When I started my career in media, I worked in radio. My first job was a combination of a mid-day on-air shift, which paid minimum wage (about $2.35 an hour) and advertising sales, which paid commission.
The radio station was WKBQ, a daytime AM station outside Raleigh, N.C., that programmed country music and religious programming. Large blocks of airtime were devoted to national programs, like the Reverend Jerry Falwell, Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson and some local churches. The programs would be delivered to the station in boxes, a week or two at a time. I’d queue the reels and let them roll.
At 12:01, I’d announce the station ID and weather, filling in the blanks on a card and sticking to the script. Then, I’d play a record from the station library, picking from the floor-to-ceiling shelves in another room. Ad blocks were scheduled every 15 minutes, and the ads were recorded onto carts, which were like 8-track tapes.
Elvis was a favorite and a good way to segue from The Rev. Fallwell into the pains and laments of country music at the time. Tammy Wynette, Emmylou Harris, Lee Greenwood, Willie Nelson, George Jones. Queue a record, announce it, play it, announce it, station ID, weather and repeat until 4 in the afternoon when the drive-time announcer came on.
Non air-time was devoted to selling advertising. I’d pick up the local pennypincher newspaper, a local publication stacked with small display ads. From these, ads, I’d pick out a business that someone hadn’t already sold and go into the library and pick some music and I’d write a script from the display ad and produce one or two commercials.
Then, I would go out and call on the business. I was driving my old bomb car, a blue AMC 1970 Rebel, and I’d roll into the parking lot, right at the front door if I could. I’d put on my happy face and ask for the manager and introduce myself and try to get them to talk about their advertising and then I’d pitch a commercial run on the station – a dollar a holler, delivered with a smile.
I sold a few ads but it was mostly the airtime that gave me an income.
Then, there was the time where I stopped in to pitch a pet store. In the parking lot there was a black Porche with a North Carolina license plate, reading WPTF CZAR. I went in and pitched a $300 package of ads. George Czar, an ad exec from the big radio station in town, bought a $300 aquarium. I pitched him for a job. I didn’t get anywhere with that, and I moved on to newspapers and sports.