Saturday, January 21, 2012

Crazy Train

In a galaxy long ago and far away, I used to be someone.
In another lifetime ago, I was the guy you listened to on the radio as you went to or from work.
Or, if you were in high school or college, I was the bright good evening face that was heard but rarely seen while you were doing your homework. I was with you washing your car, playing frisbee in the park or sometimes yes, even while you were having sex(that thought always turned me on for some reason). Sometimes, we woke up together, sometimes we got really stoned together and I played a song that made you go..."oh,wow".
kfmh muscatine just turned new years day 1978
If you liked (classic) rock, I was the guy who played the new Zeppelin, or AC/DC or the new Stones record on the local powerhouse rock radio station. Whether it was Muscatine, the Quad Cities, Kansas City, Denver or St. Louis, I somehow talked my way on to great legendary rock stations that had a built in great loyal fan base.  All I had to do on my gig was to not fuck it up. This was a time when radio mattered and 40 shares were not uncommon.

I have always defined luck as the crossroads of talent and opportunity. In my case, luck was just dumb luck. It was lucky that a tape of mine landed on Max Floyd's desk right when he was looking to fill a night time opening at KY 102 in Kansas City. Jumping from market 100 (Quad Cities) to market 25 (Kansas City) was not something that a lot of people did. At the time, a person would have to stop in market 44 Nashville or Indy first.

Luck. Just dumb blind luck.

Anyway, as I said, I was king of the world at 23. I tried to never take what I had for granted, I always accepted the opportunity to go out and meet the people. Many years ago, a wise program director told me, "Randy, in radio, you are ALWAYS running for election. Every chance you get, shake hands, kiss babies, one man cuming goes a long way in establishing a relationship with your listeners. If they've met you and like you, they'll tell their friends, who'll tell their friends and so on..."

Sage advice.

Anyway, back to my point and my point being I used to be somebody on the radio that mattered.
I got to interview a number of people, some I liked (Bob Seger, Robin Trower), some I loathed (George Thorogood, John Entwhistle) and some I loved and couldn't wait to see again. When we would have someone on that mattered to the people, I made sure they knew in advance who, what and when. There were interviews I've done that the subject and I hit it off we became acquaintances (Alice Cooper, Steve Perry, Yoko) and one where there was a fist fight in the studio (John McEnroe).

My favorite guy to interview by far was Ozzy.

Ozzy got it. He understood the role radio played in his career and he was very appreciative. The first time I talked to Ozzy was 1981 on the heels of the just released "Blizzard of Oz". It hadn't quite taken off yet but the buzz was building. This "Crazy Train" song was getting a lot of requests and he was just right on the cusp of this thing taking off and being huge. We announced he was coming on that night at KY. "Hey, if you have any questions you'd like me to ask Ozzy, he'll be here about 6:40 or so, give me a call at 5767-102..."
The station was situated in the same building as 61 country and WDAF TV at the time. The back doors were hardly ever locked at night because people came and went throughout the night. Some high school kids got wind to just walk in the back door, met no resistance and informed their friends that Ozzy was coming and filled the halls upstairs.
Not good.
Ozzy shows up in what looked like a feather boa, spandex tights and a tutu. He hangs and parties with them in the hall, takes pictures, signs stuff and proceeded to do a killer interview, talking about how confident he was on this and thought he had the best band in rock history behind him.
I interviewed him again in 1984 and then again at the KSHE studios on April 2nd 1986.

How do I know the date?...let me explain.

The previous day was April Fools day. In my radio career, I've had a few indiscretions on the radio in which, later on, having given it more thought, I probably wouldn't have done.
This was one of those days.
max weinberg 4/1/86
Earlier on that April Fools day, Max Weinberg had stopped by the studio. He was out promoting his new book and he was great, the show had some great momentum and I somehow wanted to keep that momentum going.
Realizing what day it was, I asked Abigail, our promotions gal at the time to assist me with a big April fools joke. At this time, we were in a pissing match with the Libyans. We shot down one of their planes or something so I played off that. We set up the ruse that played out like this...

Abigail, while I was on the air, walked into the studio and said "this just came across the wire..."
So I stopped what I was doing, ruffled some papers and said..."this just in, Libyans jets, based in Cuba have just now bombed the entire southern coastline of Florida and are working their way up the eastern coast as we speak, more details as we get them..."

