The year... was 2001. I think.
I didn't exactly know how to do alternative rock radio.
I knew it was sorta like what people like Brian Bridgman had taught me at Q102 in Philadelphia.
Sound real. Be real. Don't speak with some sort of fake sounding hype like the the old-school radio people who screamed and shouted over a 10 second musical intro to a song.
That "real" advice back in the late 90's changed my sound and unboxed my future in radio. The seeds of "being authentic" were planted, and being able to sow them in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, every day, let me practice... and then, practice again... what would take me to the next step in my career.
That advice helped me get to my next big gig... Tampa. 93-3 FLZ. The legendary WFLZ Tampa Bay. Once the home to the MJ+BJ Morning Show. The place where basically all of our Top 40 radio "best practices" were practiced. Experimented on. Beta-tested. Scrapped. Or, in many cases, which became the way forward for my company and our industry.
A mentor of mine told me on the day before my first day.... "There are three radio stations people talk about."
I'll paraphrase the rest as not to offend...
One is in this city. The other is in that city. "You are Assistant Program Director and Afternoon Host of the one that matters."
And so that adventure began... and those stories are probably best left for another post... because they were many.
Along the way, I was asked by Bo Matthews how I would feel about doing nights - virtually - on WPLA-FM Jacksonville... Planet Radio 93.3. One of the first Alternative Rock stations launched in the USA in that format. It was a station aimed right at... me. A guy. Who liked grungier pop... the stuff Top 40 stations would play once they proved themselves on the other formats. Songs like Closing Time by Semisonic, or Comedown by Bush, or Lightning Crashes by LIVE or BITCH by Meredith Brooks or I KISSED A GIRL by Jill Sobule or artists like JEWEL or SPONGE or NIXONS or... wow... the list is endless... got their start.
I said yes.
In doing homework about "sound" as a talent, I went back to what I call the "Bridgman Playbook" and started to study a talent he told me to study back in the day...
I don't know if I've ever shared this before.
He told me to listen to a talent on KROQ in LA named STRYKER.
Ted Stryker. Mornings at that legendary station.
But I took my interpretation of what I learned into a very smug, very dark place. I was angry-sounding-meets-angst. I overdid it. I took it too far left of center. Brian corrected me, and I found this sweet spot which clicked on all levels of the "real" spectrum... all of it based on the real I learned from Ted Stryker on KROQ...
... but on WPLA... Planet Radio Jacksonville... there was a talent named Klinger.
He was afternoon host on the station. Confident. Real. Honest. Truthful. He loved his dogs. He loved his cars. He loved life. And he was so real about all of it. He even loved this place called Baker County.
I was hooked.
Ask him about his tricked out SMART CAR. Yeah. I went there.
He was on before me, and for hours, I would listen to how he did his thing between songs... into commercial breaks.
I became invested in his life. His relationships with people at the time. In HIM.
He became the East Coast version of the talent Bridgman told me to study.
There was something really authentic and honest about Klinger. Something which was honorably honest yet... still confident.
I needed to add this distinctiveness to my own... and he was on my new "virtual" team.
So I listened. He and I talked many - MANY - times while I was doing nights on the station in JAX... and he shared advice, stories and more. We became friends. Became family. Grew into being kindred.
I got to play a part in his wedding. That adventure will be in the book.
Klinger is a mentor who became a guide-post for me in my career. He is one whom I emulate even if we aren't in the same radio "format." He's one of those people who loves and lives and works with an unapologetic amount of passion for the music... no matter where it comes from. He has this idea that living life out loud, and telling amazing stories on a microphone.... no matter where that story may come from... might just spark some sort of love, or passion, or hope....
... it's all of the stuff we got into radio for.
His parents played a part in all of this. I've met his mom. I've heard about his dad. His dad reminds me of this man I met once named Murray Feldman. But again, that's another chapter in a book...
Once upon a time, the company I work for asked me to assemble a team for an unpaid idea. It was called KISS-XM. A prototype station on the XM platform, before SIRIUS bought 'em. They gave me unfettered access and ability to build a team of people who were "crazy, but creative... who would push the game forward."
So I built the team. Some agreed. Others didn't. But most signed up for two hour shows... for no pay. With no... NO... rules.
It will be in the book.
Who was on that team?
Because he's one of the best personality-meets-passionate-meets-loves-this-music-thing-business-talents I've ever encountered.
I stand by my choice to this day.
Klinger is moving from DC101 to a new station in Chicago... where he will continue to change the world. One of the three biggest markets in the USA.
He's a guy who changes things. Including life. I would know. He's changed mine.
Thanks, Josh... Love you man.
Before I go... let me tell you - and your wife, thank you. The two of you - with your wedding - made me take my world-view global... and in doing so, the two of you unlocked something in me I've been able to pass along to my daughter... and which changed my internal compass...
We... are citizens of something bigger. We play a part in something so much larger... We just have to dare to accept the role...
Thanks to the both of you... the world... isn't just smaller. It's where we live. And isn't that what life is all about? After all, we are, all of us, global citizens.
Thank you for making me reach for the best me I've ever known...
Photo: Mine. Don't ding me on it.