Sunday, March 16, 2014

My 10-week career as a radio DJ

My old high-school friend Kim just shared this article with me about Durango, Colorado's college radio station turning 40.

I had the early Wednesday morning timeslot on KDUR in the summer of 1981. It would've been called "drive time," but in Durango there was no commute.

I was eighteen and home between my first two years of college. I had a paid gig ($3.35 an hour) at KIUP-AM, Durango's "real" radio station, where I wrote and produced local commercials. (Perhaps you remember my series of :30 ads for Durango Travel Service? No?)

The KDUR gig was unpaid, but aside from that it was the perfect job. The station manager had left for the summer, the campus was empty, and I had the run of the place. I could blitz the airwaves with my own brand of creative self-absorption, with no repercussions. And when I say blitz the airwaves, I mean within the five-mile radius that our signal extended.

I started every show with a pre-recorded skit, the crux of which generally had something to do with how great I was--Brooke Shields calling to plead for a second date, for example, or an interview with amateur gynecologist Rod Snarpley (an impressive feat of overdubbing).

I had access to sound effects, musical stings, and jingles from KIUP ("It's Wednesday!" "Sen-sa-tion-al!"), which I used liberally. And in between playing top-40 hits by Foriegner, Journey, and REO Speedwagon, I took "live phone calls" from my avid fan base of "listeners" (i.e. pre-recorded calls between me and my friends).

Because DJ coverage was spotty in the summer--and because I had keys to the studio--there were occasional nights when, realizing at 10pm that no one was on the air, I'd make a beeline for the station, unlock the door, fire up the board and have fun for an hour or two.

Alas, I was destined not to have a career in radio. I headed back to college at the end of August, and that was that. I had one more radio job the following summer, where I read the weather report for the top-40 station from midnight to 6am ("This is Todd Tarpley from the KIQX Weather Center"), but the creative possibilities were more limited. Brooke Shields never called.

In retrospect, those ten weeks at KDUR were an awful lot of fun. It paid almost as well as children's book writing. And if I can ever find that old cassette tape of my on-air skits--not to mention a way to play it and digitize it--I just might have to post a few and re-live the glory days.

Nah. Maybe not.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff, Todd. There was such a great sense of freedom during those times, alone in the studio, creating and sharing with whoever would listen. I'd love to hear those tapes.