In the last Ask Bob I explained my unlikely introduction into radio broadcasting, so we’ll just keep going.
P.S. You can Ask Bob a question, lately I only get spam and invitations to gamer and gambling websites, so your question about the world or life in general would be a nice change of pace!
So there I was, a 17 year old kid doing a 6 to midnight shift at the local funky, soul, disco station. It didn’t effect school at all, I just recorded a weather, put it in the machine that would automatically play it at the assigned times and changed a reel to reel tape once or twice during the night. Once that was done, I just sat in the program directors office and did homework. I kept the music quietly in the background, just in case we went off the air unexpectedly.
At midnight, Ted McKonnic came in to do the midnight to 6am shift. He was an odd, ex-cool man luke, jazz, hipster type, with a goatee. He didn’t play tapes, he went live with jazz music. Mostly, he just played albums and talked non-stop over the music. It was insanely annoying and to this day I have no idea why they let him play music and mumble in the background. He actually talked about nothing for six hours everyday. Every so often, he’d mention a local resturant or store and talk about what fantastic service they had and what-not. I was sure he was getting paid on the side for those “mentions of excellence” as he called it.
At my high school, which composed of mostly African Americans, I became noticed as the guy on the radio. Mostly I was referred too as that Mexican DJ on the radio. So folks, would often stop me in the hall and ask, “Are you Ricky Hernandez on KOWH?” Or, “Hey, your Johnny Gonzales on the radio aren’t you?” Everytime it was a different name, but what ever name it was, I’d say, “Yeah, that’s me.”
It became common for someone to approach me in the hallway, with the “is that you?” question. A few times they’d make a spectacle out of it, “Hey everybody…look it’s Jose Senitramos from the radio!” It was fun to get recognized, but also imbarrasing because I was shy. Having someone from our school with a job other than fast food was kind of a big deal at our school. Most kids from our school ended up as janitors. Or in jail. Or a janitor in a jail.
Back to the job. It lasted longer than any of us expected. When I was hired, the company was supposed to be sold within a week, but that didn’t happen for about 4 or 5 months. Once I graduated, I was still working as the night DJ. When the bad news came, the program director decided we’d ditch the taped music and go live for the last two weeks. It was fun, I showed up an hour early pulled a bunch of albums from the library, got a good stack ready and did my shift on “The Only Show In Town.” It was called that because we were the only radio station in Omaha, NE that featured music by black artists.
Then, on my second to last shift, some businessmen from the Indianapolis radio station showed up in smart suites to tour the station they just bought.
Looking in the window of the studio was the CEO of the company. I heard him say, “Is that the DJ? He can’t be more than 12 years old!” Once the “On Air” light went out, he poked his head in the studio, “Are you doing the night shift all by your-self?”
“Sure.” I replied.
“Jesus, how old are you?”
“17, but my names not Jesus, it’s Bob.”
Side Note: I always looked younger than I am. At 17 I was barely 5 foot tall and had the stature of 12 yr old without even a hint of facial hair. In fact, in college I only had to shave once a week, I didn’t have to shave on a daily basis until I hit 30.
The big time CEO chucked and walked out. I heard him thru the glass window as he instructed another guy who would end up being the new station manager. “You have to hire that kid!”
The manager replied, “I don’t know anything about him, I don’t…”
“I said, YOU…HAVE…TO…HIRE…HIM.” The CEO said rather loudly while looking in my direction.
I sunk in my chair.
“I’ll talk to him after the shift.” came the reply.
That is the first instance in my life where I learned being lucky is way better than being smart or talented (I wasn’t a very good DJ). Later in life, the same thing would happen time and time again, for no logical reason I would have opportunities just dropped in my lap for no good reason other than dumb luck. At the present, I have a beautiful wife despite the fact that I’m a 5′ 1″ garden gnome of a man and I own a home that cost less than a one bedroom apartment in Omaha. With the land and square footage of the house, it would be valued at around 3 million dollars if I lived in the west coast. But I’m just an average Joe with a ho-hum low paying job living like some kind of king.
Some would say it’s careful and thoughtful planning, but I say, despite the fact I don’t participate in any organized religion, and I’m quite blasphemous, for some reason, God decided to bless me with time and time again, pulling me from legitimate poverty begginings to a very comfortable life.
So I have to give thanks in a religious way for my comfortable time on this planet.
But that’s another series of columns…
And now you know!
Song in my head:
COMING NEXT: THE ALL NIGHT DJ AT WJAZZ