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Lisa Miller - "How I Got Into Radio"

John Gehron


In week two of our special feature, "How I Got Into Radio," Lisa Miller speaks with AccuRadio COO John Gehron. Gehron is a very successful radio executive, a highly respected broadcaster, and one of the nicest people anyone would ever want to meet. Miller met Gehron in 1977 while visiting Arbitron. Gehron had invited Miller and her husband out to dinner. As Paul Harvey would say, "Here's the rest of the story," and how John Gehron got into radio.

"I first met John Gehron in 1977 while he was visiting Arbitron in Washington, D.C. (Beltsville, Md.) on behalf of WLS.  He had invited my husband, who was working at WPGC, and me out to dinner. I thought he was a subdued and stoic man who chose his words very wisely. Through time, I have found him to be a smart and determined man whose insight and sense of humor is reflective of his years in the business. He is a dear friend, and someone whose opinion I trust; and is one of the most beloved people in the business." 

How John Gehron Got Into Radio
"I grew up in the northeast corner of Pennsylvania where we didnt have much to listen to with respect to Top 40 music. In the daytime I struggled to hear WABC and WIP, along with the new WAEB from Allentown, which was new for years.  At night WKBW boomed in with Dick Biondi and later Joey Reynolds. Somewhere between junior high and high school, my family took a trip to Niagara Falls and my Dad let me stop at WKBW. I was disappointed that Dick Biondi wasnt there but the Chief Engineer offered to give me a tour. He had five turntables and by using his arm, elbow, hand, and fingers, stopped and started spots and music. I was hooked."

"But it wasnt going to be easy. I had to fumble my way through the experience of choosing a career from a part-time job I had while going to school; and on this journey I learned some tricks, met some great people, and found that my goals would change based on my skills.

In high school I did local record hops and often hired the bands; one band came with their own sound system, which was the best I had ever seen. The sound guy ran a 60 watt AM station out of his basement on the weekends. He needed music, I had music from my hops, so I conned my way into doing a show every weekend on his station. The station developed quite a following and soon we were doing remotes from the local Tastee Freez, and were paid in burgers and dipped cones. In order to broadcast, my friend would call me on the payphone, Id unscrew the mouthpiece, and with alligator clips, attach the feed from my little audio mixer." 

"After high school, I attended Penn State, but hadnt thought about radio as a career, until one day while walking through the dorm complex, I saw this small radio studio for WHR (west halls radio). I found out it was a carrier current station for the dorms. Soon I was doing a show for the Dorms of Penn State. This is where I first met Al Resnick, an engineering student who worked summers at KQV in Pittsburgh. After receiving acclaimed success as the most popular DJ on Dorm Radio, I moved on to doing a show at WDFM, Penn States FM station playing the biggest classical hits! I decided I liked radio and would like to make that my career; however, Penn State didnt have a communications department.  It proved to be a plus for me because I enrolled in the School of Business with a Marketing major. This was incredibly helpful when I discovered I wasnt good enough to be a major market radio DJ; the business and marketing courses served me well in management."

"Other than free meals in the cafeteria and a free t-shirt, neither Dorm DJ nor WDFM paid for on-air talent, it became necessary for me to get a job. Thinking I was on my way to the big-time, I applied for a job at WMAJ, the towns biggest station where I was doing DJ shows and fill-in work. But, part-time work didnt cover the cost of my books, so I applied at WRSC/WQWK and was hired there too, under a different on-air name. Neither station knew I was working for the other. I would do the Sunday early morning shift for WRSC and at the same time I was on the air at WDFM. I had a duel channel Gates board that allowed me to do two shows at once, with very different music; one station played CHR the other station played AOR. I just had to be sure that the records didnt run out at the same time, and be sure I flipped the mic switch to the correct station. Working for competitors went on for about a year before the day came when management discovered that John Gehron and Jake Smith were the same person and I ended up with no jobs."

"Again, I found myself in need of a job to help pay for school, so I applied at WFBG, the big station in Altoona. I was hired as the weekend DJ and TV booth announcer. I didnt have a car, so every Friday I would hitchhike to Altoona, booth announce till TV signoff, sleep on the furniture in the TV studio they used for live Sears TV commercials, and then in the morning the sign-on engineer would wake me up so I could do an eight-hour show on Saturday, another shift on Sunday, and then hitchhike back to Penn State. Within the next six months, a new Top 40 station signed on, WVAM, and they hired me for weekends. I had finally made it to the big time. They had a new Gates board with those pots that fit so well in your hand and the cool new Pams jingles. The station didnt want to use my name from the previous station so I inherited the extra name jingle available at the station. It is amazing how many air-talents are still walking around with a name given to them based on the available name jingle at the station and for some it is the industry name they are known by still today. Eventually I left the airwaves and turned to management; so Dave Allen will go on in infamy as the pseudonym for John Gehron, and my start in radio."

Lisa Miller is the President of Miller Broadcast Management in Chicago. She's also one of Radio Ink's Most Influential Women in Radio. Miller can be reached at or 312-454-1111.
So, how did you get into radio? We'd love to hear the story about why you're passionate about radio.

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