A Year of Chaos and Radio, the Buddy Russ Story
Today is a very special day for me. It is my 1 Year Anniversary as a full time radio DJ. It's something I have always wanted to do, be on the radio. When I was growing up, my dad would tell me these stories of a friend of his in Vinton that would record himself like he was on the radio and they'd walk around Vinton and listen to the recordings, as if he was on the air.
Now, to most kids hearing a "Dad Story" they might blow it off and just continue on in life. Not this kid. Something clicked with me about how cool it would be to be on the radio. I'd wake up early and listen to as many radio shows as I could on the way to school. I'd record Dale Mann, Justin Case, and David Michaels (who I recently found out was none other than Mike Soileau). I could sing the jingles for every station in SWLA. Bayou 104, LA99, that other country station that shall remain nameless. I would record the on-air hosts and play them back over and over again, imicking what they were doing.
Fast forward to my teens and I decided to "apply" to be an on-air host for a local station (103.7 KBIU, Bayou 104). For a '90s kid, THIS was the station for me. Would you believe I never got a call back? Apparently, a 13-year-old dropping off a cassette tape and no information doesn't get a call back for an interview.
I didn't let it discourage me. By that time, I was recording myself as dad's friend did, calling myself KRUS radio. As I grew up, the dreams dwindled down and just sat in the back of my mind. I went on to start my various careers in life. One day, Mike Soileau came to the casino to judge a battle of the bands show. I met his new co-host, Emily J, and we all started talking. Emily was excited for her upcoming vacation the next week and Mike was sad because he was going to have to do the show alone. He stopped mid-sentence and said,
"Hey, you want to come hang out and co-host with me?".
Dear reader, it took everything I had in my being to not pee my pants right then and there. I calmly agreed to it, playing it nice and cool.
I show up at 5:30am that Monday morning with no idea how to actually talk on the radio, what to say, what to even do. Soileau sat down, I grabbed the guest mic and just as he's going on air say, "Don't be nervous, we are just talking." I don't know what that phrase did, but immediately all the nerves went away, and off we ran. We did our first few breaks as I felt more and more comfortable telling stories. By the end of the first morning, we were laughing in tears at each other. That little pilot light in the back of my head suddenly turned into the afterburners on an F-16. RADIO WAS WHAT I WANTED!
I spent the next year and a half coming in on the mornings filling in for Mike and Emily when they would take time off, all for free. Just the opportunity to be in a radio station was payment enough for me. One day, Mike calls me out of the blue, asking if I'd be willing to work on weekends part-time. "It doesn't pay much, but I know this is something you're passionate about." I would have easily paid them to let me be on the air!
My first day live on the air was absolutely horrible. I had no idea what I was doing. I did everything wrong while trying to be so smooth about it. Soileau was listening as he was MCing the Rabbit Festival and would call me to give me pointers as I went. "Slow down, take a breath, you're just talking." By the time I did my last break, I was in my groove.
Now, fast forward to a full time offer in 2017, starting January 2018, and a year later to today, and I still have no idea what I'm doing. Thank you for tuning in each morning and afternoon, listening to Mike in the Morning and my random self in the afternoons. I might have made it here with my ADD, but it's the listeners that keep both myself and Soileau on the air.
Here's to many years to come!
PS, Dad's friend he grew up with was a man named Bruce Merchant. You might know him as the voice of McNeese Athletics. He is also the afternoon host on our sister station, 92.9 The Lake. That's right, I am now coworkers with the man whose stories inspired my dream job.