Today (6.15.2016) marks the second anniversary of the passing of my radio hero, the legendary Casey Kasem. In my first blog post, pop muzik (https://foreveryoung80s.wordpress.com/2016/01/12/pop-muzik/), I mentioned how important 1979 was to me; still is. 1979 was the year I discovered music (or, maybe, music found ME), and a huge part of that was Casey Kasem and his weekly countdown program, AMERICAN TOP 40.
Casey Kasem wasn’t just an outlet for me and my new-found love for music from 8:00am to 12:00 noon every Saturday and/or Sunday. Casey Kasem was the main reason I pursued a career in radio. In early September 1985, six+ years after listening to Casey Kasem and AT40 every weekend, I started my first semester of two at the (then) New England School of Broadcasting in Bangor (now a 4-year degree program at the juggernaut New England School of Communications; part of Husson University), including my first experience as a radio DJ on the mighty WHSN.
I may have shared this before, but I think one of the reasons radio intrigued me was because I was shy and had a hard time expressing myself in person. With radio, I didn’t have that problem. It was the perfect avenue for me to express myself and share my love of music with people. Apart from writing, I think I’m at my most comfortable on the air.
Radio (mostly college and community radio) has been a part of my life for the better part of 31 years. For about half the year in 2008, when I moved from Portland back to Central Maine to help out my folks, I got my first and only job with a commercial radio station. It was part-time, it was locally run (a family owned it), an Adult Top 40 format, mostly live, and it was housed in the old WTOS building in Skowhegan, Maine (a commercial station in the 80s like no other in the area, which introduced me to some cool Alternative music, aired Dr. Demento, and was even granted a funeral when the format changed to Hard Rock).
While still serving as Music Director at WMPG community radio in Portland (a position I held for more than 10 years), I also worked part-time at the commercial radio station. I was part of what they then-called the “Way Back Weekend,” primarily highlighting music from the 70s, 80s and 90s. I was kind of in my element, and my air name there was “Retro Ron Raymond.” You could find me on the air from 6:00 to 10:00pm on Friday nights, and for five hours on Saturday, from 10:00am to 3:00pm, following my radio hero, Casey Kasem, and the 80s re-broadcasts of AMERICAN TOP 40. It was a big moment for me.
But, it was not to last. 2008 was the year the economy went into the shitter, gas was $4.00 a gallon (which sucked commuting 300 miles to Portland and back every week), and just days before Xmas, I was let go. The diminutive general manager (who also was one of the morning hosts) cited the economy, which at the time, was a legitimate reason to reason to let me go (even though it was just nine hours a week at a low wage). I was disappointed, but I understood. My six-month experience in commercial radio (to date) was over.
As it turned out, I was not let go because of the economy. I don’t know if the little bastard was intimidated with my knowledge of music (I was only trying to help), or if he just didn’t like my work, but the next year, they were doing just fine. O well. Live and learn I guess. I can at least say I did it.
I started STUCK IN THE 80s on WMPG in the Spring of 1996 at the age of 29, and I’m planning to end the show on my birthday in February 2017 when I turn 50. It just seems right; cathartic. It might sound silly to some, but I want to spread the 80s music word beyond the reach and small confines of WMPG. Maybe it’ll be a podcast, maybe I’ll try STUCK IN THE 80s in syndication, or who knows? Maybe I’ll land on satellite radio. I’m still working on that part. But, I think this blog could very well be the start of my next chapter in radio, whatever that may be.
For now, though, I’ve got 35 more radio shows to go, I’m going to give my ever-growing legion of STUCK fans the best shows I can bring to them, and they’re gonna kick ass. In fact, the first of those 35 shows will be my third annual tribute to Casey Kasem. A long distance dedication of sorts. For one week a year, playing only songs that reached the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 is the very least I can do for the man that indirectly inspired me to be there in the first place. I miss you, Casey, wherever you are. And, don’t worry, I’ll keep reaching for those stars…