What was your first job in radio? Early influences?
While I was
still in high school, I had a job at a boat marina.
I worked in the Parts Department and was usually bored
out of my mind. I always had the radio on WKSG, Kiss-FM
in Detroit, which was a combo Classic Rock/Oldies station
at the time. I used to listen to Jim McKenzie, who always
seemed to be flawless and friendly. I remember thinking,
"I could do that", and so I made a call to
the station. I was told to go to a broadcast school
or come in to intern. I would come in overnight and
work with the news guy and overnight guy until it was
time to head off to school. After I graduated, they
ended up blowing out the overnight guy and I ended up
with the gig. Not bad for a guy with NO on air experience,
who sadly just passed away this year, was the PD at
the time and he had heard my voice on a reel in the
prod room and asked his partner, "Who the hell
is that?" He began to use me on the morning show
as "Casual Keith Allen" and eventually on
the overnight show. Paul was the guy who took a big
chance on me, and I'll always remember him for that.
What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining
moment, which made you realize "this is it"?
had quite a record collection and my friends would ask
me to put songs on tape for them and for the hell of
it one day, I grabbed a cheap Radio Shack microphone
and began to intro the songs for the tapes. Before I
knew it, those tapes were being copied for other people
and I had a little "side" business. I'm not
sure that there was a "defining moment," but
that is where my path in life started towards a career
your weekly music meeting ... a) what is the process
when you listen to new music? b) approximately how important
by percentage is gut, research, sales, video play, and
chart position when determining the status of a record?
to everything that hits the desk. When I worked at the
Moose in Saginaw, I had a 45-50 minute drive every day,
which allowed me time with each song. I don't have that
now, but I still make time to listen to everything just
in case there is a diamond in the rough on the stack.
Yes, there is a lot of crap that is shipped to stations
everyday, but how will you know what is crap and what
is great if you never listen to something? It bugs me
that people don't spend time with the music - after
all, it's what we do!
I think of
all the things mentioned in the question the things
I base my music decisions on are: Gut & sales.
just isn't all that accurate anymore. It can be swayed
one way or the other depending on the people polled.
Most of the time it is just a small sample, so how can
you really put all your faith in it? Video play and
radio play, in my opinion, are two different things.
Chart position has gotten to the point where it doesn't
matter much either. Sure, I look at it and it can be
a tool for me, but it is just that - a tool. It is just
one of the things that can help. We've had some really
bad records that have gone to the top that just weren't
a good indication - people bought the hell out of the
Taylor Swift album and yet people were concerned about
adding some of her songs. Isn't it a good indication
that if people are buying the record that they like
My gut has
failed me often, but I use that most. Think about it,
when we ask our listeners for what they are passionate
about - aren't we asking for their "gut" opinion?
When I am on the fence on something, I will grab some
folks from the office and play it for them to see what
the reactions are. I'll take their gut and my gut and
go from there.
Who is your favorite air personality not on your staff?
D. from WHND. This guy was a blast! His show was full
of bad puns, silly stories, silly features and fun!
His laugh was contagious and he was a wealth of knowledge.
Present: Tim & Jeff from Kiss 107 in Cincy. I've
known these guys since they were interns and they are
exactly what this business needs! They are funny, they
are local, and they are EVERYWHERE! They are also fun
to sit and write stuff with. Some of my favorite bits
are ones that we've written together.
What was the biggest gaffe you've made on air? (dead
air, forget a mic was still on, etc.)
mornings on Honey Radio in Detroit, my partner and I
decided that I should do a character LIVE instead of
recording it. We had mapped out the bit, knew exactly
where it was going to go and felt that we could do it.
The character was based on a real listener, and I had
never done it live before. Once the break started and
I began the character voice, my partner began to chuckle
and that was it. We both were overcome with that uncontrollable
laughter. I was laughing so hard I was crying and could
not see the cart machines, so I hit the first button
on the board I could find. It fired a cart with a gunshot
sound effect, which sounded so out of context we laughed
even harder. We finally were able to get into commercials
and off air we laughed through the entire break. My
partner insisted we try again out of spots and before
the weather, so we came out of the last spot and began
to try again. We got further, but again, once I did
the voice, I lost it.
