Happy National Radio Day!

It's the day we take a minute to think about the role radio plays in our lives, from childhood through adulthood. (Well, it has for me, anyway.)

August 20, 2019
Young John and an old radio

Eleanor Fisher (John's mother)

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Radio fascinated me from the time I was a little kid.

I noticed how on summer nights my dad leaned in to the hi-fi in the family room to hear every moment of a Tigers baseball game through the crackle of the static on WJR-AM in my hometown of Detroit. I first heard The Beatles on the station I and all of my friends and classmates listened to as young kids -- a station called CKLW from across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario. After my hair grew long and I began rebelling against my parents and everything else, I discovered the trippy pleasures of "free form" FM radio. In my hometown, that meant a revolutionary station called WABX, where the DJs played and said whatever they wanted and I discovered Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, Traffic, Quicksilver Messenger Service, my beloved Steely Dan, and so much more.

It never occurred to me that I could actually BE one of those guys who picked the music and purred into a microphone, but one autumn my dad took me to the Detroit Auto Show and we came upon a local radio station doing a remote broadcast. To see the equipment -- the wires, the stacks of amplifiers and mixers and speakers, and an acutal human (in a suit and tie!) in front of an actual mike -- well that rocked my world.

I eventually wound up at a small college in western Michigan called Grand Valley where their tiny student-run radio station beamed just to the dorms -- a potential audience of, like, 900 kids. But I got a gig there, from midnight to 2am on Friday nights, and boom -- I was a DJ. I later transferred to a school in Ohio called Bowling Green State University, where I got into their more ambitious campus station, WFAL (because the school teams were the Falcons) and began to feel like I really had a knack for being on the air.

Fast forward a few decades (but who's counting?) and I've been on the air in Seattle since 1992. Sheesh! I feel grateful and very lucky to have been able to do this for my entire adult life, mostly because I have no qualifications for any other job at this point.

Anybody who's had a long career in radio will be happy to tell you how much the business has changed over time. The technology alone has evolved from dropping a needle on a record, to punching up tape cartridges ("carts") that were basically just the pro version of 8-track tapes, to slipping CDs into studio decks, to where we are now, clicking and dragging digital audio files from a massive server that puts every song ever recorded right at our fingertips. There are way fewer mom & pop radio operations and there's way more corporate ownership of multiple stations.

But from where we sit, the job's not so different from what it's always been -- playing music people like, tossing in a tidbit of information, cutting through the clutter to help people have a day that's just a tiny bit better because they tuned us in for a few minutes. Of course, now we spend almost as much time on social media and blogs and shooting little videos as we do playing the songs and talking on the air, but it's still all about connecting with listeners and adding a dollop of fun to their lives.

Screens in the Sound studio
John took it!

In Seattle, it's been a huge thrill to spend 21 years at the legendary eclectic station The Mountain, which I think a lot of people still miss. And right behind that, the thrill of starting a new station from scratch -- this one, 94.1 The Sound. (From The Mountain to The Sound!) I was flattered to be invited to join this team, and I love meeting people who've discovered The Sound and spend time with us through the workday and beyond.

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Thanks for being there all those years . . . .Happy Radio Day!