The phones went nuts and I didn't answer them. Every line rang, even the office lines (it was after six).

EVERY line rang. How cool.

One more time for good measure, I said that the jets were heading this way and were coming after KSHE for being the best rock station on Earth, April Fools and good night.

My phone rang at 7 the next morning.
It was Rick Balis, the program director.
He doesn't usually call me at that time. He doesn't usually call me at all.
"You have 20 minutes to get into my office and tell me what happened yesterday afternoon. If you're not here in 20 minutes, you're fired." Shit, he knew it took me 25 minutes to get there.
He didn't think it was funny.
At all.
"I should fire you right here." He started smoking up a storm and that wasn't a good sign. When he finishes a smoke in about three minutes, he's not happy.
At all.
I was pretty humbled and showed great remorse.
Damn, I just got here ten months ago, I was starting to get comfortable and now....way to go Randy.
He cooled down and ordered me to answer every call that came in about the incident (and there were a LOT of pissed off people that day including members of my own staff), then go on the air and apologize every time I opened the microphone. Every time.

Enter Mr. Osbourne.
Ozzy arrived that day in fine form. He was pretty lucid and fun. He actually remembered the incident in the hallways of the old KY building. "Is that the time the fucking cops came and fucking wanted me autograph?"
Yes it was.
Yes, our own TV station called the cops on their sister radio station.
So, after every time Ozzy and I chat on the air, I say something like "..I was a real ass yesterday and didn't mean to scare anyone, it was a bad April Fools joke...blah blah blah..."
So after a couple of these, off mike Ozzy leans over and says
"So what the fuck didja do, man?"
I told him and he laughed hysterically. "That's fucking rich and you got in trouble for THAT? Fucking pussies HAHAHAHA"

and before the wise cracks of "porn stache" start, this is how we dressed back then. mullet included. 4/2/86
The fun part with Ozzy was trying to get him to read liners promoting the station. With most acts, you'll give them a script and they'd roll through it..."Hi, this is Jeff Carlisi of 38 special and you're listening to real rock radio KSHE 95 in St. Louis" and they'd be done.
Not Ozzy.
Twenty minutes later and he's still going at it "K..H...S...E. rockin real radio"
"No, Ozzy, it's KSHE Real rock radio..."
"Oh, OK.. Hi this is Ozzy Osbourne and I'm listening to HSKE ...really rocks"

No Ozzy. uh..Sharon?


Bubbski said...

OMG...The cover of the first XLP!!! I think steps to get that cover on the album (artist, photo, screening, four colour separation) cost more than the album actually pulled in!

For the record, for the second XLP, we just made a couple of rubber stamps (one with the 97X logo, and one that said "XLP II" in block letter), stamped it on a 12" x 12" piece of white posterboard and sent it off the the pressing plant.

The stories remind me of the MANY pranks I pulled on the air, some on April Fool's Day, and others in the normal course of trying to be entertaining and memorable. I'm jealous..I never did get Ozzy's blessing for any of MINE!

Happy New Year, Raley!

Shawn said...

WOW!!! I'm really digging this blog, man! I'm a radio jock in Waterloo, IA, but cut my teeth in the QC's, my hometown area (grew up in DeWitt). Spike was the one who got me interested in radio (he has since apologized) and I decided to follow in his footsteps. Even went to A.I.C. (American Institute of Commerce), was Hamilton (Chuck was still there), and is now Kaplan University (but the studios are gone - no radio program (much there are is no radio anymore).
There is a facebook page called Quad Cities on Air, run by current and former broadcasting folk. I added the link to your blog to the page! Keep it up, sir! I want to learn all I can! Thanks you!

Riley said...

Hey Randy,

Great read - love the old stuff from KY, brings back memories! I'm glad to see you have a new streaming format, I was having all kinds of problems listening before, it seems to be rocking very well!
Loved all of the Rush tunes yesterday on "2112" day, guess I won't ne around for the next one huh? :)
Keep on rockin' Rocko!!

Anonymous said...

I could never understand what Ozzie was saying (whether in interviews or on tv) half the time. Wondering if he was as bad at mumbling back then as he is now ...

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