Tuesday, April 5, 2011

~ 30 ~

I started my first commercial radio job 30 years ago today.

I've blogged about it before, but here's a quick refresher.  I was the Sunday morning guy at WARM 590.  It's not as glamorous as it seems.  It took a while to get on the air.  My first job, back in 1981, was to run the religion and public affairs shows.  Every half hour, 1 AM to 9 AM, I'd put a new tape on the machine and press "play."  There were a few other things-- transmitter readings, switch from night time transmission pattern to day time at the appropriate moment, keep the newsroom tidy, etc.  Computers weren't around back then.    The Associated Press teletype machine spit out miles of paper.  Someone had to keep it under control.

I spanned the time from RJ Harkins late at night to Vince Sweeney on Sunday morning.  WARM devoted a lot of time to religion and public affairs back then, six+ hours.  It seemed excessive at the time.  I now realize how important all that time was.  Some of the religion broadcasts were sponsored, so it was a small source of revenue for the operation.

My first two hours consisted of playing a couple hours of music RJ taped in advance.

My pay?  $4/hour.

For those of you too young to remember, WARM was THE local radio station, a legend-- plenty of listeners, and filled with history.  Even being a tiny, tiny, tiny part of that was a major rush.

One of my favorite moments took place a few days after I started.  I was a sophomore at Marywood at the time, and I told a senior friend about the gig.  His comment:  "You're now a paid professional."  I always remembered that line, and I use it on the kids entering the business today.  By the way, the original author is now running a bunch of radio stations for CBS in Philadelphia.

It wasn't much, but I still took the job seriously-- always on time, always organized.  Eventually, management started giving me more hours, and I moved up the ladder.  My last position there was doing news in the morning, the most important time of day in radio.  Total time on the WARM payroll:  10.5 years.

I felt extremely lucky to have the little Sunday morning job back then, and I still feel that way.