R.A.P. Interview: George Robinson

George Robinson, Creative Director, WZGC-FM/Z93, Atlanta, Georgia

by Jerry Vigil

More and more stations are finding the value of separating their "programming" production personnel from their "commercial" production personnel. Many stations call this "programming" producer the Creative Director, or Creative Services Director. Whatever the title, the position is usually filled by an individual whose creative talents - as a writer, producer, and voice talent -- are so strong that it becomes obvious to management that the person should be spending the majority of their time on the station's biggest client...the station itself. Join us for a visit with George Robinson, Creative Director for Atlanta's classic rock king, Z93/WZGC-FM. George has more than one RAP Award to his name, and chances are he'll be tough competition this year, too!

R.A.P.: When did it all start for you, and how did you wind up at WZGC?
George: Well, I started when I was pretty young. My dad was a private investigator, and he had some surveillance gear -- tape recorders and what have you -- and he would let me play with them. So, I would gather a few of my friends, and we would turn on record players in the background to set the ambiance. Then we would take some glasses or whatever we could think of to create sound effects, and we would do these little presentations to amuse ourselves.

Years later, when I was in the service, I was stationed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and played in a band during the evening. After I finished a solo set, this guy walked up to me and said, "Hey, you've got a pretty nice voice when you're talking between your songs." I didn't really know quite how to take that, but I guess he meant it as a compliment. He asked if I wanted to do a radio show at the American Forces radio station. I said, "Yeah, that would be fun! I'd love to do it!" So I did.

When I got out of the service, I got my first job at a commercial station in Stark, Florida where about half my audience consisted of dairy cows and the other half consisted of Stark inmates at the Stark penitentiary. That was quite an interesting start, I suppose. After that I went to Green Coast Springs to a little three thousand watt rock station called 92K. From there I went to one of the last city-owned stations in the country, WJAX in Jacksonville. I worked in Jacksonville for about ten years spending my last five at Rock 105, WFYV where I did some air work and was Production Director. I left Rock 105 about five years ago when I had the opportunity to come up here as a Production Director. After two and a half years I was moved into the Creative Director position, so my main thrust, although I do write and produce commercials, is on-air creative.

I'm not only the Creative Director for WZGC, but I'm also a booth announcer for TBS. I also have a couple of other TV and radio stations that I do stuff for out of my studio at home.

R.A.P.: How did the TBS deal come about?
George: Someone heard a promo that I produced on Z93 and they said they thought I had a similar delivery to this guy they were using, Bill St. James. I didn't really see that, but that's what they thought, so they wanted me to give them a demo for TNT. I didn't hear anything from anybody, then TBS called and asked me to come and do some reads. I did, and I didn't hear from them for a while. Then I went back and did some more, and they offered me a position to be their booth announcer. It's myself, along with another guy, John Young, who have been their voices since creation.

R.A.P.: What shift do you do for TBS?
George: I go in around three o'clock. From three to four I read the liners -- they're called VOCs, voice-over credits. Then I do a lot of promos for shows and movies they have coming up. They just finished recycling the James Bond movies and I played a couple of character parts for those promos. I also do a lot of stuff with World Championship Wrestling. I have a character voice that I use for them that's a real grizzled, raspy, growly kind of...well, wrestling voice.

R.A.P.: You mentioned a home studio. Tell us about it.
George: The station lets me produce a lot of their stuff from home because the home studio is pretty well equipped with some digital gear, as well as some analog gear. Originally, I started putting this studio together as an insurance policy because, you know, radio is somewhat an iffy game. You don't know; someday you may get a new Program Director, and he may want a different sound. I didn't want to miss a beat. I wanted to continue on if that day ever came. So, I've amassed quite a production studio.

I have a Tascam mixing console, the M3500, and the Tascam CD-601 CD player, along with a couple of Panasonic SV37 DAT machines. I've got the H3000S Eventide Harmonizer, an Alesis QuadraVerb, and a drum machine by Alesis. A recent purchase is a DA-88 digital 8-track from Tascam. I found your article on it pretty favorable [RAP Test Drive, December 1993]. I also have an Ensoniq keyboard and some guitars and what have you.

R.A.P.: Do you ever get a chance to use the musical instruments in the station's production?
George: Yes. We had a series of promos that we produced a while back to help push the deep cuts we'd play. The promo opened up in a studio situation where you could hear the engineer in the talk-back microphone saying, "Okay, this is Aqualung mix 93, guitars up a third, we're rolling." Then I would play an Aqualung kind of rip-off. I wanted it to sound enough like Aqualung where it was identifiable, but not too much like it so people would think, "Oh, you just lifted it from the record." Then, of course, the engineer cuts in and says, "No, no, we're not going to put that one on the album, we're going to put a different one." Then the promo goes into selling the deep cuts and let's you know the lesser known songs we feature on our "ZD Side." We used that approach with Eric Clapton, Aqualung, the Beatles.... It was a nice little campaign that we did for a while. This is the kind of production I do at home for Z93 because it would be kind of tough to lug in all the equipment to the radio station to do it. We do have some good equipment at the station; don't get me wrong. But, for some of the more intricate stuff, I kind of like working at home.