Four hours reduced to nine minutes

My buddy and former radio co-worker John has been going through the tapes he recorded of his shows, making videos of them with photos from the stations he worked and posting them on Facebook. It inspired me to do one of my own. The aircheck in this video is from Sunday, June 24, 1994. I was about two months away from leaving Terre Haute and radio forever. I was all of 26 years old, and I was at the top of my game. I found a couple photos taken of me while I was on the air and added one I took of the logo from a station jacket I still have, and stitched them together with the audio in Windows Movie Maker.

A few things you’ll hear:

  • Me talking, but only the beginnings and ends of songs. This is called a “telescoped aircheck” in the radio business. A tape deck in the studio was set to automatically record the station’s output whenever the microphone was turned on. After my shift, I’d listen to my aircheck and look for ways to improve. My boss would sometimes listen too, and give me pointers.
  • Me tripping over my tongue a couple times. D’oh!
  • Me giving the legal ID as “WZZQ WBFX Terre Haute.” WZZQ simulcasted on WBFX, an AM station at 1230, in those days. I started my pro radio career on that AM station when it was WBOW and had its own programming.
  • Me talking about how some bands were starting to offer some of their songs for download on the Internet. Yes kiddies, this was brand new in 1994. iTunes was still years away.

If you dug this and are just dying to hear more, hightail it to this post where you can hear me on all the stations for which I ever worked.


16 responses to “Four hours reduced to nine minutes”

  1. Dani Avatar

    One of the things I really enjoy from radio, be it a music station or talk radio, is listening to people rattle off whatever they need or want to say with little flaws and consistent flow, particularly those who speak with speed. I’m somewhat in awe of them as I am self-conscious of my own speech and tend to stumble, lose words and get tongue-tied. I don’t experience the same feeling of awe when listening to a TV show, likely because I am distracted by the visual. Long live radio for so many reasons, but that is for another post.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Dani, when I first went on the air in college I had been a tongue-tied stumbler. I was very embarrassed of myself for the first year or two on the air. But practice started to make perfect, and I started to build confidence and “chops,” and wound up “DJ of the Year” at the station my junior year. Then when I moved to pro radio, my program directors gave me a lot of tips and pointers and sometimes frank criticism that helped me become smoother and more personable on the air. But as you can hear on this aircheck, I never entirely stopped stumbling!

      I’d love to read your Long Live Radio post should you ever write it.

  2. ryoko861 Avatar

    You have an awesome radio voice!

    Even seasoned pros stumble over their words. Never detours me from listening. I would hope your station had more than 10 songs. I know the local “classic” radio station has that many. If I hear Joe Walsh “Life’s Been Good” I’m going to throw up!

    There were a couple songs I would have loved to have heard the whole thing like Boston’s “Smokin”!

    Is the station still around?

    1. Jim Avatar

      Our station had a set playlist, as they all do. The thing that kept us from going stale was that we played new songs as well as classics.

      The station doesn’t exist anymore. There’s a wild story I may tell one day involving criminal charges and prison time for the owner. If you tune to 107.5 in Terre Haute today, you will hear only static.

      1. ryoko861 Avatar

        Speaking of Terre Haute, have you ever been to the “A Christmas Story” house?

        1. Jim Avatar

          Heh, that house is actually someplace in Ohio, so nope!

  3. Todd Pack Avatar

    This is great, Jim. I found an aircheck from 1985 when I was cleaning out some boxes a while back. It’s on cassette. I should digitize it before it decays. I’m not sure I’m brave enough to ever let anyone hear it, though.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Todd, all of my airchecks are on cassette too, and I digitized them all to guard against tape rot. It was a lot of work!

      I was brave enough to post a snippet of one of my early airchecks (1986!) in a post I linked in the “readmore” at the bottom of this post. It’s pretty bad. If I can do it, so can you!

  4. Tori Nelson Avatar

    I think you’re pretty much a rock star, Jim. Radio has always been one of those jobs that terrified me!

    1. Jim Avatar

      It’s not for everyone, to be sure — but for those of us who love(d) it, it’s a ton of fun!

  5. Phil Zeller Avatar
    Phil Zeller

    Wow, I’m glad someone kept a picture of the old studio. Apparently I never took one myself. I do have hundreds of skimmer tapes in the basement, though. Really ought to digitize them. Oh well. ~(‘Phil Zeller inside your radio overnights on the rock, 107-5 zzq’ 1993-1996).

    1. Jim Avatar

      Phil, thanks for chiming in! Our time overlapped a little as I arrived in 91 and was gone in 94. I did digitize all my tapes and it was a time-consuming and not very exciting job.

  6. Jennifer S Avatar

    Definitely a rock star DJ! I admire your energy and the smooth delivery. My college radio days were spent at WUFT-FM… an NPR station. The “cool kids” worked at the other station, Rock104. I never developed that ability good DJ’s have to sound both soothing and exciting at the same time. Probably because I spoke like a girl who worked for NPR.

    Why did you leave radio?

    Would love to hear that station owner going to prison story.

    1. Jim Avatar

      It took time to develop my delivery, and it was fun making that happen. Believe me, I didn’t even sound ready for NPR at first.

      I left radio because software was my first love. I made software all week and then was on the air on the weekend. When I moved to Indianapolis, my radio career ended.

      It’s not a nefarious plan to get you to read my entire blog archive, I swear, but I wrote about all of this in the past.

  7. Mak Avatar

    So cool! :)

    1. Jim Avatar


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