Lisa Miller - "How I Got Into Radio"
WUSN-FM Morning Host Ramblin' Ray Stevens
Ray Stevens is one of the funniest people I know, quick as they come with a one-liner and slaying everyone with a rapid comeback. I met Ray via my husband who was doing weather on US99. We spent our first meeting sparring verbally back and forth, and before we knew it we were planning on having dinner together. I soon came to realize that Ray was not just the life of the party, he was smart as a whip and really understood our business. Ray’s “Chicago macho” style, along with his punchy personality, makes him a talent to be reckoned with; he keeps me on my toes and reminds me every day how lucky I am to know him.
Now, in his own words, here's how WUSN-FM morning host Ramblin' Ray Stevens got into radio…
I guess it all really started at an early age and if I had to credit anyone for pointing me in the direction of radio, it would be my Mom. She was the one who bought me my first Mr. Microphone when I was a child. I loved to talk. I would goof off in school but I didn't do it to be a distraction but rather to get the other kids, attention and be amusing.
Now, fast forward to my senior year of high school; my life consisted of snowmobile racing, cars, and fishing. Pepper that with working for my Dad’s construction company and I was king of the world, at least until I had an epiphany. Working outside on Chicago's buildings when it was 100 degrees or when it was 20 below, and then almost cutting off my hand after a night of too little sleep; it didn't take long to figure out this wasn't the job for me.
So off to college I went. My Mom and Dad had friends in Scottsdale, Arizona, so it was only natural that I tried my hand at Arizona State University. That was a brilliant plan. Why in the world my folks would set me loose in the desert Southwest is still a mystery to me. For the most part, these people were successful, smart parents, until this move! I was at ASU for three months before I made my way to Colorado where I spent the next semester on the Eldora ski slopes where I majored in “barely getting by.”
After a semester of sun and fun, and another of skiing and sluffing off, I made my way back home to Chicago and the local college, and back to work part-time at my Dad’s construction company. This was exactly what I didn't want to do.
It was clearly time to reset and refocus. The awakening came for me during spring break, nothing like endless cases of cheap Keystone Light to help a college kid get on track. My friend Bobby French and I were set free in Daytona Beach, it was really something to see local radio and club DJs hosting beer parties. It was debauchery at its finest.
My friend and I were hanging around and waiting for a big party at Penrod’s Plaza in Daytona sponsored by Budweiser. The only problem with this epic party was the DJ, who was supposed to host the event but didn't show up. There was no one to host the silly contests that surrounded the MTV-type mid-80s party. That's when I offered my services and stepped in. I hosted that party for Budweiser and Penrod’s for the next two weeks.
When I returned to Chicago to a set of unhappy parents, my Mom said, "Ever think about radio?" A trip to 600 South Michigan Avenue, to Columbia College, and I was ready to be the next Jonathon Brandmeier.
I recall the teachers (who were all in Chicago radio) saying you need to pay your dues and get an internship. So after the first day of school I set up a meeting at 107.9 WAUR in Aurora in the western Chicago suburbs.
I was getting out of my car, a sweet 87 Mustang GT convertible, when the Program Director of WAUR was getting out of his car in the station parking lot at the same time. He introduced himself to me and said "I could use that car for a parade." I said, " I could use a job on your radio station."
He used my car and, after a few months of interning, I was on the air! That was 1987, and it started a career that has kept me in Chicago radio for over 25 years. That particular PD was Bruce Summers, he and I are still friends to this day.
I may have been a little crazy and really unfocused, and I know I wasted too much time and money on my youth, but that cool car got me that first gig in radio!
Reach out to Ray at Ramblin995@aol.com
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. Read more "How I Got Into Radio" columns by Lisa HERE.
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