Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Free Time

I could say that I learned more in the first six months working for Uncle Bobby at his little radio station just east of the Rocky Mountains than I learned in four years of college.  I could say that easily, but the larger truth is that I learned more about business in the first couple weeks at K--- Radio than I've ever learned at any school.

The work side of life was going great.  I was barely making more than minimum wage and I was living in a tin can owned by my boss and all I wanted to do was work-- nothing better than that, right?  My first week or so on the air was kind of rough-- I guess I was a little short on confidence.  I was doing morning drive.  It's called that because it's the time that people are sitting in traffic listening to the radio.  But I was broadcasting to people who would have to travel for hours to find a traffic jam.  More cattle were being driven than cars in my little audience.  I started to loosen up by week two and by the second month I thought I was doing well enough to start thinking about a bigger market.  But I had told the owner that I was in for six months minimum so I settled in and started having fun playing the hits.

The station was outside of town in a white concrete block building with the call letters and frequency painted in red and black on the front.  To call it a station logo would be to set the graphic arts back several centuries.  Inside the building was a tiny reception area, station owner Uncle Bobby's office, another smaller office for the sales manager, the control room, and a production room for cutting spots (recording commercials) that was the size of a walk-in closet.  There was also a record library that doubled as a room for the announcers to sit down and use the phone.  Just that and a unisex bathroom.  There was a coffee pot in the reception area and if you wanted a can of Coke or a pack of crackers the service station across the highway had vending machines. Ah, show business.

So there I was. A castaway on the prairie makin' with the snappy patter, weather, news, and sports between "Time In A Bottle" and "Kung Fu Fighting" five days a week between 6 and 10 AM and Saturdays between 10 and 2.  At some point during those first couple of months it dawned on me-- I wasn't getting laid.  Not even close.

To make celibacy tougher, I had time on my hands.  I'd get off the air at 10 AM and sit in the music library or cut spots until lunch.  I usually went to one of two local diners for lunch, ate alone, and waited to glimpse a woman who might be silly enough to hang out with the local morning guy who went by the on-air name of Billy The Kid.  (That name was Uncle Bobby's idea, not mine by the way.)  Nobody fitting the description ever came through the door.  I dreaded heading out to my dismal trailer in the evening.  Luckily I had to go to bed early to get up for my 6 AM shift.  On Sundays I'd just drive all over the area taking photographs and hiking around.

One afternoon I asked the station owner if there was more work I could do.  I was thinking maybe I could do something for Bobby at another station-- he owned two others in a couple of small towns a couple hours away.  But he suggested something I never even considered-- selling station advertising.  I immediately agreed to give it a try completely out of the lack of anything else to do in the afternoons.  The decision changed my life-- not only because it altered my career path but because the third business I called on as a spot peddler was a gift shop run by Pamela Scoggins.

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