, when I got to college in '86 I got into radio to become a well-rounded broadcaster. Once I got on the mic I was hooked. I never realized just how much radio had influenced me as a kid and I never looked at a TV career again.
2) Could you tell us all the stations you grew up listening to and some of the promotions or stunts they used to do?
WOW! Such a great question. Growing up in the Windy City, I listened to some kick-ass radio stations. The first station I remember listening to was WJPC (AM 95). Long before he was "Fly-Jockin," Tom Joyner did mornings there. I don't remember much of their promotions but I do remember their personalities: LaDonna Tittle, Janice "Gorgeous" Gordon, Pastor T.L. Barrett, B-B-D The Banana, Dr. Bobby Brown, Bill Myers, Sam W-W-W-W-WWWWWWWWeaver and sooo many others. I also listened to WVON (AM 1390) mainly to Bobby "OH OH OOOOOHHHHHHHHH" O'Jay in the morning. He used to play an Inspirational Motivational Jam Of The Day. I loved it. On the FM side I l-o-v-e-d WBMX, WBBM-FM (B96) and WGCI-1075. WBMX-102.7 was the Urban leader with Doug Banks & Company in the morning. B96 was a rhythmic sounding station that had Eddie V(olkman) & Joe Bo(hannon) in the morning, Gary "The Spearman" Spears in the afternoon and George McFly at night. The best stunt they ever did that kept me listening all day and night was when Eddie V & Joe Bo protested the fact that the company was getting rid of their "No Panties Thursday" promotion without consulting them first. They stayed on the air for 24 hours by barricading themselves in the studio (at least that's what they had us believing). The PD, Dave Shakes, really sounded like he was pissed off at Eddie & Joe for pulling this "stunt." That was some great radio. Now the station that became my lifestyle was WGCI-107-5. Back then Doug Banks & Company did mornings, the great Yvonne Daniels did middays, Tom Joyner was Fly-Jocking and Marco Spoon did nights. Doug would do a trivia game called the Morning Eye Opener to win a fast $50 dollar bill. WGCI was constantly giving away prizes and running contests. Plus, they always had the top personalities in the country. That station single-handedly made me at least think about a radio career.
3) How is radio a metaphor for other areas of your life?
Radio is a passion of mine and has been so since I started in 1986. With radio I have an on-air and programming philosophy: Give the listeners a reason to listen. It is that philosophy that has me completing my first novel called, "I am the DJ." (Ohhhhh yeeaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh ... you just got shamelessly plugged, son!) The book is about a radio personality who, through some unfortunate racial circumstances, becomes a serial killer. I believe it is a book that, through every twist and turn, will give you a reason to read every page. Radio has also extended my love for the music we play especially through the artists I meet. I can talk music and movies with anyone. And when you get a chance to meet the entertainers you've grown up with (Debbie Allen, Quincy Jones, Howard Hewett, Angela Bassett, Glenn Jones, Laurence Fishburne and many others) it reinforces your love for music ... at least for me.
4) You have dealt with other formats, what differences have you noticed among them?
I have worked Urban mainstream, Top 40, Rhythmic, Urban AC, Urban Oldies and Classic Country. Urban mainstream used to encompass all types of Uban (from Luther Vandross to Public Enemy). Everything is now specialized. Urban mainstream is really hip-hop and R&B while Urban AC is Urban music with no rap (or very little). Top 40 used to lean mostly on the pop-oriented music. Now it is mostly rap-oriented. Rhythmic Top 40s were once dance and R&B. Now they are dance and rap. Rap has definitely changed the landscape of Top 40 and rhythmic leaning stations.
5) How do you see Urban and radio in general evolving?
I see Urban radio evolving into more specialized service for the masses ... especially during this social media generation. Blogging will become more prevalent as the way people want information from us changes. Young people no longer watch TV the way we used to and they don't listen to the radio like we used to. When was the last time you saw someone listening to a radio on an actual radio? Because of technology (tablets, Android phones, iPods, etc.) we can access entertainment quicker. So we have to give our listeners the info quicker. Website content can lead the way in giving our listeners that exclusive niche programming that they crave by the way we blog as well as giving them specialized items (bonus interviews with artists that you didn't hear on the radio).
6) Could you give us the names of those who have influenced your career and the contribution each made?
There are sooooooooooooooo many but I will knock it down to a few.
DOUG BANKS - Doug was the first funny radio personality I heard on the FM. He was larger than life with a big smile along with a fast, entertaining morning show. I met Doug in '85 at the Taste of Chicago festival and that meeting made me seriously think about possibly getting into radio. When I first auditioned to be on WGCI in '94 it was Doug who called me while I was on the air and said to me "you sound great ... you belong in Chicago." Those words meant the world to me. Doug and I are friends and that is just a treat to pick his brain whenever I need.
YVONNE DANIELS - The First Lady Of Chicago Radio. Her career spanned over 40 years and I was an Yvonne fan. She had the greatest smoothest voice that fit over the music she played like peanut butter fits in between bread. When she passed away in '91, I cried. I never met her and our only interaction came through the radio airwaves. Yvonne was simply the greatest.
