Q It Up: Who Were Your Mentors? - Part 1

Q-It-Up-Logo-sep95Q It Up: What people had the most influence on developing your skills, and what are a couple of the important things they taught you?

Monica Ballard [nlpmuse[at]hotmail.com], Roy H. Williams Marketing, Inc.: George Francis had tremendous influence on me. The Marine Reserves taught George the value of when to “be loud and draw a crowd” and when to go stealth. He in turn, utilized these skills in radio and sent competitors scurrying either way. Semper Fi, George! Jim Ballard treated management, airstaff, salespeople and listeners with the same respect. He felt good ideas could come from anyone, anywhere at any time. (I liked being around Jim so much I married him! Too bad corporate radio didn’t share the respect. They lost a good man.) Jeff Elliott saw a possible “bit” everywhere. He loved making the listener important. A Chase’s calendar was downright dangerous in his hands. Even a great sunset or the progress of a Chia pet would be reason enough for Jeff to add some spice to your drive home. He was a master at “short, sweet and back into music.” His was an entertaining afternoon show about nothing. And just like “Seinfeld,” that’s what made it so relatable. Those were the days, right, Radioboy? Paul Warren, Tucker Redford and JT Austin taught me how to do cool effects on the 8-track before the days of digital editing. I already have people look at the razor blade inside the plexiglass of my RAP award and say, “I don’t get it. Why is that in there?” Roy H. Williams (The Wizard of Ads) has turned the way I view the world inside out. I listen, watch, write and speak in a different way - and not just in regard to media, either. I have watched people come and go from Wizard Academy babbling and giddy with new ideas—secrets and wisdom that I am lucky to have access to every working day. My favorite eavesdrop was when a sales rep on an Academy break called her office, asked for her GSM and confessed, “We should be sued for malpractice of radio!” That’s powerful stuff. You go, Roy!

Ric Gonzalez [Ric.Gonzalez[at]cox .com]: I’ve been fortunate to be a Production Manager in one location for 12 years. Most of that time our stations were owned by Cox Radio. By the time this goes to print, I will be working in a new location with Infinity Broadcasting in Austin. But I’ve found all the preceding (off a poster in my office) to be very true.

ALL I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT LIFE I LEARNED FROM STAR TREK: On dealing with difficult reps and difficult clients, “Keep you phasers set on stun.” On creative ideas, “Infinite diversity in infinite combinations.” On negatives like self-doubt, anger and fear, “Enemies are often invisible—like Romulans, they can be cloaked.” On trouble shooting and tracking down problems, “When your logic fails, trust a hunch.” On dealing with studio problems, “If it can’t be fixed, just ask Scotty.” On meeting new staffs or new clients, “Seek out new life and new civilizations.” On getting along with my co-workers, “Humans are highly illogical.” On interacting with difficult agencies, “Non-interference is the Prime Directive.” And most importantly, on how to balance work and life (because they are two separate things), “Live long and prosper.”

Glenn Nobel [glenn[at]nobelnoise.com], NobelNoise Audio Imaging: Wow! I’ve learned from so many people over the years...and still do, directly and indirectly. Early in my career, I was influenced by Doc Winston (who’s still at KKNU in Eugene, OR). I interned with Doc, and he showed me how to run a production department and taught me to splice tape faster than anyone...besides him. (‘Though I haven’t used that skill for a long time!) I was also influenced by a salesman at tiny KLYC in McMinnville, OR. Dick Dunham was his name. He had worked in promotions at KFRC long before and was a total perfectionist. He would keep me in the production room until 9 at night or later producing a 30-second spot that might only run a couple of times. I’d cut it over and over until he would finally approve it. I learned to always do my best work on every piece, no matter what it took. And I’ve got to mention Bill O’Brian who was my boss once upon a time at KRKT in Albany, OR. In his prime, Bill could do more with 2 old Sparta cart machines and a 2-track reel than most guys can do with a room full of digital gear. And he could write! What you’ve got in your studio doesn’t matter nearly as much as what you’ve got in your head!

