Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Interview with Mike Adams 1

Mike Adams wrote a book about Lee De Forest and i interviewed him about it. This is first part of the interview.

1) When and where were you born?

I was born in the small town of Newark,Ohio, now a suburb of Columbus. The year was 1943.

2) What is your first memory of radio?

So my first memory of radio was during the last 10 years of its life as a so-called "full service" media. Rather than the formats of music, news or talk as it is today, beginning in the 1930s through the late 1950s, most radio stations followed this schedule:

(1) Morning show with entertainment and news and guests (like the Today show on TV) 
(2) Soap operas, shows for women (it was assumed that the man of the house was working and the wife who stayed at home as a home maker would want to be entertained and informed by issues of family, fashion, food, child-rearing, etc.)
(3) Kid shows in the mid-afternoon to entertain the kids, shows like the Lone Ranger and Superman.
(4) News at 5 or 6 for dad when he came home from work
(5) family shows, like TV today, game and quiz shows, mysteries, drama, comedy, cowboy, music, only without the pictures.

By 1960 all of these shows had moved from radio to television and radio became a delivery vehicle for popular music.

So I was a typical radio listener and I listened daily, I had my favorite shows. This experience led me to want to understand how the radio worked from a technical point of view so I did tear apart many old sets to see the parts, and I went to the library often and checked out books on how radio worked. I was also reading books on the radio industry, what went on at a radio station, careers in radio, thinking about my future beyond that of a kid.

3) How many years did you work in radio industry and what are the best memories of that time?

So when I graduated from High School in 1960 I attended Ohio University as a Radio-TV-Film major and immediately I began working for the college station, WOUB-AM. (There was a small FM version but in 1960 AM was the dominant technology and most AM stations used their FM transmitters to carry the programming of the AM channel. In 1960 radio we had one foot in the past and because of rock and roll music's popularity we saw a different future for radio.) At WOUB I was a news reporter and a disc jockey, the latter was my preference and would be my future. I was so interested in radio that I neglected to attend classes so I flunked out. By then I was working at the local Athens, Ohio commercial radio station, WATH.

After a few years in Athens, I applied for and received a job at the big Columbus, Ohio top-40 station, "The New WCOL." This was an important era (the 1960s) for AM top-40 radio, and I worked there for 10 years (1963-1973) as a DJ, program director, production director. It was the most exciting time to be in radio, the DJs were important, we were connected to the listeners, the music industry, and in a way that has not happened since. Then the local top-40 station had over 50% of the audience, unheard of today, and then there was no competition from Internet, satellite, even FM was carrying the same audio as their AM main stations. All of this popularity of radio was helped by the Beatles and other British groups, and in America it was Motown. It was the music.

But working a radio station - even a popular one, even when you believed you were a big "star," was getting to be routine, boring, not so real. I was in my mid 20s and I did not think I was good enough to be a major radio star and I did not really care for an industry based on selling things to people that they mostly didn't need. Plus by the late 1960s there was a whole world of music out there that didn't fit the 3 minute top-40 format.

Meanwhile I had unfinished business - College. When I moved to Columbus for WCOL, I lived right on North High St, the Ohio State University neighborhood. I applied and began to attend part time and by 1973 I had received a BA in Speech and an MA in film. In 1974 I left radio behind and moved to LA, living first in Hollywood then Venice, and besides working for a documentary film company I began to teach part time at a college. I liked it, I eventually (1988) received a tenure track job at San Jose State University. It was here where I am now the Associated Dean of the College of Humanities and the Arts that I came full circle. I was hired to teach radio, TV and Film, but I was also hired to be the faculty advisor to KSJS-FM, and I am still advisor today, 25 years later. In the back of my mind I always remembered how satisfying the college radio experience was, so I still have it. With commercial radio experience behind me, I returned to college radio, but in charge. 

To be continued

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