Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

December 5, 2013

Christmas Radio Memories

Filed under: My Job,Radio stuff — Janice @ 10:49 pm


Thirty-five years ago tonight I was working in this tiny little radio studio in Amarillo. It all came whooshing back to me tonight when I was working in my current little radio station (in my home) and a song on the log for my show was “Crazy Love” by Poco. We were a progressive country radio station and Poco was perfect for our format. I absolutely loved that song and looked forward to playing it every night (in a different hour each night, of course; you don’t want to be predictable). There’s nothing “Christmasy” about that song, but I feel in a Christmas mood because I played it all through that December in 1978.

I wasn’t completely alone when I was at the radio station, but it is a pretty solitary job. This was the FM station when no one listened to FM radio and we had an AM station on the other side of the building. The guy that worked over there while I was on the air, Gary, had to play many more SHORT songs than I did and he also had to take the meter readings every single hour. He was very busy, so if I needed some interaction with another person face-to-face, I had to go over to his side of the building to visit for a minute. I could do that because we had a lot of long songs in our format… most anything by the Marshall Tucker Band, some from Rusty Weir, and, my favorite, the 13+ minute song from Steve Fromholz called Texas Trilogy. I loved the song to being with, but being 13+ minutes long was a big bonus when I was new in radio and needed a break. I wasn’t allowed to play it every night, but I played it as often as I could.

I went to work at this station at midnight. I drove 15 miles at 11:30 or so and went through possibly the most dangerous part of Amarillo to get to it six nights a week. Then off at 6 a.m. to drive home, sleep deprived, in time to sleep an hour or two and then go to class. I shared a tiny house with my roommate and fellow disc jockey, Karma. This was really my first experience at living away from home (I hardly count a semester in a dorm). I remember that December being VERY cold and that house being very thin. But we had a Christmas tree in the living room and I was totally immersed in my new world of radio.

I have memories that are images and smells and feelings more than anything…  The smell of all the cigarettes that were smoked in that tiny room, the warmth of the bright lights that shone down on the little board, the beige desk telephone (with a dial and the flashing buttons across the bottom). We actually picked the phone up and talked on the handset… I haven’t done that at a radio station in more than 30 years. On that all-night show there weren’t a lot of phone calls. Boy, I would lunge for the phone when there was one, looking forward to the diversion. At 5 o’clock I had to call my boss, the morning man, to wake him up. I wonder if any morning jocks still have the all-night guy call them? Oh, I just remembered, there are no all-night guys anymore.

I was very lucky to train when there was an overnight shift where very few people were listening, especially not the boss, and I was able to do really stupid stuff and make awful mistakes. I have been listening to some tapes from that era and I cringe when I hear how truly bad I was. But I was racking up those 10,000 hours of practice they say you must have to get good at something. I don’t know that I ever made it to 10,000, but I had enough practice to make a pretty good 35 year career out of it at least.


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1 Comment »

  1. God, that’s modern hardware! At KCOM I was using a 10-pot Collins 212-G that was ALL vacuum tubes, with a pair of Tapecaster 700-RPs sitting on top of it, and a Roberts open-reel off to one side (which was nothing but an Akai machine re-branded for the US market). The turntables had to have been Gateses counter-sunk into the table, but if I ever knew what model they were, it’s gone.

    Comment by Sam — December 6, 2013 @ 7:10 pm

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