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Lisa Miller - "How I Got Into Radio"

Paul Barsky


I first met Paul Barsky in the early 80s when he came to work for WLS-FM.  He had come from New York and the short-lived success of SuperRadio under the genius of the late Rick Sklar. I thought Paul was quick-witted and had certain sophistication in his on-air sound that was a pleasure to hear each morning. Our friendship turned into a client / agent relationship that has been unfettered for the past 25 years. Today Paul is on the forefront of the future of Talk radio, giving South Florida listeners an afternoon show that encompasses humor, entertainment, news, opinion, and the best of original content. The program on Big Talk 850 WFTL is contagious and keeps you engaged for hours. Take a listen, and I think you too will be hooked:

Now, in his own words, here's how WFTL afternoon host Paul Barsky got into radio…

I guess my radio journey officially began in my sophomore year in upstate New York at “SUNNY” in Brockport. I was a liberal arts major, which meant I had no idea what to do with my life. One day, one of my college buddies named Tim said his car was on the fritz and he needed a lift to work, and I said “where’s that?" He said it was WWBK, the small townie AM radio station which sat in the middle of a farm field. I told him I'd give him a lift as long as I could hang out to see what this "radio thing" was all about.

So there I was for the next few hours watching Tim talk up “Today’s Easy Favorites." I said, "Do they really pay you for this?” and he said of course AND there were free doughnuts every Monday as well. I remember saying to myself, "Hell, I know I can sound like a DJ if I want to." You see there were many trips on the back of the bus coming home from high school varsity baseball games where I would "wow" my teammates with my dead-on impression of George Carlin's “Wonderful WINO" bit from his album "AM-FM." It was Carlin's hilarious homage to his days as a “corny 1960s Top 40 DJ.” So, for $2.20 an hour and free doughnuts, how do I get in on this?

After his shift, Tim introduced me to the owner/GM of the station and I inquired about getting a “gig” there. He told me to make a demo tape, which I did back at my college radio station. Two weeks later, BAM...I'm doing afternoon drive. It was an MOR station and I knew that long term, this wasn't for me as I wanted to be a Top 40 jock and work at Wonderful WINO. Of course, the closest thing to that were the Top 40 stations in Rochester which happened to be a half hour away from Brockport. And to me, this was real radio, not a small house in the middle of a farm field with a transmitter. So my mission was to make a demo tape using my own Top 40 records and get to Rochester. The two top 40 stations in Rochester N.Y. at the time were WBBF and WAXC. I was bound and determined to work at one of those two.

So since WWBK was a “daytimer,” it was my job to sign the station off and then turn the transmitter off. Once I did that, that's when the real fun began. Since we were off the air, there were many nights where I would spend hours in the on-air studio creating demo tapes using WAXC or WBBF call letters, to send to both stations. There I was cueing up songs and doing the “intros” and “outros” to my satisfaction. If the talk-up wasn't right I'd do it again and again until I nailed it.

One night, while making my demo, I wasn't up to snuff and I got really pissed off. "1460 WAXC here's Alvin Bishop, I mean Elvin Bishop on WAXC"...damn it, you stupid idiot, you suck!" This self-verbal abuse went on for a good hour, when I looked to my right and noticed that one of the request lines was ringing which was odd because it was close to 7 p.m. and we'd been off the air for over two hours. Not to mention, nobody ever called the request lines when we were actually on the air.

So I picked up the phone" Hello BK 1560?” It was my friend Tim. He said "Hey, what's going on?” and I replied, “I’m trying to do a demo tape, but I suck and can't get anything right." He said “Yeah, I know, I've been listening to you for the past 20 minutes. You're still on the air, moron!"

Apparently when I turned off the transmitter at sundown, I hit the wrong button and we were still on the air. Every single F-bomb, Mother F-bomb and everything in between was broadcast to the greater Brockport area for close to two hours. Funny thing was, apparently nobody else heard it except Tim who just happened to have it on in his room. I came into work the next day, and nothing. Not a word about last night's radio spectacular, and I was back to talking up Morris Albert's "Feelings" on BK 1560.   

You can email Paul at

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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(11/18/2013 10:46:48 PM)
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(10/24/2013 7:39:10 PM)
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- NY

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