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No guts, no glory

No guts, no glory
No guts, no glory

May 10, 2024 6:08 AM CDT
By: Jay Roberts

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No guts, no glory

Follow your heart. Dreams can come true. Those two phrases are definitely cliché, but meaningful. When I was in 6th grade, my teacher invited a friend of hers to come speak to our class about what she does for a living. She was a co-host of the afternoon show on a radio station in Minneapolis. “A celebrity is coming to our classroom,” I said to myself. Meeting Grace was one of the coolest moments of my childhood. She was super outgoing and fun. She showed up to our school in a convertible, with the top down, and the music cranking. She loved her job, but was still so humble and kind. Such an energetic person who seemed to have everything she wanted. I got her autograph. Brought it home and showed my mom. Then I turned on the radio station and listened to Grace talk about how fun it was visiting Mrs. Gibson’s 6th grade class. I was enamored! It was at that moment that my life goal was to be on the radio.

Setting goals is important. It gives us something to work toward. Something to achieve. Now in my middle-aged years, I have learned the personal satisfaction that comes from setting a goal and achieving that goal is immense. As a 6th grader, I just thought being a radio personality would be cool. Not an easy task though….when you have a stuttering problem. I had a moderate stutter. I would get hung on certain words, and fought like mad to spit the words out. How many radio personalities stutter? Was I setting out to achieve the impossible? I thought maybe I was. My mom always said my stuttering was a result of my brother not letting me get a word in. Maybe that was the reason. I’m not sure. My stuttering improved, and my dream of being on the radio never faded.

While in college, studying Mass Communications (and beer drinking 101) I was offered a job as a mobile DJ. Entertaining wedding guests on Saturday nights was my main responsibility. I’d load up my hatchback with equipment and speakers bigger than the car itself, drive (sometimes hours away) and play music for 4 hours in a VFW basement and the occasional barn reception. My fraternity brothers would be swilling beer and telling stories back at the house, while I was out making BANK! Fifty bucks a night! I was rolling in the dough! Ha. Meanwhile, one of the other guys in the fraternity was delivering pizzas and bringing cash tips of $150 per night. But I was having way more fun.

After a late wedding reception in northern Iowa in early 1996, my boss told me to just drive home and get some rest. I could return the DJ equipment back to the office the next morning. That office was located inside a radio station. Curious to see the inner-workings of the station, I wandered up the steps and peeked into the main studio. It was Sunday morning. There was a board operator sitting at the console, running the Casey Kasem Top 40 show. I introduced myself to her, and soon discovered we were both from the same hometown. Small world. She showed me how she was responsible for starting the local commercial breaks when the Top 40 show went to break. Then she showed me how she would read the weather live on the air, and then return to the show. It was the coolest thing, to see this happen LIVE right in front of me.

Our conversation continued. She loaded the next commercial break, and the weather “bed” into the system. She said she was going to step outside for a smoke, and would be back in a few minutes. She asked me if I would like to stay and watch “the board” until she returned. “Absolutely!” I said with excitement. She stepped out, and there I was….alone in the studio of a 100,000 watt FM radio station. I couldn’t help but notice that Casey Kasem was giving hints that he was going to commercials. A couple national ads played on the show, then I heard the show go silent. This was where the local commercials were supposed to play! But she wasn’t back yet. I pushed the illuminated button on the console, and the local commercials began to play. I ran out into the hall to look for her, but she wasn’t there. Watching the timer on the local commercials counting down, and seeing the weather bed ready to start … I made a split second decision that would alter the course of my career forever.

I put on the headphones, turned the mic on, and when the weather bed started, I read the weather forecast for that day and the next day, said the current temperature, and “now back to Casey Kasem!” Then I faded up the show, and it was business as usual. What did I just do!? I ran into the hall, down the stairs, and saw her standing in the entryway, between the two doors. She had locked herself out of the radio station building and couldn’t get back in. Imagine the panic she was dealing with. Then to hear the stranger that was visiting reading the weather!? She was seemingly relieved but probably frightened that someone of importance heard that. Well, upon returning to the studio, the “hotline” was flashing. That’s the private phone line that only the boss knows the number to. It was the boss, he heard that strange guy reading the weather, and he was mad! Not far away from the station either.

Minutes later, the boss arrived, and ordered us both into his office. After scolding her for “letting” me on the air, and scolding me for having the guts to do something so crazy, he mentioned that she had already put in her notice and was leaving the station in a few weeks. Then he told me that my weather break was “perfect.” “Especially for someone with no experience,” he said. He offered me her job right there, on the spot. The next day, the station filed for my radio operators license (a requirement back then) and there I was within a week, being trained on the ins and outs of Casey Kasem’s Top 40 show.

Sometimes it takes guts, and a little stupidity, to follow your heart and make your dreams come true. And in case you are wondering… no, I didn’t stutter one single time when reading that weather forecast.

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