I was born and raised in Dayton, and I suppose my interest in broadcasting goes all the way back to some time in the early 1960's. Unlike some kids today, I didn't have control of the TV remote; heck, there weren't TV remotes then! Mom was in charge of the television and every day at noon it was tuned to the old Ruth Lyons 50/50 Club. I decided I really liked the idea of performing and being involved with music.
Later, in my teenage years, I had learned to play guitar and got into some garage bands, during which time I convinced myself that trying to become a rock star was a great way to starve. Having acted in theatrical performances at Miamisburg High School (I am a 1974 graduate), I might have tried to go to Hollywood and become an actor had I had any gumption. I guess I just liked Ohio too much to want to move 3,000 miles. That, plus I heard the stories of a lot of wannabe actors and actresses there that spend their lives auditioning, while flipping Tofu burgers for pocket change. I had already seen the inside of a radio station. My dad got me a tour of the old WING studios downtown for my tenth birthday.
As a teenager, I got involved in a Junior Achievement company hosted by the former WAVI/WDAO. It was there I met legendary Dayton DJ Gene Barry. I told Gene of my interest in the business. He suggested I come by the station the following Saturday after he got off the air and he would let me practice a bit in one of the station's production studios. I did. And, with Gene's help, I produced my first audition tape. I wish I still had it, but it's long gone. I also helped build an FM radio station at Miamisburg High School (where I graduated in 1974). I was spinning records on the air at the school when the Xenia tornado happened! [Rowdy J with one of the few people in world actually rowdier than him, Larry The Cable Guy] Upon graduation, I went to what is, today, the local International College of Broadcasting. However, I got my first full time radio job in Wilmington, Ohio well before the radio class ended. At least the school was gracious enough to allow me to graduate with my class. I first played country music on that station. In fact, during that time I was backstage at the Grand Ole Opry swapping stories with, among others the late Marty Robbins, Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl (one of the most elegant ladies I’ve ever met…out of character, of course!)
After 3 years in Wilmington, my radio journey took me to Dayton, where I worked as a News Reporter for WONE/WTUE, then WAVI/WDAO. I went to Cincinnati as a radio News Director, where I was one of the first reporters on the scene when 11 people were trampled to death outside the Who concert at the old Riverfront Coliseum. Some of my reports and interviews from the scene of that tragedy were picked up by ABC Radio and even the BBC in London! After that, I became a country DJ at WBZI-FM in Xenia, (where I emceed a concert at a bar in Middletown introducing a then-new singer named George Strait!) then to WQLK-FM in Richmond, Indiana.
Then, my hometown called again, and I was offered a job on WING-AM. I was probably one of the last of the Lively Guys, as the station went to satellite programming after I left. I was first transferred to a night shift on Z-93 and then went to WCOL-FM in Columbus, where I would work for 8 years. It was while I was at WCOL, I emceed a portion of the George Strait Country Music Festival in Ohio Stadium in front of 90,000 people! I also survived 5 nights of Garth Brooks concerts in Cooper Stadium (though I admit I was exhausted after the last one ended! But, hey…Garth did give me a Budweiser on his bus!) And, I’ve been a voting member of the Country Music Association for quite a few years.
When I left WCOL, I became a Program Director for the first time, 3 years later; I went to a station in Champaign, Illinois as their Program Director. When that job ended, I decided I really wanted to go home. And I'm darn glad to be here. So, I guess I'm living proof that, no matter what happens to you in life, you really can go home.
Q & A
Where were you born? Dayton, Ohio
Where did you grow up? Miamisburg, Ohio (Graduated High School there in 1974)
What was your favorite TV show then? Star Trek, Bonanza, Carol Burnett, just to name a few
What was the first thing you ever wanted to be? Believe it or not, a radio/television personality. The Miami Valley was a hotbed of local radio and television programs in those days. It is something that, sadly, you don’t see a whole lot of these days.
How might someone have described you in high school? Shy, quiet and very introverted. I escaped from that mold by getting into the theatrical productions in school and being part of a group that licensed and built an FM station there in 1974.
What was your first job? Picking up golf balls on a driving range…fortunately, not while it was in use!
What was your first job in radio? A local DJ on an FM in Wilmington, Ohio.
What do you like about your job? It’s never the same thing. I work for all of the CMG radio stations…you may hear me doing news on WHIO, or hosting a show.
What do you not like about your job? Like all jobs these days, I can be busier than I’d like to be some days, but who isn’t?
What might people be surprised to know about you? I am a student pilot that still wants to finish flight training someday (it’s just really expensive!) I also am musically inclined and have played a mean rhythm guitar since age 9.
What is the hardest thing you ever did? Survived almost 40 years in radio and only been out of work 7 days (cross my fingers on that one)!
What would be a perfect day for you? Spending time meeting some influential and historic pilots at the National Museum of The U.S. Air Force. (I met Chuck Yeager out there one day and despite his reputation for being a tough guy to interview, he and I actually hit it off pretty well.)
What advice would you have for someone wanting to go into the business?
Learn everything you can and work to be effective at all of it. You can no longer limit yourself to just radio…or television…or news…or being a personality. You have to be able to do it all because you might get called upon at the last minute to do just about anything.
If you could only keep one 5-minute tape from your career what would be on it?
The tape of me reporting the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery from the press area at Launch Complex 39 at Kennedy Space Center in 1997. It was a night launch and was the most spectacular 45 second light show I ever saw in my life. I hope our country sees the wisdom of continuing space exploration (even if some of it comes from private industry), because what we learn there can mean so much to the future. The computer I’m typing this on today is a direct descendant of the 10-thousand or so word computer that got us to the moon and back. And the computers in our cars today are so much more complex and capable than that shoe-box sized computer.
Favorite book: First Man…the autobiography of Neil Armstrong, who I was blessed to have the opportunity to interview once.
Favorite radio program:
Favorite dream car: Corvette
Favorite food: Cabbage rolls or authentic Hungarian goulash.
Favorite hobby: Music
Favorite Miami Valley place: The National Museum of The U.S. Air Force.
Favorite movie: Apollo 13
Favorite music: I love all kinds from the Beatles, to Lynyrd Skynyrd, to Marvin Gaye, to Bon Jovi and Def Leppard. I notice some of today’s music is going back to lyrics and melody, as opposed to just beats and breaks. I think that’s progress.