Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Iowa City Lights

You know, if you read this blog regularly, that I'm based in Madison, Wisconsin. Tonight I'm writing from my much-missed former home, Iowa City, Iowa. Madison is the only town The Mrs. and I would have left Iowa City for, and Iowa City is the only town I'd leave Madison for. I'm looking out my fifth-floor hotel room window at the lights of downtown, to the north up Linn Street toward the edge of the University of Iowa campus, where I was a student for a couple of years in the mid 90s. This place is a very important part of my personal history. None of my radio history happened here, though. Plenty of it happened at other stops along the way on this trip, though.

The history actually starts with the newest bit of it, just west of Madison on County Highway M at Pine Bluff, where there's a big billboard for my new radio station, The Lake. (My debut on the air there will be this Sunday night. The station isn't streaming online yet, but they're reportedly working on it.) The unlikelihood that I'd end up back on the air nearly nine years after my last radio show is still hard for me to get my head around, but I'm working on it.

Cruising down U.S. 151 for about an hour, you soon reach Platteville. I was program director of the campus station, WSUP, for three semesters. I met The Mrs. at the station--she was a comely newscaster who already had a boyfriend, I was a horndog DJ, one thing led to another. Today, WSUP is one of the best-equipped radio stations I've ever seen. Back in the day, we all wanted to get wanted real paying radio jobs so we could work with equipment that was reasonably well-maintained, instead of the creaky hand-me-downs we had at WSUP. Many of today's graduates are going from the Cadillac that is WSUP to real-world stations held together with Kleenex and spit--and that's a harder transition to learn your way through than the other way around.

Farther on down Highway 151, you eventually reach Dubuque, which is where I worked my first paying radio gig, at KDTH and what was then KFMD, the legendary D93. On this June day, I found myself thinking about one of the more ill-fated promotions I was ever involved in.

June is Dairy Month in the Midwest--with the dwindling number of dairy farms nowadays, it's not as big a deal as it used to be, but when I was a little baby DJ, it was still very important. It must have been 1982 when our morning crew was broadcasting live from a Dairy Month cow-milking contest during my afternoon show. At one point in the broadcast, I made a throwaway remark to the morning man that I, the son of a dairy farmer, would certainly be able to stomp him, a child of the Chicago suburbs, if we were ever to meet in a cow-milking contest. Flash forward one year. The studio phone rings one afternoon and a listener asks me, "So when are you and Don going to have that cow-milking contest you challenged him to last year?"

Did I mention that despite growing up on a dairy farm, I had never actually milked a cow by hand?

The contest went on, all right. I didn't get a drop out of my cow, unless you count the fact that it nearly peed on me.

You'd have to take a different highway to get to my other Iowa radio stops, in Davenport and Clinton, but those are travels for another time. This trip ends here tonight.


At 1:52 PM, Blogger The Stepfather of Soul said...

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