I did radio announcing, mostly part-time, from 1973 to 1990, when I quit to get more free time. Though I've been out of it for so long, working in radio is something that "gets in your blood"... you never forget it the way you might forget a job cooking hamburgers.
A radio announcer should be more than a warm body playing music and talking. A good announcer is an entertainer, a person who listeners want to hear, even a friend to listeners. The best are tremendously creative and human people. By the time I ended my radio career, I'd pretty much reached my limit: The next step, fulltime radio in medium-to-large cities, would have meant giving my whole life to broadcasting... something I wasn't ready to do.
(By the way, I'm sorry if this page is hard to read! I just like the starry background.)
There's more of my personal radio stuff in my radio career section — including a few sound clips. First, though, here are links to a radio station and other radio-related sites.
|What radio station calls its listeners "swine" — and the listeners love it? I found KPIG when I lived in Santa Cruz, California. Though I have the most fun doing top 40, my heart is in free-form and public radio. KPIG must be one of the last commercial free-form stations in the US. They were also the first commercial radio station to simulcast live on the Internet — though now, because of music licensing restrictions, you have to pay to listen live. (If you want just a sample of "cyber-pork", there are free prerecorded streams too.)|
|The ReelRadio archive has hundreds (thousands?) of "reels" (of tape, now digitized) of Top 40 announcers and stations in the golden days of Top 40 radio in the US. You used to need a low-cost subscription to listen, but I believe it's free now… but a donation is well worth what you'll get to hear if you do much listening to this gold mine.|
|Rick Kelly's NortheastAirchecks.com is another site with airchecks (recordings off-the-air). This one emphasizes the Northeastern US, though it has some airchecks from other areas. It's still free of charge to listen, so it's also a great place for you to listen if you haven't heard Top-40 radio. (Tip: you can search for a city, DJ, or station with your browser's "Find in this page" command, which is probably on the "Edit" menu.)|
|The KRUD Radio site isn't a radio station. It's a site where radio personalities let it all hang out: their life in commercial radio. I don't especially like the negative and cynical view of radio life here, but I have to say that it's probably all too true for most people who work in radio. (I worked at a few krud-dy stations myself, but I was mostly lucky to be at good ones.)|
|1988-1990||Y94FM and 570 WSYR, in Syracuse, New York, were first-class operations, long established in the area and very popular. I was "Jerry Peek" on WSYR, a full-service station (lots of news, weather and sports) and "" on Y94FM, a hit-music format. (Here's my "jock shout".) My Y94FM name came from Don Sainte-Johnn, one of my favorite DJs on KFRC, San Francisco, years ago — and because, for some reason, people who don't know my first name tend to think that it's Steve.|
Z89 (WJPZ) was
conveniently located at
where I had a technical writing job.
I couldn't resist :) getting back on the air.
It was a great campus station, with a lot of energy and enthusiasm —
something like KCPR, but more straight-ahead “Power” rock music.
One morning a little after 6 AM, I got a call at home from the janitor: no one was on the air, and he'd picked my name off the staff list. I knew that people set their clock radios to wake up, and dead air would be a disaster. I ran a couple of miles to the station, put it on the air, and a few minutes later — still out of breath — got a call from the Program Director at Y94FM, the big station in town. “You sound great! Would you like to work at Y94FM?” At first, I thought it was a joke. It wasn’t. I also stayed at Z89 for another year, though; it was too much fun to leave.
Here are ten minutes of Z89 on May 17, 1988 (MP3, size 6MB).
|1984-1986||K103 in Portland, Oregon was about to go on the air as a new Country & Western station when another station in town changed to that format. The staff scrambled to find a new niche in a crowded radio market and came up with a unique "love songs" format. K103 raced from nowhere to near the top of the ratings in just a few months. My evening show was #1 with several groups (including #1 overall with women. I guess my wife-to-be didn't mind!). This was another top-class operation, a pleasure to work at; it had the kind of low-key management with high standards that brings out the best in announcers. Three minutes of my September 16, 1984 show (MP3, size 3003 kB) should fill you in.|
|1978-1981||KBAI in Morro Bay, California was a 5,000-watt AM station with a great signal that reached Australia at night. (I got a few phone calls.) The format was a mixture of adult contemporary with standards like Frank Sinatra: bright, classy programming in a fairly rural area. Maybe that's why the station didn't last? (The Program Director went on to Portland to found K103. His formatting hit gold in that major city.)|
in Springfield, Vermont, took a chance by hiring me.
I was riding my bicycle cross-country to Vermont as a summer adventure,
and I thought it might be fun to get a radio job once I was there.
A small city station in a rural state, WCFR was a blend of local service and
on-air professionalism that I'm sad to hear in so few other stations.
The news staff was stellar — Frank Sesno, for instance, was already on
his way to CNN.
Announcers from WCFR moved onto major markets; I've heard them in Boston
and Hartford in the past few years.
I learned so much there in just one summer.
Why can't more small-market stations bring themselves to this level of
excellence — both to make money and to really serve their communities?
My August 28, 1979 show (MP3, size 6.6MB) is great, but the sound quality isn't. My part of the noon news hour runs from 06:04 to 11:48; you may want to skip over it.
Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo,
is a student-run campus station.
("Learn by doing" is Cal Poly's philosophy —
and KCPR staff did.)
At the time I was there, KCPR had a really energetic and
creative group of people on staff.
Much of the programming was top-40 rock music; we tried to do everything
as well as a commercial station would (and we blew away some local
commercial stations in the radio ratings).
The news was done by Journalism students.
A number of my classmates work in radio and TV around California and the
Probably the best-known of our group is
Weird Al Yankovic,
an architecture student who did a weekly show
with other peoples' bizarre and clever take-offs of popular songs —
and he started writing and recording his own.
(I had a lot of fun doing a couple of Al's shows when he was away.)
Here are two KCPR shows:
KINT AM&FM in El Paso, Texas, was the second-most-popular station
in town, locked in a battle for #1 between three screaming top-40 stations.
I was lucky to get hired there (as "Jerry J.", because I also had two
other radio jobs in the area as "Jerry Peek").
Between you and me, I was pretty awful a lot of the time... too new in
radio to do it well.
But one night, somehow I got inspiration to be bizarre enough while I
bumbled around that I sounded like I was doing it on purpose.
I didn't know that, the same night, the station's new owner was in town,
eavesdropping to decide which DJs he'd keep.
He fired almost everyone, but offered me a great position.
I knew I wasn't ready for that, so I resigned.
Still, it was one of those coincidences that makes you amazed at how
things can turn out sometimes.
Here's my lucky-break Saturday night on KINT (MP3, size 637kb).
KRWG AM&FM in Las Cruces, NM, two radio stations at New Mexico
State University, were the first places I worked in radio.
The AM station wasn’t “on the air”; it broadcast through
the power wires on campus and, later, through the cable TV system in town.
The FM station was a National Public Radio affiliate that played classical
music when it wasn’t carrying NPR.
The FM station's tenth anniversary was in 1974. My KRWG page has photos and a copy of the 10th-anniversary broadcast.
Last change: 11 September 2020
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