TOM JOYNER - Tom was the first person I listened to on the radio period. TJ was the first person on the radio to show me just how far your talent and dreams can take you. He was a big time personality long before he became The Fly Jock in '85. Tom had me glued to his afternoon show on WGCI. When my career first started and I couldn't find my voice I was a Joyner clone for the first four years of my career. If you're gonna be the best you may as well copy a style from the best.
RUSS PARR - The funniest person still on the radio. Russ does the greatest bits and song parodies EVER. Long before Weird Al Yankovic there was Russ Parr a.k.a. Bobby Jimmy & The Critters with "Roaches," "Hair or Weave" and many other funny parodies. Russ became a mentor and a friend when I sent him a package asking him to critique my work. He called me and told me how much he liked my work and that meant the world to me.
RICK PARTY - Rick is one of the hardest career-driven guys I know. If you want to know the definition of trust, check out this story: When Rick ruled the nighttime airwaves on WGCI, he invited me up to the studio. At the time I wasn't working on WGCI. Naturally I said yes and went up to what I believed was the Urban radio mecca, the WGCI studios. I got to the WGCI building, signed in, took the elevator up to the floor of WGCI and one of Rick's assistants greeted me. When I walked into the WGCI studio, I was awestruck. Being inside the WGCI studios was like walking on the grass of Wrigley Field. I gave Rick a hug and here's where the story gets interesting. Rick guides me around the studio console where I am now in front of the board that Tom Joyner, Yvonne Daniels, Shannon Dell, Doug Banks among others have ruled the airwaves. There are at least seven other folks in the studio and Rick says, "Hey ya'll. This is my boy, Bobby Holiday, the tightest board op in the business. Watch. Bobby, run my board for me!"
Now ... I am overseeing the board, what song is playing, what song is playing next and the phone call that is supposed to play -- AND I HAVE NEVER RAN THIS BOARD! On the inside, I am cussing out Rick. Now on the outside, I see that there's a minute left on the song and it's time to step up and run this damn break. So, I quickly timed the phone call, saw what the intro time was on the next song, counted down the current song and hit the button to start the phone call. I am praying that I timed everything properly so I don't look like a fool in front of Rick and his guests. Well ... I hit that damn post! LOL Rick put me on the spot that night. And as much as I wished he hadn't ... I am forever grateful that he did.
GEORGE MCFLY - The greatest worker of phones ever. George McFly was a flat-out master of running phone calls as well as being a great personality. He also invited me up to the B96 studios and I watched him edit phone calls and get them on the air with lightning fast quickness. I thought I was good at running phone calls but I have nothing on George McFly. Great guy, wonderful friend and kick ass air-talent.
7) Can you give us some of your career highlights?
Interviewing President Clinton (twice) and making him laugh with a great vocal imitation of him. Also interviewing Quincy Jones. Anyone who loves and appreciates music should get the opportunity to meet The Q. Getting a chance to work at legendary stations like WGCI in Chicago, WDAS-AM & FM in Philadelphia, WOWI (103 JAMZ) during the Steve Crumbley days in Norfolk, VA will always be highlights. Plus, the radio stunt I pulled off in '99 when I did afternoons on WPHI (PHILLY 103.9) and I lived on a TGI Friday's rooftop for 20 days until the Philadelphia Eagles won a game. Local and national TV coverage for three weeks. Fun, fun, fun!
8) What is it you hope to accomplish in the coming years?
Continuing to make a difference programming radio stations and hoping that I am well on my way to becoming a successful novelist.
9) What advice do you give those wanting to get into this business?
With opportunities not as easily available in today's radio climate, I tell folks that this had better be a passion for you. If it is not then don't even think about getting into it. Only the strong survive and this business will eat your heart and soul out. So, it better be a love if you're going to do it.
10) You have seen singers branch out into various cultural areas, what new things can you foresee some of them getting into?
That depends on the level of maturity and awareness of the singers. Assuming they have that, the sky's the limit for successful singers. It wouldn't shock me to see a singer become the head of a Paramount or other movie outlets. Some singer is going to become the head of some Fortune 500 companies or possibly the next Mark Zuckerberg.
Could you give me an idea of what other roles PDs might assume in the future?
PDs have enough roles right now. Besides programming their stations they run their websites, oversee their social media outlets and some have become VPs of Programming multiple outlets. That's enough right there. LOL
Are there some things about you that people would be surprised to know?
I'm a homebody. I love being at home watching TV shows or a good movie.
What were the hardest things for you to overcome when you first got into radio; And what did you do to improve in those areas?
The hardest thing that I ever had to overcome was doing live broadcasts or hosting events where people recognize you, people watch you and you are one of the reasons people show up. I had to learn to be "the man." At first I would be very shy and extremely conservative at live broadcasts and hosting events. Over time you learn to just "be yourself" and let that be what defines you in the public. When it is all said and done "being yourself" is the only way to define yourself ... period.