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Lisa Miller - "How I Got Into Radio"

The Kevin Rolston Story


8-23-2013

Meeting Kevin Rolston reminded me of all that radio is and what I love about what I do for a living. His popularity in South Florida is that kind of success where bus drivers stop mid-route to say hello and shake your hand and people stop you on the street and start a conversation as if they are old friends with whom you share memories.

Dining with Kevin at a local restaurant involves the server knowing his and your preferences, even if its your first time dining at their establishment, and other diners stop by your table to remind him of something funny he did on the show that morning. Its amazing to watch Kevin as he takes time with each and every person, because he genuinely enjoys getting to know them and appreciates their loyalty. As the host of the KVJ Show, Kevin is beloved by his listeners who consider him family and treat him as a friend.

Now, in his own words, this is how AMD Host WFLC-FM Miami Kevin Rolston got into radio

My career in radio began after receiving a devastating elbow to the chest by a massive 64 tall, blonde German named Hans during a Tae Kwon Do sparring session in college. That elbow collapsed one of my lungs completely and the other one partially. Though it almost killed me, the Ivan Drago lookalike had just saved my life. Before my injury, I felt it my duty to serve in the military and pursue a path that led into politics or law. Despite being a screw-off in high school, college was going be the time that I was going to get my life together. Looking back on life now, the crushing blow from above truly saved me from making a huge career mistake.

With lots of free time and little direction in life, I started hanging out at the college radio station with a dorm friend. Initially, I was hesitant to go because he was a white guy with a wispy mustache who would constantly quote Mary J. Blige lyrics. I also never thought that you could make a hobby a career; but after playing radio for a while, I decided to give it a shot. The station was broadcast through cable, which gave me lots of freedoms, since no one, including the PD, could really pick up the station. This allowed me to pull off stunts that you really cant do anywhere else today, and I guess, technically, couldnt even do back then. I once ran commercial free for two hours as I confronted my girlfriend on-air for cheating on me. Then, I began my final show on college radio with a personal challenge I wanted to see how quickly I could chug six beers. This ill-advised stunt bought me a nice five-hour nap during my shift and a swift kick out the door. Thankfully, the Top 40 commercial station in town thought Id be perfect for nights!

Like on the college station, though, the PD of the Top 40 station didnt listen to my show. He also did the morning show and had to be in bed every night by the time I started my shift. Without much direction, I looked at music as a distraction to the nighttime talk show I had established on a top 40 station. Luckily, there was never a ratings book to tell station management that I was doing the wrong thing. This experience I credit with preparing me for what I do today. I was blessed to have such a training ground.

Strained relations with management over a failed format flip at the Top 40 forced me off to New York, where I took on a promotions internship at Z100. I had worked for quite some time to save enough money for this experience and was greeted in my interview by Steve Kingston, who was the PD of Z100 at the time. He asked me for my autograph, which confused the heck out of me, until I later realized that it was the first of many times he would mess with the small town boy from southeastern Ohio.

On day two of my internship, I naively hit the Rangers Stanley Cup victory parade in Manhattan with a wallet full of all the money I had saved for this experience. Im sure any seasoned urbanite knows how that all ended. Not wanting to give up on my dream with no money, I lived in my car. To keep from looking and smelling homeless, I would sneak into the swanky GMs office at Z100 after hours to take a shower. For food, I swiped bagels from the DJ kitchen when John Lander and the Z Morning Zoo had big guests on. My hunger led to unexpected bagel parties with Steve Perry, Tony Bennett, and the spiritual advisor from the band Arrested Development. Theres nothing better than a tasty smear accompanied with spiritual advice you cant understand.

The power of the name Z100 landed me my next radio gig. It was in Fresno with a brilliant up-and-coming PD named Jon Zellner. Between two jobs in two cities (I followed him to KMXV in Kansas City) Jon showed me how a PD can and should manage talent. There was no need to yell or belittle. We are all our own toughest critics. Guidance and positivity got us in the right frame of mind to do our best. And if anyone had the right to yell, it was Jon . . . our show trailed well behind the rest of the station.

Leaving Jon Zellner for West Palm Beach was one of my toughest career decisions. Leaving Clear Channel and West Palm Beach after 14 years, at the top of the ratings that whole time, was the absolute toughest. But I believe that none of us can become complacent and get comfortable with where we are in this industry. Miami has opened the door for me to live out my dream of doing radio throughout South Florida. The exciting part for me is that I have no idea where it will all go from here. But isnt that the beautiful thing about life? And isnt that what great radio embodies? We dont know exactly where a great show will sometimes go . . . but we do know that it will be exciting!

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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