In the early 80s, while at a Gavin Convention in San Francisco, I watched a tall, striking-looking man walk into the St. Francis with a group of people who were clearly in the radio business, laughing themselves into tears while listening to this man speak.
I quickly positioned myself next to the group to hear what this man was saying that had everyone laughing. This guy was hysterical. He was witty, dry, warm, edgy, and topical, and he delivered his stories in such a way I found myself laughing instantly. Who was this guy? I quickly learned that it was Don Bleu. I knew who he was, from his work at KDWB in Minneapolis. He was at the sister station where my husband worked in the late 70s and someone whose career paralleled my husband’s for most of the 70s and 80s.
I made a point of finding him later in the day and grabbing him for a brief conversation. Funny? He may have been the funniest guy I ever met. Quick witted? He could deliver a poignant line that was so obvious I kicked myself for not thinking of what he said before him. He was a genius. Several years later when I started my company, one of the only people I ever solicited to represent was Don Bleu. And 28 years later I still have the honor of representing him. I am the lucky one in this relationship, as he makes me laugh every day.
Now, here's how KOSF-FM, San Francisco, Morning Host Don Bleu got into radio…
I had done all the normal part-time college jobs while attending the University of North Dakota. I sold encyclopedias, cookware… I remember one Fourth of July, driving around with four other guys in South Dakota, past the four faces of Mount Rushmore with a keg in the trunk, looking for nursing schools to prey upon the young graduates and fill their hope chests with pots and pans. Finally, I settled into my part-time job of selling shoes at Kinney Shoes. Radio was just what we listened to in Al Vigen’s car with the reverb speakers, mostly "Palisades Park" and "Cupid, Draw Back Your Bow."
Then one fateful day, I was listening to the Rascals in stereo for the first time (mind blowing!) in Jefferson Kay’s (Shadoe Stevens a couple of radio names ago) apartment. He was my fraternity brother and working at KILO radio. Shadoe’s uncle owned radio stations, and Shadoe had been on the air since he was 16. He was wondering if I was interested in pursuing a part time job at KILO, filling in when they throw it back to the station for weather and news at halftime of the basketball games.
Shadoe became my radio school, and when he left KILO to go to KQWB in Fargo, I assumed his five-nights-a-week Top 40 show. Our playlist was made up of any 45s from Billboard’s Hot 100 that came into Herberger's music store. Research, what research?
When Shadow left KQWB, I assumed his position there, in the summer of 1968. At the end of that summer, I received a job offer from KDWB in Minneapolis. It was then time to make a choice. Do I go back to college, finish my degree in journalism, and begin my career writing press releases for the Hard Red Spring Wheat Gazette? Or move to Minneapolis and begin the drifter, prima donna, U-Haulin' life of a disc jockey. I chose the latter. I went to work September 15, returned to Fargo the following weekend to shepherd my pregnant wife through childbirth, and she walked out of the hospital, took a cab to the airport and followed me to the Twin Cities and our 40-year radio journey began in earnest. A part-time job became a career; a career became a passion; a passion became a lifestyle; a lifestyle became…whatever.
The True Don Bleu is the Morning Host at 103.7 in San Francisco, and previously spent 25 years at Star 101.3 in San Francisco. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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 Lisa@millerbroadcast.com 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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