Most of us have known or even worked for a "colorful"
owner/GM/air talent. Care to share a story? (The names
can be changed to protect the innocent).
Paul Christy was a hoot to work for!
tracking, Paul would lay voice tracks down on reel-to-reel
tape for his Saturday show. He recorded it after his
show on Friday. Before heading to the studio he would
grab a bagel or something and would eat while he "tracked".
So the listeners go to hear him chomping on that same
bagel throughout a four-hour show!
Paul story - and it could have easily been an answer
to the biggest gaffe question. On Friday night/Saturday
morning, I'd do the overnight show from 1-6am, then
I ran Paul on tape from 6-10a inserting live weather
and such. One night I was dead tired and fell asleep
around 7:05am - at 7:25, I woke up in a panic. There
was no automation at that time, so there was 20 minutes
of dead air. I grabbed the first cart I could find ("You've
Got Your Troubles" by the Fortunes) and got us
back on the air. Paul called on the hotline about 7:30.
I remember thinking that I was going to get fired, etc.
ya doing?" he asked (while munching on food, as
usual). I told him what happened, expecting the worst,
but he laughed and began to tell me stories of when
he had fallen asleep in Chicago and so on. He was that
kind of guy.
In today's world of multi-tasking and wearing many hats,
how do you find time to show prep and what sources do
It is just
like finding time to listen to music - you just do it.
You schedule a certain block of time for it and make
it happen. I use a couple services that are really thorough.
New Radio Star is a great source for bit sharing and
every day they put out a very good "recap"
of events and such. I also use the "True Country"
prep, which has some comedy bits, and parody songs available.
What is the best advice you would give to young programmers/air
I once heard
Jay Trachman call radio a "mistress". It really
is. You really have to have an "affair" with
the business and still find time to take care of your
personal life. In order to have a career in this business,
you have to have a life outside of it. Do what it takes
to make that a reality. Be unique. Be yourself. Be a
As you look back over your career ... any regrets? Missed
working the Downtown Hoedown at W4 Country. We were
in the shuttle that was going back to the station and
Tim (of Tim and Jeff, mentioned above) said, "There's
those Dixie Chicks." They were walking outside
and he ran out to grab a picture with them. I love traditional
country, so naturally I thought they were good. However,
at the time, I felt that because of their sound, I didn't
think they'd ever make it. So I sat on the shuttle.
I kind of wish I had met them that day.
What is the biggest change that you'd like to see happen
in the business?
I wish we'd
see more talent development. Many stations are syndicated,
voice tracked or automated during the evenings and overnights.
This is where so many people got their start in the
business. These "entry level" positions are
non-existent today and sadly, we're not seeing much
in the way of talent coming up through the ranks. It
seems that we've even stopped using part timers for
weekend shifts. Full time talent is voice tracking weekend
shifts and "live" weekends are a thing of
the past. I was voice tracked in Saginaw, and in Detroit
(couple hours away) when Reagan died. A big news story
and I was in a place where I could do nothing about
it. To the listener I sounded clueless or like I just
I would love
to see stations utilize part timers and groom the next
generation of talent to keep our business entertaining,
strong, and alive!
Name the artist/act (living or dead) you'd love to meet
-the "King of Cool." Here is a guy who made
everything look so easy. He did everything, records,
movies, and TV. I'd love to be out shooting 18 holes
with him on a golf course and just talking about music,
our Italian heritage, what Frank Sinatra was like, and
how he makes it look so effortless.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
kids, I never thought about being an astronaut or fireman.
I remember when I was young wanting to be a chef, but
that was short lived. It really came down to two careers:
Radio or Teaching. I wanted to go to school to become
a band director or elementary teacher because I had
some teachers who really made a difference in my life
growing up. I also had the radio thing rolling around
in the back of my head.
When I found
out I needed to go to college for a teaching degree
and could do radio with little or no schooling, I made
the choice that any broke teenager would make - and
here I am!
You just won the lotto and you have your boss on the
line. What's the first thing that you would say?
much for the station?"
Copyright 2007 The All Access Music Group