Confessions of a former radio DJ

Real Estate Agent with ProSmart Realty


I get asked a lot about my previous career...Yes, Radio was an absolute pleasure to perform. I edited most of this as it came from someone else in the radio biz.

Maybe I can share something you did not know...

I worked on the air in radio for over 10 years. Back in the old days, there were no .mp3 files or computer automated playback systems.

You were on the air for a 4-6 hour shift and once the shift began, you did not stop moving until the next DJ sat down and plugged his headphones in hours later.

If you found a period of time in those 5 hours that your hands stopped moving, you were going to get screwed by something that would lead to an on air blunder including dead air, the wrong thing playing on the air or missed commercial breaks or something else that would make it excruciatingly obvious that you messed up.

There were contests, jingles, phone callers, music, trivia, interesting content and comedy bits that, when executed correctly sounded like a million dollars to your fellow DJs but went un-noticed by the listeners.

In fact, the payoff was that you made it look so easy that nobody noticed that perfect transition, segueway or perfectly-timed bit played over the song intro and right up to the first vocals. If you missed your mark by even a fraction, it sounded like a train wreck on the air and the program director was about to call and threaten you.

You learned to go to the bathroom in less than 2 minutes. As soon as one song ended and you hit the jingle and rolled the next song, you better re cue something in the other player or you're gonna get bitten in 3 minutes and 28 seconds.

You hit the mic, ask for caller 9 to win a prize over the intro of a 3 minute song. You answer the phone 8 times to say "try again" before hitting that 9th caller who as it turns out isn't sure what planet they are on. You try to coach them into the excitement of winning. They reply "oh... what did I win?" while drooling over themselves and barking out the wrong station name when you asked who made them a winner.

Now, you have 43 seconds left to grab the razor blade and edit that phone caller into someone who sounds like they just won a new car before timing it to play perfectly over the winner jingle and running it perfectly up the intro of the next song and slamming it straight into the vocals with the timing and precision of a neuro surgeon... and you did it... Every. Single. Time.

Again, the payoff was that nobody noticed what you did. It sounded like normal to everyone but you know that it rocked and that every radio personality in the market who heard it was bowing to your greatness.

This level of excitement and pinpoint precision was an expectation every second of every day on the air. You were absolutely NEVER allowed to make a mistake or mess it up. If you did, you were OUT.

You were expected to be the authority on everything from weather patterns to the names of the back up singers on every track and what other artists they performed with. You were to know every artist & title and in what year it was released for a record library of over 1000 songs.

You were to know the entire tour schedule of every artist and when they were coming to town. You were to know when tickets would be given away, where the t shirts were and how to get listeners back stage.

At the end of the 5 hour on air shift, you were mentally baked and had a pile of reel to reel tape on the floor to clean up, scraps of paper and a studio to put back in order for the next guy. You pulled his first hour of music and commercials.

You walk out of the studio with your ears ringing knowing that you just produced 5 hours of the most amazing, seamless broadcast programming ever to be heard by human ears... and the payoff? Nobody knows what you did. Nobody knows because you made it look so incredibly easy that it came across as effortless... and you did it for low pay and free music and occasional t shirt.

Live broadcast radio was hard. The pay sucked and the hours were awful. You worked weekends and holidays. Some of us even did wedding dances on Sat nights, loading & unloading, entertaining 200-400 strangers. When you weren't on the air, you were in the production studio producing commercials and station promos and liners filled with woosh goshes, whiz bangs and laser bullets abounds for a non-stop eargasm explosion of rip off the knob audio pleasure. On the weekends, you broadcast live from every lemonade stand and car dealer the sales staff could sell a sponsorship and deliver a pizza to. It was indeed a magical time. And you didn't do it for money; you did it for the love of the process.

This... was live broadcast radio. Energy, flashes and lightning bolts. Spotify? Give me a break! WE... were good...we were artists. We knew it, and now you know.

Posted by

Gary & Melynda Wolter CRS, CREN, MSP    

Realtor Certified Residential Specialist, Mesa/Gilbert/Queen Creek/Chandler, AZ

Licensed agent since 2001 "Premier Personal Service"




Comments (3)

Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Pasadena And Southern California 818.516.4393

Hello Gary (and Melynda too) - it looks like you traded Stairway to Heaven for loftier real estate aspirational thoughts.

Dec 01, 2023 02:52 PM
Gary & Melynda Wolter, Since 2001, 480-269-1164

Thanks Micheal! Have a great weekend! 

Dec 01, 2023 03:00 PM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Hi Gary,

Wow! I got tired just reading all that you had to do to make it a great broadcast. Like many things when YOU had to make things happen there was a great deal of satisfaction because you were an artist and proud of your craft!

Dec 01, 2023 07:57 PM
Kat Palmiotti
eXp Commercial, Referral Divison - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Yikes there was certainly a lot of work required for live radio. I bet you learned a ton! I was wondering about the bathroom part! I wouldn't have made it 5 hours so I'm glad there was time to squeeze that in. :-)

Dec 02, 2023 04:57 AM