Thursday, July 28, 2011

Night Shift

Posted to OGR on 04/24/2011

My first job in commercial radio was being the on air DeeJay for the “All Night Satellite” show at WCOS AM and FM in Columbia, SC. My previous time at the college station, WUSC prepared me for the techniques needed for running what we called a “combo operation,” that is, being the announcer and operating the audio console. But it did not prepare me for the different experience of being on the night shift.

If you have ever worked an overnight shift, you appreciate the difference between those hours and working any other time of the day. The first thing that gets you is the solitude. Very shortly after the start of the shift, the other DJs and news announcers left the station, and then it was just me and the nighttime. While it was true that I was talking to my audience and that they were calling me on the phone throughout the night, with some rare exceptions, I did not see another face for 5 hours every night. It was then that I learned how to picture my audience out there in the night reacting to the music and my DeeJay patter. In my imagination, I visualized a face for every caller from the sounds of their voices. Sometimes when I met the person behind the voice, I would be amazed at how much they looked like the face in my imagination. Most of them already knew what I looked like from my picture that appeared periodically on the Top 40 lists that the station printed and sent out to the record stores.

The four AM hour would be the slowest for phone calls. The late nighters would be packing it in and the dawn patrollers were not quite up yet. It was then that things almost got metaphysical. I would imagine the music and my voice travelling out into the night; whispering around the buildings downtown, passing the homes in the suburbs and visiting the farmhouses and barns out in the country. I thought of the lonely traveler, passing through town listening to my tunes as he made his way to his family in a far away town. Sometimes I would get a call from a broken hearted teenager, awake in her bed because she and her boyfriend had had a fight earlier in the day. I would hope, that she would find a little comfort in the sound of my voice and the happy, feel good music that I was pushing out into the night.

During the course of my show, by design, the music would change from the heavier soul and hard rock filled with driving guitars, saxophones, horns and drums with a heavy backbeat to the lighter fare that was the mainstay of the morning show. I always put that off as long as I could because I “dug” the sounds of the great soulful horn bands back in the day. Besides it was easier staying awake doing the “DJ Air Chair Boogie” to them than the light rock of the morning. Oh MY!

Copyright 2011 Rick Wrigley

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