The Big Break

In the summer of 68 I drove all over Northwest Ohio cold calling every little radio station I could spot by their transmitter towers. Defiance, Celina, Moulton, Kenton, all in my crosshairs. But it was Van Wert where I got my first full time job. W.E.R.T 1220 AM and 98.9 FM. Larry Orchard was the program and sales manager and Donna Wermer was the General Manager. Donna was an extraordinary professional woman. Way ahead of her time.  I did an audition in their production studio and they hired me on the spot. 

I was given the job as traffic manager. At first I thought I had to go out on the Lincoln Highway and report on traffic… but I soon learned that it meant preparing the daily program logs, scheduling all the commercials. It’s an important job because the reconciliation of those logs is what creates your billing.  But I also got to be on the air. I worked a split shift. Mornings 10-noon, then afternoon 2-signoff.  We played what was called middle of the road music…MOR. Real crap. Si Zetner and the Orchestra, Les Brown and his Band of Renown.  Every now and then we would play something really out there – like an orchestral version of a Beatles tune. 

I got to read obituaries on the air. They were sponsored by a local funeral home. And I butchered local newscasts.  Every morning I had to stop at a local bakery and get day old rolls for the station. But they sure tasted good with the swill we called coffee. By the way, most radio station coffee sucks. ( years later, when I was a GM, I installed a Kurig type coffee maker for the staff. Now THAT was good coffee). 

The 1968 election was a busy time. Every possible local politician advertised on WERT. And I had the job of making sure their commercials were scheduled as ordered   I had to keep the D’s away from the R’s. Of course in Van Wert, there weren’t many D’s. 

Election night we did Wall to Wall coverage. Our chief engineer Ray Tanner hung a microphone in the teletype closet.  The mic cable ran along the floor into the studio where we could turn on the mic for the continuous clacking of the teletype. Made us sound like big time news!  My job that night was a runner.  I’d run to the teletype, collect the latest election results, and run them to the announcer in the studio.  As the evening wore on, I went to the teletype closet to collect the latest presidential count and saw the bulletin that Richard Nixon had won. At which point I exclaimed “oh shit” forgetting that there was a live mic overhead. Yep, it went out over the air. Nope, I didn’t get fired. But a big lesson learned.  When you’re around a microphone, you just don’t say naughty words. 

Testing  1-2-3

 I can’t remember wanting to do anything else but be on the radio. My uncle, Lou Essick, was a radio announcer in the Carolinas while I was growing up. As I recall, he drove a Chrysler and had a glamorous wife – a real Southern belle. Neat cars and nice looking women – wow, that’s what radio was all about. 

I’ll admit it. I got into radio to meet girls. I thought they’d be so impressed that I was on the air that they’d overlook all of my shortcomings. And you know what I’m talking about. 

Tom Francis – Big T – was program director of WIMA in my hometown, Lima, Ohio.  At that time I was a senior at Lima Central Catholic High School. I was on the yearbook staff and I bugged the crap out of Big T to buy an ad in our yearbook. I guess he liked my schtick  because he gave me a job working weekends. My big break!!! I got to play DJ for a few minutes before a high school football game. Then I ran the control board producing the game on the air.  There was a weekend DJ on WIMA named Biggy BC Carr. There was a good reason he took that name. He was about the size of Montana. Biggy let me record some ID’s for his show. “Ladies and Gentlemen, your listening to Bill Carr, on Radio Lima – WIMA!”  You can’t imagine the thrill that coursed through my veins when I heard my voice coming out of the radio. Pure Magic!  I was hooked. Soon, I’d be rubbing elbows..or at least I thought..with all my radio heroes on the top 40 station in Toledo. WTOD.  Now, there was a great station. I loved the station jingles -🎵WTOD 1560.  Jingles – the glue that put the sound together.  John Garry, Larry O’Brien, Mike Shaw, Don Patrick Newsbeat”.  I loved WTOD – and I hated their competitor? WOHO. (A prelude of hate to come). I never made it to WTOD. But I did make it to WERT in Van Wert!  They gave me a job as traffic manager. I was excited but I couldn’t figure out why they needed a traffic manager in Van Wert, Ohio. Hell, the only traffic in that town was a slow moving John Deere.  

But that’s enough for now.  Stay tuned because coming up, the 1968 presidential election and my first utterance of a dirty word on the air. For now, this is Skip Essick signing off 

In the beginning

So here it is, the first blog. I was going to write a book but figured nobody would read it. Besides, it would take too much time. I can do this, almost as a stream of conscious thing.

This blog will be about my career in radio. I’ve been doing this now for 50 years and, although I’m now semi retired, I still am addicted to that magic box. Of course things have changed over the years and, as you might expect from an old guy, not for the better.  I may touch on that later.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with and for some of the best broadcasters in America. I owe so much to so many but if it weren’t for a guy named Tom Francis, I might not have gone anywhere.

I also worked for some scoundrels. And, although I like just about everyone, there’s one person – only one – that is a schmuck (IMO).  So stay tuned. All of that and more is coming up. But for now, this is Skip Essick signing off.