Hey DJ!

Source: Thursday Review

So I was driving around running a few small errands and listening to a local DJ and marveling that there’s still such a thing as local DJs. We don’t have satellite radio—my wife listens to a lot of audiobooks—and there is at least one “local” station that doesn’t have DJs and even prides itself on not taking requests, but there are at least a couple where you can call in and talk to an actual person which always gives me flashbacks to my high school days when I finally got out of the misery of riding the bus and rode home with friends who had cars and we’d listen to the radio, and then once we got home we’d go in and turn on the radio in the house—running if there was a song we really liked on. Sometimes we’d call up the DJs. It always amazed me that my friends could get into long conversations with DJs, sometimes ten or fifteen minutes. One local station had a promo where they’d play the call of the Tookie bird from George Of The Jungle and if you were the first caller you won something. One time my friend was on the phone with the DJ for about fifteen minutes and he heard it in the background and said, “Hey, I’m the first caller, right?” And the DJ laughed and sent my friend a couple of movie tickets. Every time I called the DJs always cut me off for some reason. Maybe it was my song choices.

“Could you play Hourglass by Squeeze?”

“Yeah, we don’t have that anymore.” Click.

“Could you play Bohemian Rhapsody?”

“We played that earlier this week. It’s too weird to play more than that.” Click.

“Hey, could you play—”

“Sorry, kid, we’re not taking requests right now.” Click.

In college I had a couple of friends who were DJs for the campus radio station. One even put me on the air, briefly, one night. I only announced one song and did a Casey Kasem impersonation. It was pretty good but not good enough. The next day I got a call from the student manager who told me I had to go through training and orientation before I’d be allowed on the air again, so that was the end of my radio career.

Riding the bus home from work I mostly had an iPod then my phone loaded up with songs and podcasts, but for just driving around I still like regular old-fashioned radio. I like the surprise of not really knowing what song is coming up next, even if—sometimes especially if—it’s not a song I’d pick.

Between songs the DJ chattered away and finally I pulled over into a parking lot and called. There was one ring, then two, and then somebody picked up. It didn’t sound like the DJ—maybe they use a different on-air voice—but I just asked if he’d play a song I wanted to hear.

“Okay, maybe, I’ll see if I can find that, it’s a little out there, hey, thanks for calling.” Click.

Well, it was a bit perfunctory but a few minutes later the song I asked for came on.


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  1. The Huntress915

    I too am surprised that DJ’s still exist, because even though satellite radio does have DJ’s, I’m speaking purely of local radio stations. I don’t listen to local radio stations here, they are all owned by the same conglomerate and play the same songs over and over. So I listen to my songs on my phone in my car. By the way, love that picture from American Graffiti, the Wolfman and Curt. One of my all time favorite films

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      American Graffiti is one of my favorites too, and I love the part where the Wolfman and Curt meet. And it is surprising that DJs still exist and even take requests–although Nashville is Music City and I think it would lose something if we didn’t have local radio stations. They still seem to be an endangered species, though, which is a sad thing.

  2. mydangblog

    I was a DJ at my university radio station, but it was for a classical music program, and the only person who ever called to request anything was my mother:-)

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That’s pretty awesome, actually. I’m not sure how one would put in a request for a classical music program, unless it was to request a specific movement of a symphony or something short like one of Chopin’s Nocturnes. Oh, yeah, I’d call in and request Chopin.

  3. Allison

    So the local DJ-less station you mention really is local – but the concept is franchised. And there are different versions of the concept all over the US – typically, a mono-syllabic male name (Dave, Bob, Fred, Jack).

    I know this because they have an annual contest to let a listener take over the station for a day, and name it after them. I was the first winner, and for one day, Allison-FM played what I wanted. It was glorious. I also got to do voiceovers for breaks, and a few of the songs. They brought me in to record them, had several hours blocked out, and the station manager was stunned that we did it in 45 minutes. I keep in touch with their marketing person (who now works at a local non-profit) and their “assistant manager, Moose”, who is as nice as can be.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That is absolutely fantastic. I wish I’d heard that. Now I don’t feel so bad about tuning in to that local-but-franchised station, which, I have to admit, I do regularly. And I’m glad to know that Moose is not only a real person but really nice.


    You’re always a little out there, Chris, and I’m always glad when I tune in.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m glad you haven’t gone off the air either and that you’re always out there somewhere on the dial.


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