Sunday, September 02, 2012

The First Night

Me at the controls of Majic 105, probably in the Spring of 1991.  Gotta love the General Foods sweathshirt, the stonewashed jeans, and most of all, the Zubaz Steelers hat!

I loved radio from the time I was little.  I can tell you how I always listened to the radio, enjoying the work of Ron Lundy and Dan Ingram on WABC, and later Don Imus on WNBC and Scott Shannon on Z-100.  On the sports side of broadcasting, I was listening to the Yankees trio of Frank Messer, Phil Rizzuto and Bill White, and that would lead to Dick Enberg and, of course, Vin Scully.

Somewhere in my teens, as my desire to play sports in high school died, I decided that I wanted to be on the air.  If I can't play it, broadcast it!  My two boyhood heroes, Terry Bradshaw and Bobby Murcer, were both retiring to go into broadcasting.  That had to be a sign, right?

So the journey began.  I played with the notion of going to the Connecticut School of Broadcasting (CSB) out of high school, but initially opted for Westchester Community College.  When my father died, I stopped going to school completely, and continued working at General Foods (later Kraft).  But I got the urge and gave CSB a shot.  I wasn't bad at broadcasting (as I had hoped) and did pretty well in my play-by-play class.  Eventually I returned to Westchester, then Western Connecticut and earned my Bachelors Degree.

It was CSB that got me going.  I earned an interview with WMJV (Majic 105), an Adult Contemporary station located not too far from my home, in Patterson, NY.  I was offered the weekend overnight shift - Sunday morning from midnight to six.  It all seemed too good to be true.

My next step was to be trained.  I stopped by the station one evening as I was told to do.  Problem was, the on-air DJ, a guy who went by the name "John Harrison" was unaware that I was coming.  So he let me into the building and promptly called the boss, who cleared my visit.  Mr. Harrison gave me the ins and outs of the station and I left after an hour or two.

The next step would be to do it for real.  I visited the station before my first shift and picked up a copy of the programming log to see what I was supposed to play that first night.  I made notes - I wanted to be ready!  Next, I needed a pair of headphones.  A pair of Koss "cans" (a nickname for headphones) were bought for about $30 from Service Merchandise in the Jefferson Valley Mall.

I tried to get some sleep at home (yeah, right).  Then I went out with my then-girlfriend (Sandi) for dinner (I think we might have gone to Grandma's in Yorktown Heights).  She, along with members of her family and my family, tune their radios to 105.5, waiting for the big moment.

Coincidentally, that big moment would happen just after midnight on September 2nd.  That's Terry Bradshaw's birthday.

Finally, it was time.  Armed with coffee and NoDoz (I've never taken them since), I was welcomed into the station by Jim Heartman, a longtime DJ who I remembered from WVIP back in the 80's.  It should be noted that Heartman and I started out rather friendly.  That, sadly, did not end well.  Another story for another time.

I went in prepared to use the name "Robbie" Adams because, well, that was my name.  At Majic, that's what I used.  My family has called me that since birth so I went with it.  In my work life, around my school classmates, and in the rest of my adult world, I was "Rob."  When I came back into the business for good, in 1997, I stuck with "Rob."

Heartman finished his shift at midnight and offered to stay for a few minutes to get me going, but I felt that if I was really going to do this, then I needed to do it on my own.  My notes were meticulous, and I hoped I was ready.  The first song finished - nope, not ready to talk yet.

The next song, "Time For Letting Go" by Jude Cole finished, and it was time to make the big leap.  I've told the story before when teaching.  There were three choices: 1) Keep pressing "play" on the CD player all night, 2) Run, and 3) Turn on the microphone and start yakking.  I went with "3)" and have never looked back.

The result is this.

By the way, I went home and could...not...sleep.  Um...NoDoz, maybe?  So now you know why I don't drink a lot of coffee (2-3 cups MAX per day!) and I do...not...drink Red Bull and the like!

I stayed for just about a year at Majic before I was shown the door - the victim of politics and foolishness.  I went back into focusing on being a student and full time employee at Kraft.  As for John Harrison (the other victim of the politics at Majic in the summer and fall on 1991), well we became close friends.  He followed me on air every Sunday morning, and he would do a news cast.  He allowed me to do the sports for him (I was doing sports on the radio - finally!).   I was in his wedding party and am godfather to his two children.  He also put me in touch with Bob Stanhope, another former Majic employee who was the Program Director at WREF in Ridgefield.  There, I ran the board for a few Ridgefield football games and did some more DJ work, including a regular weekend show.  I also helped them turn out the lights and was the last live voice from the Ridgefield studios in 1997 after the station was sold.  But I made two friends at WREF - Steve Goodwin and Luke Michaels (God rest his soul) - and they both suggested I come do some part-time stuff at a small AM station in Greenwich: WGCH.  Their then-Sports Director, John Connelly, liked my work and I began doing a lot of sports.  When John left in 2000, I became Sports Director.  I'm still there, doing that same position.  With it comes the honor of being the radio "voice" of the Greenwich Cardinals, especially the football team.  I'll begin year number thirteen calling Greenwich football on September 14th.

And now you know (as the late Paul Harvey would say) the rest of the story.

It's been 22 years.  I'm not tired of it yet.

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