Millions of us grew up listening to John “Records” Landecker on the radio.
He’s incredibly talented, for sure. But what separates Landecker from other, less accomplished, talented people is hard work and perseverance.
In introducing Landecker to his 2017 National Radio Hall of Fame induction, Bob Sirott summed it up nicely, “If James Brown was the hardest working man in show business, John was the hardest working man in radio”. Sirott goes on to explain the method to Landecker’s madness and how he would often show up 4 hours early to prep. Watch the full clip below to get a peak behind the curtain of a true legend.
It’s not easy or always fun. But we all need coaching.
It’s not easy because you might feel embarrassed, insecure, or foolish when you realize something you’ve been doing publicly is not as good as you thought it was. As self-aware as we think we are, we all have blind spots. When someone questions our work, we get defensive because we can’t believe we could possibly suck that bad.
As my husband likes to say, “embrace the suck” of facing reality and let’s get busy growing.
As much at it might sting, you really do want to know the truth. The truth will set you free to become great, impactful, and relevant. And that’s what you want.
So pick a smart friend. Or ask your spouse. Or find a good coach. And listen.
“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.” – Proverb 12:1 NIV
Somewhere along the way, there has probably been some artist who captured your heart. For me, it’s Claude Monet. Back in the late 80’s, we got a chance to walk through The Louvre in Paris and we brought home two Monet prints that hang in my house. Often I stop in front of either picture and just stare.
The talent, the care, the skill, the subject, the color choices – they touch me over and over.
One day Tommy Kramer said to me: radio is art. He said it in passing but it stuck. I didn’t understand because I was young and hadn’t figured out much back then. But considering this notion of radio being art has morphed into a deep conviction that 100% yes, radio is an art form. Most people don’t know that or respect the art of radio, but nonetheless, it is.
That next break you snuggle between two songs or perform before a stopset is potentially full of timing, sound, flavor, color, chemistry, volume, speed, depth, feelings, conviction, transparency, layers of emotion, humor, pain, wisdom, and, best of all, you.
Just for a few days, open up your mind to radio being art, and ponder this: what you put between the songs can be much more than safe “blah blah blah” that leads to your Friday paycheck.
What you create has the power to move another human being, maybe for a lifetime.
IDEA: Find a true radio artist and listen a bunch this week. What makes them great? I’ve been inspired by the wit, timing, and presence of this guy.
Lisa blogs for on-air talent in Christian radio. She creates daily shows for stations around the nation, she coaches air-talent, and she lives in Denver with her family and her ever increasing number of Westies. Listen or reach her at www.lifewithlisawilliams.com.
What’s the One Thing you’re working to improve this week?
If you need some inspiration for your show or station, just pick a recurring feature, like say, a “farm report”. There’s a #showhack I first heard from Randy Lane that might help when you are working to improve upon a stale feature, simply ask “What else can we do to make it bigger and add impact”?
The greatest example of making something bigger is when Larry Lujack took the Farm Report on WLS in 1970 and converted it one of the most popular radio features of all time, Animal Stories.
Lujack explained the origins of “Animal Stories” in an interview with Bill Schenold in 1985.
In 1970 WLS switched me from afternoons to morning drive. This was back in the days when they still had Don McNeil’s Breakfast Club on the air. Early in the morning, prior to 5 a.m., we had a farm show on the air. It consisted of five minutes of reading the hog prices and stuff like that — which I thought was really boring to do.
I started getting hold of a bunch of farm magazines — you know — WLS having been the “Prairie Farmer” station. Even though we were playing Beatles and Stones, we were still getting these farm magazines. I began thumbing through them and finding these weird stories about farmers and their animals. I started reading them on the air instead of broadcasting the stupid grain prices. A lot of the stories were about farmers getting attacked by their animals, horses having quadruplets — and other strange things. People started calling up the station — and geez they really liked the farm show. I couldn’t believe that. Rock and roll fans were actually calling up requesting that the farm show be made longer. After the farm show got dumped by management, I just renamed it Animal Stories and branched out. Animal Stories was not only about farm animals — but any kind of animals. Without a doubt, this feature was the most successful thing that I’ve ever done from a listener acceptance standpoint. It’s just a great common denominator thing: everybody at one time has had a pet dog, or a pet rabbit, or a pet cat. Everybody likes to go to the zoo — everybody likes animals.
In the movie City Slickers, Curly, the crusty old cowboy played by Jack Palance, says the secret to life is “one thing.” When asked by Billy Crystal, playing a stressed out, overwhelmed New Yorker what that one thing is, Curly replied, “That’s what you need to find out.” Great. Thanks a lot, Curly. While I’m not offering up the secret to life, either, I can tell you that “one thing” is the secret to that mounting to-do list of yours.
The “one thing” concept is not revolutionary or original by me. It came into focus for me years ago when I was programming a radio station and its music. The music scheduling software had endured years of many different hands being involved and therefore had a mish-mash of different ideas, theories, and work. Clocks, schedules, coding, song information, etc. Anyone who has ever scheduled music, know there are seemingly endless nooks and crannies to scheduling software and to that end, seemingly endless ways in which it can be messy, aggravating and overwhelming.
Now you might not use the word “overwhelmed,” but I am guessing you have encountered a time when a project (or just your workload) seems so daunting, complicated, or messy, you don’t know where to begin, so you never do. You put it off. You procrastinate. And it remains this overwhelming mess.
