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Monday, 12 November, 2007 8:56 PM

PROFILE: 10 Questions with Keith Allen of Flint's B-95

© Copyright 2007
The All Access Music Group

 

 

1. 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, huh?

Paul Christy, 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.

2. What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment, which made you realize "this is it"?

I always 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 in radio.

3. Describe 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?

I listen 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.

Research 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 good records.

Sales are 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 the music??

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.

4. Who is your favorite air personality not on your staff?

Past: Richard 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.

5. What was the biggest gaffe you've made on air? (dead air, forget a mic was still on, etc.)

While doing 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.

6. 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).

Define "Colorful"? Paul Christy was a hoot to work for!

Before voice 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!

Another quick 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.

"How 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.

7. In today's world of multi-tasking and wearing many hats, how do you find time to show prep and what sources do you use?

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.

8. What is the best advice you would give to young programmers/air talent?

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 winner.

9. As you look back over your career ... any regrets? Missed opportunities?

I remember 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.

10. 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 didn't care.

I would love to see stations utilize part timers and groom the next generation of talent to keep our business entertaining, strong, and alive!

Bonus Questions

1. Name the artist/act (living or dead) you'd love to meet and why?

Dean Martin -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.

2. What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Unlike most 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!

3. You just won the lotto and you have your boss on the line. What's the first thing that you would say?

"How much for the station?"

© Copyright 2007 The All Access Music Group

Photo: AllAccess.com

Name
Keith Allen
Title
Interim program director, Assistant program director, music director and morning dude
Station
WFBE B-95!
Market
Flint, MI
Company
Citadel
Born
a child of the 70's in Warren, MI
Raised
Warren, MI
Past Radio Career
WKSG, 1988-91, WMXD 1991, WHND 1991-1994, WWWW 1995-1998, WFBE 1998-2002, WKCQ 2002-2003, WCEN 2003-2007, WFBE (again) 2007-Present

 

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Unauthorized duplication or use of Text, Site Template, Graphics and or Site Design is Prohibited by Federal and International laws. See our Notice/Disclaimer and Privacy Policy.

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