Thursday, February 14, 2013

Branded for life..

More than fifty years ago a young fifteen year old boy had dreams of being a radio announcer. That's what they were called then. That young man was me. I had no idea that those aspirations would lead to the world of “Voice over.” I didn't even know the term back then. This a short story of how the generosity of local company would brand a person for life.
I was focused. The Boy's Life article I read in November of 1961 titled How to Become A Disk Jockey was the inspiration. The story was about Howard Miller and Martin Block to name a few, both well known radio personalities. From that day forward I knew that's what I wanted to do. So, I started visiting local radio stations to see what it was all about. The folks at a new FM station in town, WUFM, were kind and accommodating to this teenager who was fascinated by radio. They took me under their wings and let me watch and learn. They even helped me with some of the electronic theory I would need to pass the FCC exam for the 3rd Class Radio Telephone Operating Permit which an announcer needed at the time in order legally operate the station's transmitter. They encouraged me and impressed on me the need to practice, practice, practice. And that I did.
I convinced my parents to designate a portion of the basement of our home to set up a “make believe” radio station. I found some old hi-fi equipment and turntables to put together a crude radio studio for the practicing to begin. Another radio station gave me discarded UPI and AP teletype news stories and I even made up radio commercials to practice, but always wanted some of those transcription discs that I had seen the station use to play recorded commercials. So, on a whim I wrote a letter to the West End Brewing Company, makers of Utica Club Beer asking if they would send me some of the popular radio commercials that were being broadcast at the time. I didn't hear back from them and had figured that they were too busy to respond to a young kid's ambitious request. Then one day, mom brought me a large envelope that arrived in the mail. It was from West End and inside was a transcription disk of Shultz and Dooley Utica Club radio and TV commercials.

I was ecstatic. I'm sure the family got tired of hearing me play those over and over. But, it sure made me feel like I was running a real radio station. I continued to practice and visit local stations and eventually passed my FCC exam and was issued my license on April 17, 1964. I got my first job as a Sunday evening DJ with the Top-40 station WTLB 1310 AM in June of that same year. And a career was launched. That random act of kindness by the makers of Utica Club Beer is remembered to this day and I still have that disk.


And, yes I did eventually end up being a consumer of Utica Club Beer when I came of legal drinking age and still do today. I'm branded for life.  


Next week... I share my chance meeting with the late Jackson Beck in October 1982. He talks about his career and gives advice to the aspiring voice actor.

6 comments:

  1. Welcome to the blogosphere Jerry. Can't wait to read more.
    -Derek Chappell

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Derek. I plan to post updates on Wednesday morning.

      Delete
  2. What a wonderful way to have gotten your start! Quite the good read, thank you for having shared this. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks you Lady M. You were the first comment. I appreciate your support.

      Delete
  3. Thank you for sharing-- I also have fond memories of WUFM and its start in 1962. In the beginning, you perhaps met Russ Baldwin and Alan Bonapart who were regular on-air personalities and part-owners of the station

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes I knew Russ and Al. I also knew Gary Morgan their chief engineer who was the master behind the station being one of the early FM stations in the country to broadcast in multiplex stereo.

    ReplyDelete

Comments are welcome but will be moderated due to spammers leaving promotional messages. Sorry that I've had to do this.