I AM A D.J.
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I got into radio because I love music. I love the things it can do. Being in radio gives me a chance to play the music. I’ve been very lucky that the music that I grew up with, and that I’ve enjoyed and understood, is still popular today. Radio, like auto racing, is a group effort although the individual has to be strong at what he does to make the team successful. It’s only natural that my past time is related so closely to my job in that respect.
My books (the Uncle Joe’s record Guides), are an extension of my Seventh Day show, which has been on the air for nine years. A reference collection like this has never been attempted before, at least not like this. What it’s turned into, for the fans as well as the artists. is a collection of music history which might have been forgotten if not for these books.
In the next slide, Joe at Pomona Motor Speedway for the NHRA Winter Nationals.
Radio is healthier today than ten years ago. Then, it was coming out of a period of segregation. There were stations who wouldn’t play black music, there were stations who’d only play black music. Thanks to artists like Michael Jackson and Prince, the color bar is gone from radio. There still are musical formats, though. No pop is heard on rock stations, no rock on pop stations and the beautiful music stations will never play anything that will keep you awake. Radio became a business when Reagan deregulated it. Stations are bought and sold like real estate. KROQ’s been lucky. The people who bought us weren’t into making a quick profit. A lot of stations will be purchased and their formats will be changed simply to hike ratings, then, ‘to hell with the listeners, we want our money!’ and they’ll sell the station at a higher price.
I try to be a friend on the air and make my show a place for people to come to. We don’t have required listening, you know. I try to make it a place where people say, “He’s a friendly guy, he’s not that much of a dick. We’ll put up with him.”
In the next slide, Richard enjoying a poolside break with his dog.
I was a journalism major at Texas Tech University and was more fascinated with the spoken word than the printed word. I found myself in the radio department more than the journalism school, so I took a chance and shifted majors. But it was my love for music more than anything else that got me started on the air. it’s also my love for music that’s kept me around.
I’ve been fortunate to be a part of Rockline, a nationally syndicated music and interview show on Monday nights. There I’ve interviewed the biggest names in rock and roll. One of my most memorable experiences in radio was the first time I interviewed Paul McCartney on Rockline. I found him to be a very interesting, very captivating individual. He showed up driving a red corvette surrounded by a fleet of Limo’s. It occurred to me that he probably arranged it that way so he could get some privacy.
In the next slide, Bob plays for three different softball teams in his spare time.
After I got out of the military, and after I’d been sent to Harvard to study medicine, I went through twelve jobs in one year. During that year I went to clubs and listened to the radio, totally surrounding myself in rock and roll. I knew that I had to get involved in music somehow. So, I joined a band and, during the day, worked at a radio station. The radio job started taking up more time and energy and eventually took itself from there.
When I started, the musical formats were rigid top-40 programming. Then I moved to a more free-form, album-oriented rock station which gave me a much larger easel to paint on. Now I’ve watched the pendulum swing back to the highly stylized, highly formatted type of programming, using the same music popular in the free-form days. This style of programming will probably get us through the ninety’s, but I can see the pendulum swinging back again at the turn of the century.
In the next slide, Damion with his dog Geezer, out for their morning run at Griffith Park.
The Dr. Demento Show began in 1970 as a once-a-week lark while I was working for Specialty Records reissuing Little Richard and John Lee Hooker albums. It’s entering its third decade and has been a full-time job (and more) for years. In addition to the two hour show on KLSX, I have a syndicated show that reaches 190 stations nationwide. However, I still find time, now and then, to watch a train go by. I like that almost as much as watching record labels spin.
I got my name from a secretary at KPPC, the station where the Dr. Demento Show started. While I was playing Nervous Norvus’s song, Transfusion, she came in and said to me, “You’ve got to be demented to play that on the radio!” One of the other jocks, Steve Segal, picked up on it. The next thing I knew, he was introducing me as Dr. Demento. The name has stuck with me ever since.
In the next slide, Dr. Demento railfanning at the Glendale train station.
My first pre-pubescent passion was music. The first time I saw Elvis, it was all over. I had never been so charged by anything. I didn’t feel that strongly about anything else, I had to be a part of music. I got a band, I learned guitar, I bought every record possible. I studied every note, every cord. I became obsessed with music. Then I stumbled into radio. I realized there was a way I could make a living doing what I loved so much. I could be close to the music, I could meet some of the people who make the music. I get to do all of those things and I get a paycheck at the end of the week. Well, it’s great, because I was doing all the same stuff before, just without the pay check. Radio is a business, though, and I am here to make the station money. I have no qualms about that. This has really been a wonderful thing to happen to me, I’m really grateful for it. If it ended tomorrow and it all went away, that’s OK, I’m way ahead of the game. I’ve gotten so much out of this. I’ve fulfilled so many fantasies for myself.
