It was just a bit of serendipity that it even happened, actually. It was the day before the Super Bowl, and Rox was at the store, picking up supplies for our yearly way-too-much-food party. Normally, I’m conscripted to go to the grocery store with her, but since I’d been out of town of a couple of weeks, she felt pity on me.
Which is a short way of saying that I shouldn’t have even been there when the phone rang, and since I thought it was her calling from the store, asking about whether or not we had enough brown sugar or something, I actually answered the phone. Which never ever never happens.
But it wasn’t Roxanne at all, it was Arbitron, and they needed me. It was about fracking time.
I fell in love in with radio when I was ten years old. It was the end of the Top 40-era, and the radio station was 1300 KYNO-AM, in Fresno, California. I loved the music, but I also loved the crazy, wacky, zany disc jockeys.
In a move that would no doubt now get me sued by the RIAA, I used to tape songs — and DJ raps that I found funny — off of the radio by putting an old portable Panasonic cassette recorder’s condensor mic up against the transistor radio.
Shortly, of course, I wasn’t taping songs off of the radio: I was making cassettes of my burgeoning 45 collection, with me talking about those songs over the intros and outros. Cos that’s the first thing I wanted to do with my life: play music for people on the radio, and talk — hopefully with some modicum of wit and humor — about that music.
In my mind, DJ’s knew everything about the music they chose to play. Hoo-boy, was I wrong!
As I went through my teens in the late 70s, that love for KYNO-AM transferred to the short-lived Rock 96 FM then to KKDJ’s early years as a free-form FM station (and even their morning “Breakfast Club”) and, of course, to KFSR — Fresno State’s radio station where I spent several years as a DJ myself from 1982-1989.
The KFSR experience was transformative for a couple of reasons: on one hand, at the tender age of 19, I fulfilled a life-long dream of actually getting to be on the radio myself — very few things will ever be more satisfying than knowing that I was actually getting to turn people on to music I loved. On the other hand, I also got a first-hand look at where the radio industry was going: playlist consolidation; nationally syndicated shows over local content; and the trend towards making every single jock at every single radio station sound like every other single jock at every other single radio station.
In other words, with very few exceptions, radio seemed to be going to a place where — with very few exceptions — people who loved music need not apply.
It was a gut-punch, to say the least, and it took me nearly a decade to get back any kind of love for radio, especially after I left KFSR in 1989, disillusioned with what felt like a disconnect between me and the audience.
So it wasn’t until I landed in the Bay Area in the mid-1990s that I found anything to love about radio again. And it wasn’t really music, but rather a pair of things: a great morning show — Alex Bennett on Live 105 — and the daily immersion in my beloved San Francisco Giants via their flagship station, KNBR.
Of course, I’d been listening to Giants games on the radio all of my life, but it was totally different actually living there. Now that I live in L.A., the summers are a bit less fun without a daily dose of Kruk and Kuip.
But the radio choices here are actually pretty great — Kevin and Bean, Adam Carolla, Indie 103, Frosty Heidi & Frank, even Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann on ESPN Radio — so this was a pretty good time for me to be an Arbitron diarist and help the ratings of the shows I liked.
If I actually got a diary. This could always be a cruel hoax, or a piece of social engineering. Sure, the guy said he was from Arbitron, but was he really? I wouldn’t know for sure until an actual Arbitron diary showed up in my mailbox. Hell, for all I know, the fact that I’m no longer in any key demographic might mean that they had no need for my input.
I was going to find out pretty soon.