Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Career Prologue


Goals have been important across my career. Always aspirational (and occasionally an anvil) from annual operating plans to SMART goals to the ultimate BHAG.  

Finally, I have arrived at a singular objective. My major life goal is full retirement next year. I chose February of 2022 for the round numbers - my 70th birthday and my 40th year with Capitol Broadcasting Co., including a twenty-five year association with the Durham Bulls.

This month, however, is a career milestone that I almost missed until I came across an old resume several weeks ago. I landed my first radio job fifty years ago this month. It was the beginning of my media/sports journey.

That was in September of 1972, at WTVR am/fm in Richmond. I was nineteen, beginning my second year at Virginia Commonwealth University, majoring in Mass Communications. My sister was instrumental. She babysat for the station General Manager, and he persuaded his Program Director to take me on. (Indeed, I have had the benefit of “privilege.”) It was an entry level job as a studio technician known in the biz as a “board op”…

  • When the disc jockeys were on remote broadcast (typically sitting in the showroom window at a car dealership) I played their records and commercials back at the studio. 
  • And I played commercials during sports broadcasts. We aired Richmond Robbins hockey, Virginia Squires basketball and University of Richmond football. (Regarding the latter I was privileged to work with legendary Richmond broadcaster Frank Soden.)
  • On Sundays I worked a split shift, 6a-noon and 6p-midnight, playing tapes of church services ranging from Richmond’s First Baptist Church to fundamentalist Richmond Baptist Temple. I was exposed to the full spectrum of faith over those twelve hours each Sunday from Mormons to mainline Christianity to Holy Rollers. 
  • Occasionally, I got to do my own DJ show on a Saturday or Sunday. Big fun!

The station format was Top 40, but soon after I started it began experimenting with county music in the evenings. That’s where my appreciation for country was kindled. Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Charlie Pride, Tanya Tucker and Merle Haggard were at the top of Billboard’s country chart. Eventually, WTVR went all-in as “1380 Country/Request Radio.”

Richmond transit ad, circa 1973

I loved the job…loved radio! I eventually gave up my other better paying, union scale grocery clerk job at Safeway to work full-time as the station’s news announcer. That was aligned with my broadcast journalism track at VCU. And it was another split shift, 6-9a, 3-7p. Labor regs were pretty loose back then.  

Fifty years. Wow! I have been blessed. It began with full dose of Jesus and country music - a pretty good foundation.