In the next slide, Steve mountain bikes in the hills near his Calabasas home.
Radio stations have a responsibility to the listening community to be entertaining as well as educational. They have to do more than take manufactured hit songs and rotate them for higher ratings. But to do that, chances have to be taken. I spend a lot of time researching music and listening to the listeners to get feedback on what I can do to make the show better. Then I try, within the limits that I have, to make my show better.
I am lucky. I get to program part of my own show. I get two or three chances per hour to play my songs. I spend a lot of time making sure that those songs are the best for my listeners. I would never compromise the quality of my show because of what a record company or an artist tells me to play. To me, the listeners are why I’m here.
In the next slide, Egil at home with his daughter Jena.
The challenge in radio is to find jobs that are fun, because it’s gotta be fun or it’s no fun. It’s such a tightly controlled business, it’s got government control. The more money paid for a station imposes corporate control. If you can have fun inspite of those things, then that’s how to be. KROQ has a long history of having no control. KROQ now bears very little resemblance to the old KROQ except that we sometimes play some of the artists from the 70′s and early 80′s. This is the new high tech, streamlined, ultra focused alternative rock station of the 90′s. This is no nonsense, pay-off-the-loan KROQ. It’s probably the most listenable commercial station in town as far as young people are concerned. One thing about the new KROQ that I’m glad for is the feedback. I used to get very little criticism. Now there are people around me that tell me when I’m not doing a good job and people who tell me when I am doing a good job. The opportunity to grow as an on-air personality is there now when it wasn’t before. In that way, I’m grateful to the new management.
In the next slide, Jed at home, composing on his keyboard.
While studying to be a nurse at Valley College, I took a radio history class because I always loved music. I hoped to get in with the college station, but somehow I ended up in Bakersfield at Magic 98, KMGN. After four years, I thought, “Hey, I gotta get out of this, it wasn’t meant to be.” It was so weird, but I was fighting it. I realized how lucky I was, though. I’ve had a morning show, I’d worked in L.A., I’d worked in San Diego, I was having fun.
Having fun is the key. When I have fun, the listeners have fun. When I stop having fun I’ll get out of it because my listeners will suffer. I’ve also been lucky because I got to see the old days of KROQ. I remember Swedish Egil doing his Nyqvist exercises over the air with his listeners. I remember Molly Ringwold, Judd Nelson and Emilio Estevez while hundreds of fans packed the parking lot. I only lived four blocks away, so I’d just hang out because the atmosphere there was so incredible I couldn’t believe I was involved in it. I loved every minute of it.
In the next slide, Katy likes to spend her spare time outdoors with nature.
I got my start in radio doing restaurant reviews for KROQ. I had written a couple of books called The Poor Man’s Restaurant Guide to Dining, while I was going to law school. I gave a copy to then program director, Rick Carrol. One thing led to another and the rest was history. The next thing I knew, I was doing Surf Reports, wild promotions like Burrito Day, the Taco Run, Surf and Ski Classic and of course, the KROQ Bikini Search. Being creative on the radio is what it’s all about, that’s been the key to my success.
I also have the Loveline show Sunday nights. Egil and I started the show in 1983. Because of our past love problems, we considered ourselves the foremost authorities on love advice. Aside from the time I spilled a thirty-two ounce Coke into the console at KROQ, the Loveline shows are among the strangest times I’ve had on the air. Our all-time strangest call was from a guy who admitted that he and other party guests had sex with the family dog. Entering its seventh year, Loveline is probably the most popular feature at KROQ.
In the next slide, Poorman outside his Huntington Beach home.
A lot of things happened to me while I was at KROQ. I was leaving the station late one night. There’s a great big secluded parking lot in the back. It wasn’t too well lit, generally a pretty scary place for someone who watched too much TV. We were on the second floor. At the rear of the building was a staircase that led to the lot. In walked the jock who was supposed to relieve me. He said, “Dusty, you can’t go out there, there are a bunch of angry cats that are waiting for you.” He was going to call the cops. I looked at him and said, “No darlin’, you don’t understand, that’s not the way Dusty does things.” So, I walked out the door and stood on the landing overlooking the lot. Outside were two low-rider pickups loaded with rough looking cats with bandanas and tattoos. They were an ominous group who’d had a few too many beers. “Aren’t any of you guy’s gonna help me?” I asked. They looked up at me and my bag filled with records in silence. A couple of guys came up and started helping me carry my stuff down. So, I introduced myself and asked for a beer. We hung out on one of the flat beds for quite some time. I talked with those people as a person. I made new friends. The bottom line is that the listeners make you whatever they want to make you in their minds. Once you become a human being to them, and come off of the pedestal they put you on, not only will you not get hurt, you will learn an incredible amount about your audience.
In the next slide, Dusty at home. surrounded by 20 years of memories.