You Know When You're An Aging DJ...
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Future Aging DJ John Burwell in 1974 at WTMA

In late 2002 we sent John Burwell a copy of the "You Know You're An Aging Radio DJ..." piece that had been making its way around the Internet. John's comments were priceless, and since many of them were about WTMA, we've reproduced the piece and John's remarks here.

You know you're an Aging Radio DJ when:

You were first hired by a GM who actually worked in radio before becoming GM.

JB: John Trenton - WTMA

Radio stations were no place for kids.

JB: I have pictures.

You excitedly turn the radio up at the sound of "dead air" on the competitor's station.

JB: Yes!

Sales guys wore Old Spice to cover the smell of liquor.

JB: Rudi Gresham, Rod Poole, A.J. Jenkins, Susan Spelman...I could go on and on!

Engineers could actually fix things without sending them back to the

JB: Charles McHan - worked on a $500.00 a year equipment budget.

You worked for only ONE station, and you could name the guy who owned it.

JB: Chuck Smith. Before him, H. Moody McElveen (WNOK). Before him, my dad.

Radio stations used to have enough on-air talent to field a softball team every summer.

JB: You should have seen the WNOK Big Knockers in action!

You used to smoke (yeah, that too) in a radio station or the station's boiler room and nobody cared.

JB: And drank coffee constantly!

Engineers always had the worst body odor, not because they worked too hard, but because they just didn't shower that often.

JB: See the above...

You know the difference between good reel-to-reel tape and cheap reel-to-reel tape.

JB: Ampex is NOT great tape. It is pretty good tape!

Religious radio stations were locally owned, run by an old Protestant minister and his wife, never had more than 20 listeners at any given time, and still made money.

JB: Lets see.. I think that leaves out Charleston and Columbia... I remember one in Orangeburg.

You have a white wax pencil, a razor blade, and a spool of 3M splicing tape in your desk drawer - - just in case.

JB: Would you like to see it? But I used an ORANGE wax pencil.

You can post a record, run down the hall, go to the bathroom, and be back in 2:50 for the segue.

JB: Can't everybody?

You knew exactly where to put the tone on the end of a carted song.

JB: After all, I put WSSX on the air - automated!

You only did "make-goods" if the client complained. Otherwise, who cares?

JB: Exactly!

You can remember the name of the very first "girl" that was hired in your market as a DJ.

JB: As we used to say, behind every good DJ there's a woman...trying to get his

Somebody would say, "You have a face for radio", and it was still funny.

JB: Let's not get personal...

Sixty percent of your wardrobe has a station logo on it.

JB: I still have the tee shirts.

You always had a screwdriver in the studio so you could take a fouled-up cart apart at a moment's notice.

JB: I did - because nobody else (except the engineer) knew how!

You always had a solution for an LP that 'skipped' .

JB: It was called a penny. If that didn't work, a nickel. If that didn't work a

You would spend hours splicing and editing a parody tape until it was "just right", but didn't give a darn how bad that commercial was you recorded. Hey, I can only work with what they give me, right?

JB: No, no me. I spent hours getting the just right segue in a spot!

You still refer to CDs as "records".

JB: I know, I know!

Your family thinks you're successful, but you know better.

JB: I know, I know!

You played practical jokes on the air without fear of lawsuits.

JB: Hey, didn't you!?

You answer your home phone with the station call letters.

JB: I have answered this church phone by saying, "WTMA..." I'm not kidding!

You used to fight with the news guy over airtime. After all, what was more important: your joke , or that tornado warning?

JB: Ask Harve Jacobs about that...

You knew how to change the ribbon on the teletype machine, but you hated to do it because "...that's the news guy's job."

JB: Again, I did it because nobody else except the engineer knew how!

You know at least two people in sales that take credit for you keeping your job.

JB: Rudi Gresham and A.J. Jenkins

You have several old aircheck cassettes in a cardboard box in your closet that you wouldn't dream of letting anyone hear anymore, but, you'll never throw them out or tape over them. Never!

JB: Yes - from WTYC in Rock Hill in 1969...

You can still see scars on your finger when you got cut using a razor blade and cleaned out the cut with head-cleaning alcohol and an extra long cotton swab on a wooden stick.

JB: I can show you.

You still have dreams of a song running out and not being able to find the control room door.

JB: I still do. This is amazing!

You've ever told a listener "Yeah. I'll get that right on for you."

JB: It's coming up next. I promise!

You have a couple of old transistor radios around the house with corroded batteries inside them.

JB: I have quite a few old transistor radios - none corroded.

People who ride in your car exclaim, "Why is your radio so loud?"

JB: It's because I want to hear the jock hit the vocal!

You remember when promotion men bought to new LP's to the station, among other things - and you played them the same day.

JB: Among other things...

You have at least 19 pictures of you with famous people whom you haven't seen since, and wouldn't know you today if you bit 'em on the butt.

JB: More like 35.

You wish you could have been on "Name That Tune" because you would have won a million bucks.

JB: I would have. In four seconds or less.

You even REMEMBER "Name That Tune".

JB: Doesn't everyone?

You were a half an hour late for an appearance and blamed it on the directions you received from the sales person.

JB: Rod Poole - gave the lousiest directions known to man!

You've run a phone contest and nobody called, so you made up a name and gave the tickets to your cousin, or your girlfriend. or your sister, or your brother, or the guy who changed out the trans in the Chevy (for next to nothing)...

JB: Never did that. But I did have my wife win a contest at WKTM one time. I've got the tape...

You remember when people actually thought radio was important.

JB: It always will be.

Thanks John!


Are you a former WTMA employee or listener with a story to share?
We'd love to hear from you! E-mail John Quincy.


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