When I was six, I wanted to be an astronaut. I mean, what boy didn’t during the height of the space race?
By the time I was 10, the dream had changed from outer space to airwaves: I wanted to be on the radio. Playing music. Cracking jokes. Writing theater-of-the-mind skits. Doing goofy character voices.
It’s why I majored in Communications (with a concentration in Radio/TV) in college. It’s why I took an entry level job scheduling the commercials at a crappy AM station (R.I.P. “all oldies, all the time, 1230 AM WDJO”) – because it was a “foot in the door.”
It’s why I worked weekend overnight shifts at a country station, where my assigned on-air name was “Cincinnati Redd” and I played music I didn’t really like in the wee small hours – because it was a chance to get some experience.
It’s why I made the hour-long drive from Cincinnati to Oxford, Ohio on the weekends, to play music I did like for an even smaller audience. It’s why I came back to that station a few years later, and worked the overnight shift, making less than minimum wage – because I was chasing the dream.
It’s why I left an on-air gig at the station in Oxford to be an errand boy at a group of stations in Cincinnati… because it too was a “foot in the door.” I wound up working for a radio legend, Gary Burbank, on a 50,000-watt clear channel station, on a show that was syndicated to dozens of other stations around the country . Cracking jokes. Writing theater-of-the-mind skits. Doing goofy character voices. The dream came true. But it happened 10 years too late.
This 60-second snippet from a great podcast called The Memory Palace sums up why the dream died:
When the corporations took over the mom and pop stations, they sucked all the fun out of it. And they killed a lot of dreams.
I still miss radio – but really I miss the idea of radio… radio as it was once, not radio as it is. Sure, there are podcasts, and there’s Spotify. It’s not the same. Never will be. Radio was ethereal… and that made it magical.
Please listen to the entire The Memory Palace episode from 2017. It’s a brilliant tribute to a lost station, and a loss of innocence. There are clear parallels to 97X, the station where I worked in Oxford, Ohio… which was bought out by a corporation and now is a Spanish language station.
The entire series is well-worth a listen – you’ll find all of The Memory Palace episodes here. Host Nate DiMeo has a gift for audio storytelling, and for uncovering hidden gems from history.
“The Memory Palace podcast is among the most potent pieces of audio being produced today; the show’s short tales are so emotionally concentrated that, upon listening, they bloom in the space between one’s ears, like a single drop of dye propagating through an entire glass of water. Nate DiMeo, the show’s sole creative force, often seems to be operating on a level wholly separate from that of other podcasts”From the AV Club