Radio Blood


Saturday September 15th, 2012 – Kenosha, WI  

   No matter how many times it screws me over, kicks mud in my face or bites me in the ass, I’m always going to have a soft spot in my heart for radio. Not only is it intensely fun to be on the air and get paid for talking, the people who gravitate toward that career field and I get along nicely.

I’ve worked at or been associated with more than a dozen radio stations in a variety of formats all over North America since the mid ‘80s, and I maintain contact with people from every single one of those places without exception. I might not see or hear from everyone every week, but we do cross paths on occasion and it was radio that brought us together. I cherish each one of them.

Tonight there was a 20th anniversary reunion and get together for everyone who ever worked at 95.1 WIIL in Kenosha, WI. Other than having the most appropriate call letters in radio, (it stands for ‘Wisconsin’ and ‘Illinois’) it has been a place I have been associated with for the long haul.

I never worked all that much for WIIL per se, but I was on the air there. I did weekend and fill in work on and off for years and also worked as the morning guy at the country station that used to be in the same building. WLIP is also there where The Mothership Connection originates, and in fact it’s in the very next room. I’ve been associated with the building in some way since 1992.

Even through numerous ownership and staff changes as is common in radio, there has been an outstanding sense of family maintained in that place. Most of us have come and gone more than once and/or worked at more than one station or job title, but the sense of community remained.

I was brought into the fold by John Perry, who used to do overnights on 93QFM in Milwaukee when I was on the morning show. There’s another station with a wonderful sense of community, but that’s another story for another day. I’m telling you, radio talents as a whole are sweethearts.

John Perry has had an amazing run at WIIL, and we talked about that tonight. He’s survived in the volatile mine field that is the radio business, and that’s no small feat. We have always gotten along very well, and have helped each other out many times. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

It was great fun to reconnect with a lot of the old faces I hadn’t seen in a while, and I marveled at not only how much I liked them personally but how much big time talent came out of there to go on to bigger and better things. It really was a launching pad for a crop of gifted individuals.

Brian Sherman was there, and he’s a prime example. He was at Q101 in Chicago for a solid 11 year run until he was unceremoniously blown out by those fine folks at Emmis Communications, the same group of slithering serpents that showed me the door at The Loop. That’s radio. Yuck.

Brian is very talented, and a good guy to boot. We talked about how many people who worked at WIIL advanced in the business, and there was never a sense of jealousy when someone moved on to bigger things. It was more of a feeling of hope like someone else was next. It was healthy. I was always happy for Brian, and he has nothing whatsoever to be ashamed about. He did well.

Another big time talent and total sweetheart is Mindy Novotny. She’s been up in Milwaukee at 102.9 ‘The Hog’ for years, and I have always been a fan of hers on air and off. Like Brian and so many others who worked at that place, she fit right in and did the job. She deserves her success.

She’s very smart, and we talked about how little security there is in that big radio meat grinder. I think that’s part of the reason the on air people tend to get along so well. We all know we could be the next one to get the ax, and we tend to cling to each other for support. Whatever the case, it was great to see Mindy. She talked about going back to school, which is never a poor decision.

Nothing ‘stable’ is a poor decision, but all of us in radio have that side of our personality that is only satisfied by walking on the wild side. Being on the air is what makes us feel alive. It’s a fun rush, just like a comedian feels on stage – and I’m hooked on both. I need to go to double rehab.

Brian Sherman has a family now, and he’s going to be selling cars. There’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of by doing that, but it’s still not radio. Even with all the insecurity and insanity, it gets in a person’s blood and stays there for life. Everyone in that room tonight had ‘radio blood’.

Steve Perks was also there. What a funny and talented guy he is. He and I stay in touch as he’s a web developer now and is helping me get my ‘Schlitz Happened!’ website together. I’d love to do a morning show with that guy, but jobs are just not there like they used to be. It’s depressing.

We didn’t get to visit much, but I see him quite regularly so we’ll catch up later. Tonight was a chance to reconnect with people I hadn’t seen in a while, and there were many. People like Mike Sweeney and Cliff Johnson were there – again just fantastic people all around. Mike worked his way up to being a program director in Dectatur, IL, but got gassed on a whim by a total halfwit.

Everyone in the room has these tales, and that really pisses me off. The imbeciles who do the firing in radio have never been on the air themselves and wouldn’t know talent if they bought a ten pound box of it at a rummage sale. Like the clueless bookers in comedy, radio management monkeys are cold hearted and clueless to the fact they adversely affect the livelihoods of us all.

The thing that really burns me most is that both in comedy and radio none of the talented people are looking to harm anyone or do anything but entertain others and make the world a better place for everyone. I don’t think that’s so bad, but way too often the turds in charge just can’t see that.

Terry Havel was there too, another person of whom I am a huge fan. He’s not only a passionate radio guy, but a mentor to many. John Perry credits him, as do many others. I’ve always enjoyed Terry’s passion for music and radio, and he’s a huge sports fan too. Even though he’s a Cubs and Bears fan, we still had a great conversation. If I owned a radio station, he would be my first hire.

But I don’t own a radio station, and unfortunately none of us in that room did. If somebody did, we’d all have jobs and hopefully be able to scratch our creative itches. We all have them, and we all understand the feeling of needing to be on the air. It’s a passion, and I love to be around those who are passionate. It was a well spent evening reconnecting with friends I respect and admire.

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