This is when I decided to take the approach of “I cannot do all of it today, but what is one thing I can do this week.” Just one thing. So one week I worked on shaping up clocks. Another week it was creating consistency in song coding. The next week it was updating categories and so on and so forth.
I chose one thing a week, just because I had more on my plate than just music. But for you, maybe it’s one thing a day. I realize this seems overly simple. It is. And yet, we easily forget and get paralyzed by all that we have to do at any given time. Start with one thing and then do the next “one thing.” I realize this might not be as exciting as the secret of life and probably won’t be a signature moment in a movie, but it could help you feel less overwhelmed at work.
Rube Goldberg was an illustrator famous for depicting complicated gadgets that performed simple tasks in convoluted ways. A Rube Goldberg radio contest is similarly complicated.
“Most Christian radio station contests are WAY too complicated. People aren’t going to orient their lives around winning your prize,” writes syndicated radio personality Doug Hannah.
The only exception, I’ll add, is that if you are going to Rube Goldberg your radio contests, go all the way and, at least, make it entertaining.
Let’s talk transparency on Christian radio. Think about its purpose and the different ways to be transparent. Recently, some really talented radio people have said to me, “I don’t know how to share my personal life on the air.” So it got me thinking about the why of transparency.
Two premises we could think about:
1) If you open up to people, they will open up to God.
2) Knowing and loving God is the most important thing.
If those two things are true and if you are called to Christian radio, then it’s worth the effort to consider artistic and God-honoring transparency. Maybe fear of being too transparent keeps you from trying. Sometimes people have been too transparent with you and it was like they barfed on you. You don’t want to do that.
Brush against your life.
My first thought on transparency is: do the personal work of becoming a healthy, honest person off-air. You may have already done this work, or are in the process of this kind of work, but it takes opening up to others. Maybe it’s a trusted friend or family member, an accountability partner, a therapist, a spiritual coach, a life coach, a 12-step group, a trusted small group Bible study – whatever works for you, find a place to be really honest, to heal, and to grow.
Then bring to your show things that are healed (or in the process of healing) and brush against them on-air. Find words to communicate the universal truth of your life and/or suffering. You don’t barf or bleed on them. But you sit beside them and you share your humanity and point towards Him. You take your life that is hammered out or in the process of becoming healthy in Him and you point towards the listener’s life and Jesus.
Consider the value of becoming honest, embracing your humanity, and how that could lead to hope in Christ for a listener someday. Because if you can connect them to Him, they can find healing and true life. But start with you and Him, and honest, deep healing.
Then brush against it on-air. Your story is about the listener.
Something to think about: There’s more value in your wounds and scars than you know. “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 in the Message
This viral video demonstrates the power of changing just a few words to create an emotional response.
When communicating to an audience, take as much time as you need to tell the story, and no more.
Then EDIT EDIT EDIT.
Make the words count. This applies to talking on the radio, giving a speech, writing a letter to supporters, even stand-up comedy.
We live in a sound-bite world. But, it seems, this is not a new insight. German theologian Martin Luther, who died in 1546, lamented, “If I had my time to go over again, I would make my sermons much shorter, for I am conscious they have been too wordy.”
Steve Martin on the first question you should ask if you want to be a successful comedian:
I was talking to some students and they were saying things like, ‘How do I get an agent?’, ‘Where do I get my headshots?’ and I just thought … shouldn’t the first thing you think about is, “How do I be good?
The most successful comedians/artists/athletes are also the ones who work the hardest.
That seems obvious. But then why do we distract ourselves with a million tasks to avoid doing that one creative pursuit we know we ought to be working on? Asking for a friend, of course.
Working hard doesn’t guarantee a successful outcome but not working hard on your craft ensures mediocrity, or worse, apathy. Here’s to another work week of putting in the hours creating, refining, and shipping.
How many times have you heard this? A song on the radio ends, and the DJ says, “Oh man, I love that song!”
I don’t care. Because the fact that you like that song is not about me. The fact that you like that song is not topical, relevant, or compelling to my life. And sadly, if you say how much you like a song, it usually means you say it several times a show. As if the best thing you are bringing to the table to first captivate my attention or set yourself up to be heard by me is just your emotive response to a song. Over and over and over…
And have you considered this? I might not like that song. Maybe I was listening the whole time with you, wading through that tune to get to the next one. Because I need your station in my life. Because life is hard and I’m hungry for hope and encouragement. And then you come on the radio and drive a wedge between you and me with your “Man, I love that song” mindless transition that is the opposite of my thoughts and feelings.
Please never say it again. Please take yourself out of the first 10 seconds of every break you ever utter. Please?
Here are some other options, just off the top of my head …
- “If you like that song, then you are like Sarah who just called crying because that song has made such a difference.” Then tell Sarah’s story.
- “You just heard the new song by Matthew West, and we hope you like it.” Then talk about something really relevant, topical, and/or compelling.
- Insert something compelling from the story you are about to tell. Like, “It was kind of scary, the way he was yelling as they dragged him off the plane.” Then do your elements and tell the story.
Seriously most ANYTHING could be better than “Oh wow, I really love that one.”
Assert yourself and try to start your next break with heart. Because she needs someone to captivate her attention and give her something that will make her next few moments of life a little brighter.