#41 – WANTED: Storytellers

I got a promotional e-mail the other day from a broadcast vendor offering vintage programs from radio’s “Golden Age”. Shows that my father grew up listening to, like The Shadow, The Lone Ranger, Jack Benny, and so forth. A part of the pitch:

Join the hundreds of AM and FM stations around the country who are delivering top-flight entertainment to their listeners and devoted audiences to their advertisers.

Program Directors Love WHEN RADIO WAS!

I’m a great believer in “the theatre of the mind”. That’s what we used to call it. When I was program director of Toledo’s WSPD, we carried the CBS Mystery Theatre. It was a radio drama series, very reminiscent of radio shows from the 40’s, created by Himan Brown that ran from 1974 to 1982. The show aired late nights and it was a ratings winner.

When I think about that era, and even when I think about the great radio personalities many of us grew up with, I have to ask the question. Where are the storytellers? Orson Wells was an amazing storyteller. So amazing, he convinced a nation that we were being attacked by aliens from Mars! Bruce Grant, the legendary morning man on WOOD Radio used theatre of the mind almost every instant his mic was on. I’ll never forget one of my first days as program director at WOOD. I heard Bruce announce he was giving away a prize and the”random selector” would choose the winning phone caller. I figured it must be some piece of equipment the station installed. I asked one of the engineers what The Random Selector was. He laughed and said it was just Bruce randomly selecting a caller. Grant was great at theatre of the mind. He had thousands of audio clips from movies and TV shows that he used as comebacks to his banter. You talk about a storyteller! No wonder the guy pulled 40 shares.

Even the great legendary Drake boss jocks had the unique ability to create energizing, exciting theatre of the mind – and they only had seconds to do it. I know a person here in my “fun side of the wall” hideaway who does national commercials. You can hear his fabulous voice on radio and TV spots throughout North America. He bills himself as a voice actor, not an announcer. He has a talent for taking a script and telling a story.

Announcers are a dime a dozen. Storytellers are the exception. If you’re new to the business, good for you! Now, learn to tell a story. Your future may very well begin with radio’s past.

Who knows what talent lurks in the hearts of the aspiring broadcaster? The Shadow knows. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

Essick signing off

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