Dean Tyler [Deansvoice[at]aol.com], Voice & Vision Productions: As far as voiceover techniques and skills are concerned, John Pleisse has taught me the importance of “trusting” my natural voice and delivery, using things like “the candle method” where you keep your voice at a level as to not “push” it and blow out the lit candle. I actually have a couple of small candles where I can see them in my studio, and I have written “candle” so I can see it in the studio as a constant reminder to learn and work with that method. He also has given me tips on where to market my voiceover business, and to simply never give up on my goals. These are just a few examples that have shown me how he is a pro on and off the mic.

Another veteran VO talent, Mike Carta, has also been very helpful with everything from marketing ideas, the importance of servicing and over-serving the clients needs, books and tapes to keep focused and positive, and simply giving of his time on the phone to offer support and feedback. You then begin to understand why guys like John and Mike have had long and successful careers.

Joey Cummings [joey[at]deltaradio .net]: Well, that’s an easy answer. I came up through the small-market ranks under the dual tutelage of my PD, Jim Gregory, and my GM, Larry Fuss. They had the most influence because they were my ONLY influence; they were the folks that made me first say, “Hey, cool gig. I must be a part of this.” Jim and Larry have great delivery on the mic, and they taught me the beginnings of such time-honored prod jobs as dubbing the Agriculture Report and editing the breaths out of a 34-second spot to make it fit its slot.

More importantly, they taught me the fundamental philosophy behind the many technical aspects of the job. The two most important lessons are that 1) there is a way to do anything, and that 2) you should just take things one at a time. It gets a bit hectic now and then around the production room. I never panic, though; I just remember that if it’s 4:30 on a Friday afternoon and a last minute please-record-this-and-I-will-buy-you-lunch-next-week order comes in that requires three voices, four changes of music, and the sound of two albino narwhals mating when the production computer is down, then I JUST DO IT. (There is a way to do anything.) I grab the first two people I see in the hall and get them to read the copy with me straight to cart while I do the Sound Man Shuffle, twisting knobs, slapping faders and groaning and mewing into the mice with a ton of reverb to achieve narwhal nirvana. (Take it one thing at a time.) Break the problem down into manageable pieces and sort through them as efficiently as possible. That’s what THEY taught me. I taught me to love my job.

Ron Harper [rharper[at]cincyradio .com], WYGY/Radio Cincinnati, Inc: Early in my career I was doing morning drive. I was in Odessa, Texas, and I lost out on a morning gig in San Antonio because the PD said my production skills weren’t good enough. Well, we had a very talented Production Director in Odessa, and I asked him what I could do to improve. Basically, he told me to treat every piece of copy like it was a movie. It’s a simple concept; just stop being a “DJ” and start acting. But as they used to say, “nobody ever ‘splained to me that way.”

Then when I saw Chuck Blore at an NAB programming conference, he was basically saying the same thing. Blore’s stuff is amazing. I’ve learned a lot about how to develop characters in five to seven seconds just listening to his work.

Richard Stroobant [bigdick[at]cjay92. com], CJAY 92/VIBE 98.5/AM 1060 CKMX, Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Without a doubt, I received the most influence in my career from 3 people. One was a morning man, one was a Music Director/evening guy and one was a producer, and I met them all at my first radio job.

After finishing my first year of a 2-year program at a local college, I worked as an evening dub guy/midnight board op during the summer and while I finished my 2nd year at school. The morning man was responsible for me not only getting interested in radio (after listening to him every morning for years) but he also put a good word in with the PD to get me that first job after I built his daughter’s bike at my last pre-radio job.

The Music Director spent 3 hours on a Saturday talking to a 17 year old kid who had every dumb question about radio you can imagine. He let me sit in and watch him do his air shift and put me behind the board 3 minutes after I walked in the door (baptism by fire). He gave me more advice about radio (and life) than 20 fathers have given their kids. He did airchecks in his basement on the weekend when I was working at a station hundreds of miles away. He taught me never to give up, even after being fired from Butt-f&*k, Saskatchewan. He has done more for me than I could ever repay, and he is still one of my best friends today (20 years later).

The producer helped me find my true talent. He showed me what it takes to be a great producer. He is my mentor and I was a sponge. Five minutes after meeting him I was winding tape onto carts. He figured if this kid will do this, he was worth training. He taught me production techniques, massaging jocks’ egos, directing talent, marketing for freelance, time management skills, radio politics, how to play pool, and so much more. He also taught me that you can do anything you want, as long as you REALLY want it.

If not for these three guys, I might still be building bikes.

PART 2 NEXT MONTH!

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