I’ve Been Listening to Your Show on the Radio Again

(This post is the continuation of a topic that started here.)

And now, the transcript of the first phone call I ever took at a radio station, in April 1979.

Me: “Hello, KDTH.”
Young Boy, about nine years old: “Hi.” (Long pause.)
Me: “Can I help you?”
Young Boy: “I want to write to the president. Do you know the address of the White House?”

KDTH got that kind of call from listeners of all ages all the time. We had a daily public-affairs show that answered listener questions, and a homemaker show that did the same. People would call looking for weather information or to check on a name they thought they’d heard on the obituary report. The phone rang all the time with people wanting one thing and another. Being the place to go in Dubuque for answers of all sorts was part of the station’s image, back there in the pre-Google, pre-Wikipedia era.

People still call radio stations to make requests, and they will sometimes concoct elaborate tales designed to convince you to play their song. One night many years ago, a guy on his second call told me he really needed to hear the song he first asked me to play 20 minutes before because his wife had just left him. I was sympathetic, but I didn’t promise anything, because I couldn’t. About an hour later, he called back and said he had a gun and was going to kill himself if I didn’t play his song right fucking now.

Another thing people sometimes do is put their toddler on the phone to make a request. You can hear the parent in the background, prompting the kid. I used to get a lot of these when I was doing a classic-rock all-request show that played a lot of calls on the air—until parents figured out I wouldn’t put kid callers on.

The single most annoying call a jock can receive goes like this:

Me: “You’re caller #10, you win!”
Caller #10: “All right!” (pause) “What did I win?”

These people are inevitably disappointed with what they won.

At KDTH, there was an elderly woman who called at all hours of the day and night for the current temperature. Doing the all-request show, I came to dread the same people who called every week asking for the same crappy songs. Every station and jock has regular callers like these. It’s possible, I suppose, that some of the people who would once have called their favorite station regularly interact on the station’s Facebook page instead. But there will always be listeners who pick up the phone.

Sometimes calls get creepy. At one station, the guy on the air before me every day had a high-school-girl stalker. She called him every afternoon, and after he stopped taking her calls, she started calling me to ask if I knew where he was going after he got off the air. I have known female jocks who were thoroughly creeped out by calls they got. Sometimes they turned into real-world encounters, and those sometimes turned into restraining orders.

Most of the people who call are harmless, however, and you often get to know the regulars by name. True, they often don’t fully grasp that you’re working, and that you have things that you need to do apart from talking to them, but they don’t mean to annoy. They’re just listening to your show on the radio, and you seem like a friend to them.

A 2009 post on some memorable calls I have received on Magic 98 is here.

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2 responses

  1. Same story at WJON/St. Cloud, which reinforced the listener bond right down to the “You’ve Got A Friend” /”Where Your Friends Are”-themed jingles. Long-running trivia contesting also helped to cement the “THE information station” reputation.

    Then again, that was back when radio still believed that providing companionship was a good way to hold onto its listeners’ ears.

  2. A wise consultant once told me that when the station got calls for time/temp/when does the library open/what color lipstick does the anchor on Channel 5 wear/etc. that it meant the station was positioned in the caller’s mind as the “information source” in the market, and that it’s a good thing.

    I think for some people, they’re just lazy and know the station’s number because it’s plugged on-air ten times an hour (for contests to win what the same consultant called “trinkets and trash”, like ball-point pens, coffee cups, and tickets to shitty local events).

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