It was my first day as a disc jockey for a country western radio station. I sat in my chair, heart pounding, and looked with my extra large pupils at a sound board that looked like something found in a helicopter. There were dials to bring in ABC news, dials to bring in the weather, switches for volume, monitors for my voice levels and a big microphone in front of my face.
To my right was the commercial cart machine – in those days, commercials were recorded on a big reel-to-reel machine and transferred to an eight track cartridge for playing. To my left were two turn tables so that I could always have one queued up to go . . . the needle in the smooth groove between songs so there would be no dead air-time.
I put the huge, black headphones that were still warm from the ears of the previous D.J. on my ears, and they shifted down to my chin.
At that time there was no rotation cycle posted (a document that would show the top ten hits and ensure that you played those hits at least once per hour). So, I pulled the music I liked best. There was only one problem — I had never listened to country western music. My first task was to introduce a Charlie Mclean song, and it sounded something like this:
“Hi listeners! Next up is Charlie Mclean. I know he’s a favorite of yours. Enjoy!”
I said it with energy and only spit on the microphone once. Then Charlie began to sing and my heart dropped in my chest as if I were on the first hill of a roller coaster. Charlie was a female. From that point forward I pulled only the songs I knew and liked, including Bobbie Gentry and Jimmy Dean.
About three songs into my “Donna’s favorites from the 60’s and 70’s” rotation, the 6’4″ station manager (and Mayor of the town) walked through the door. He stood there looking at me. I was waiting for the big congrats on my first day. Instead, he said:
“Get that sh** off the air. Now.”
Wow. He had been a little more pleasant during our initial interview.
Looking back I realize that I loved Bobbie Gentry and Jimmy Dean because of the stories they shared in “Ode to Billy Joe” and “Big Bad John.” Those stories touched my heart because I felt connected to the characters in them.
Stories are the heartbeat of a culture, and the way we emotionally hold the world together. The right side of the brain provides emotion in response to the story the left side of the brain is telling. Stories are the mortar of every civilization and every corporation. They are in every conversation in every hallway.
Want to know why you company is or is not successful? Want to understand how to help people change?
Corporate stories are told in memos, but they’re often fables constructed by professionals who wipe out all meaning and a lot of the truth. Listen for the REAL stories.
As Jimmy Neil Smith said, “We’re all storytellers. We all live in a network of stories. There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling.”
Twenty-nine years after my first day as a d.j. I’m defending my choice and putting that sh** back on the air.
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