My life in daydreams…..Radio.
If you ever take a glance up to the top right of this webpage you will be aware that I put the book which I am currently listening to up there. Although most of these tend to be action, sci-fi or crime thrillers, the odd autobiography does creep its way into the schedule now and again. Every time I am listening to an autobiography I have this urge to write my own. Not that my life is very exciting – in fact I often think my life is reflected in those starting lyrics of the ABBA classic – “Thank you for the music” – ‘I’m nothing special, in fact, I’m a bit of a bore.’ What I do wonder about is how I would actually write the events of my life and came up with a title and format for my autobiography. Instead of waiting for a book contract, I thought I would get on with it and start writing it using the same format but as blog posts. So here is one of them. The title of the book would be “My life in Daydreams” and this waffle’s topic is my radio career.
I always find that wearing glasses and headphones at the same time is not the best combination. Sometimes the headphones press too hard on the arms of the glasses and I get red marks behind my ears, plus a certain degree of pain. But I knew all the negatives of the job before I got into it. Some people might consider the early mornings a negative but I tend to really like them, apart from when the alarm goes off and I have to physically roll out of bed to actually get myself up! You would have thought, after so many years, that I would have learned to get myself into bed at a reasonable time the night before work! As I have a quick scroll through the playlist I see some good songs on this morning’s show, although I’m not keen on Deacon Blue again – I’m sure I played this one just a couple of days ago – has the scheduling had a ‘blip’ again? Well it is just before the news so no doubt I’ll have to trim it to ensure I hit the hour – something else I haven’t got right over all these years – I’m still waffling away! I glance at the clock, 2 minutes before live – the second hand counting down bringing me ever closer. I can see the adverts running now, it is almost like an avalanche, there is no stopping the show starting now. The bedding track is queued up and my hand is resting on the mic slider ready. Ten, nine – the big number has already changed from yellow to red – five, four, three , two – I press the bedding track button and slide its channel up flooding the airwaves with my own personal theme song. I check the microphone is in place, adjust the show notes in front of me and as I slide the bedding track down, my finger slides up a second fader and the red ‘MIC LIVE’ comes on, shining into the room. “Good Morning everyone, its just gone six am and you’re listening to the breakfast show with Waffling Wilson on….”
My first recollection of my interest in radio is sat in my bedroom under the age of thirteen. I didn’t have a computer at this time although I think my sister had a ZX81 with a staggering 1K of memory. Although there were record players about – the ones which you call retro nowadays – my choice of music playing device was a cassette player. These were temperamental machines since they often had the sudden urge just to eat up your cassette, wrapping the thin brown piece of plastic round its heads which meant that the only way to get the cassette out was to gentle pull it and hope the cassette player decided to release it from its grasp before it snapped. Even if you did get the tap out successfully, it might be so crumbled that it was actually unplayable. There was no internet in those days so I am not quite sure how I managed gain the knowledge to organise the set up I had, maybe from walking into town and spending some time getting books out of the massive ‘central’ library. Borrowing my brother’s cassette recorder, I had managed to attach them together with a lead so that when one was playing it was recorded straight through the cable. The second cassette player was the ‘music deck’. This was what played the music in the first radio show. Going even further back, before I managed to acquire the lead, the music was actually recorded by pressing the record and play button simultaneously on the second cassette player and playing the music loud that it was ‘heard’ and recorded. This method was often accompanied by a home made written notice which would be stuck on the bedroom door – ‘Do Not disturb – radio show in progress’ – no red live mic button back then! I do also remember a little black microphone at some point which I used to talk into. This was definitely uni directional. With no sliders or faders, the loudness of the music was actually controlled by the volume on the cassette recorder but somehow I did manage to create somewhat of a bedding track with a voice over. The ‘shows’ were recorded live but I can never actually remember listening back to them or even sharing with them.
This was definitely my first expedition into the world of radio, but sadly I digressed a lot before I actually returned to it again. You need to ‘FF’ Fast Forward to age 45+ and working at university to see when I picked it up again. I had been doing a few unsuccessful live shows via Ustream on the internet, trying to engage students in their learning outside the classroom. Although I really thought these would be great and helpful, I had focused on what I thought would be useful rather than what the students really wanted. Lesson fifty four learned – always consider your audience. I really enjoyed my ‘live’ video shows and suddenly remembered how I enjoyed doing those radio shows all those years ago and so approached the Radio Society at uni.
Now, there is one thing which I haven’t actually mentioned yet. I really enjoy doing the radio shows, but I actually know very little about music. I know it sounds strange, a radio presenter who knows nothing about music, but I am more into the presenting side of things … if there is such a thing! When I first approached the Radio Society at uni I was knocked back several feet. Looking back now, I realise how strange it must have seemed. A nearly fifty year old man trying to get into a student’s society just to get his radio debut. I took the hits several times during the year at the same time investigated other university radio stations and some of the technical aspects of creating and maintaining a station. The second year of trying I actually got a break and the new president of the society actually said yes and allowed me the opportunity to have my own show. I was so excited. I actually planned and planned for hours! Using an excel spreadsheet I put the title of the songs I wanted to play and the content of the segments between these. I even added timings to these and used formulas to add them all together so that I had an hour of content. I wasn’t allowed to operate the sliders so had to point to my technical assistant when I wanted the volume to be decreased in order to do my voice over. I was actually so keen about how to plan a radio show like the professionals that I even contacted a local radio show and asked to visit! Poor them, god knows what they thought – they managed to have enough excuses to put me off long enough until the presenter I was communicating with actually left the station!
I tried to advertise my first show but it was delayed several times due to technical issues – I got the distinct feeling that they didn’t actually want me to go live but, after several weeks – everything clicked into place and the Wilson Waffling Radio Show went live!
Sadly all good things don’t last forever. I really enjoyed my time on Radio YSJ but at the end of the year when I enquired about my show for the next year I was told that there was a lot of student interest and that they would be getting the priority. I remember those words which we use a lot in these situations – ‘We hope you understand’. Of course I did and I realised that my time on Radio YSJ was over. To reinforce this further, they even changed the name of the station. But I had got the bug and I wanted to continue. I am one of these people who once I have the bit between my teeth then I can become obsessive about something. This was when I approached hospital radio. That was an experience. I was summoned to a meeting in a small room with three other people about thirty years younger than me. I was given an in depth description and tour of the software I had been using at Radio YSJ and told that if I wanted to present then I had to join the society and agree to fund raise a certain amount of money a year. On top of this I would not be allowed to present after several instructional sessions with the chairperson at the end of which he would inform me whether I had the potential. Coupled with this, I would have to do a weekly sports show where I would have to collate the sports news for the presenters for their show. Knowing nothing about sport and feeling that the interview process what somewhat grueling and a process that I knew I would fail, I felt I had to consider other options. There were no other radio stations around so there was only one thing left for me to do – start my own station! And so, Wilson Waffling Radio came into existence
At that’s where I am at the moment, from that humble start in my bedroom to my own radio station which, interestingly enough, is still broadcasted from my bedroom, although I frequently call it my studio for professional purposes. Currently broadcasting 24/7 with music from the 80s I do three live shows a week with an average number of listeners of eight – well actually seven because one of those eight is me tuning in to record the show. Although the reality is not completely aligned to the daydream I started off with within this waffle, it is getting close.
With the bedding track playing quietly and the mic still live, I prepare to finish my show as I always do – ‘I would just like to say have fun and, until next time, consider yourself waffled!’. The mic slider comes down and, as the bedding track fades out into the news on the hour, the mic live button turns off.