We all know the power of the Internet. We can track down friends we grew up with. We can reach bigwigs who would not answer our phone calls or letters via email and often receive a response.
At this point in life, I consider myself jaded. I've seen it all, and very little shocks me anymore. But one story still gets my head shaking when I think about it. The story started many years ago.
In June 1972, my brother and I set off on a car trip across the U.S. from our home in Baltimore. In the evenings, we set up our little pup tent, which was usually surrounded by luxury RV's at KOA campgrounds. Even back then, I was a full-fledged member of radio dorkdom and traveled equipped with my cassette recorder/radio in order to aircheck stations across the country. My brother had his own purpose for taking the trip, to scout colleges, one of which was Vanderbilt.
As we approached Nashville, my recorder was at work, taping WMAK, the market's Top-40 station. The midday personality was named John Young, a guy with a great voice and delivery. As my brother wandered around the Vandy campus, I remember the recorder/radio sitting atop the car hood as I listened to more of Young's show.
Even back then, I read the trades and followed John Young's career from WMAK to KILT in Houston. In the late 1970's, I read on the front page of Radio & Records that Young had been named Program Director of Atlanta's Z93, and of course I knew who he was. I was quite familiar with Z93, then a kingpin CHR, and had heard the station on my first visit to Atlanta in 1975. Nevertheless, that was the last I heard of John Young for many years.
The airchecks from my trip and numerous others that I had recorded in the 70's and 80's lay untouched in my basement for years as I moved from Baltimore to New York to Baltimore to Atlanta. In 2005, I decided to contribute many of the recordings to ReelRadio.com, a website comprised of Top-40 radio airchecks. Prior to submitting them, I listened to each one. And after many years, I again heard John Young on WMAK from 1972.
A year or so later, I was scanning the posts on Radio-Info.com and noticed one from someone whose screen name was JY. Another poster replied to JY's post with words to the effect of, "John Young, good to see you on here. I'm Rebecca Stevens' husband, and when I told her you were on the board, she smiled." I then emailed John through Radio-Info and told him about the WMAK aircheck that I had contributed to ReelRadio.com.
John replied, saying he was glad I wrote. That started a constant dialogue between us that developed into a friendship. John, now with a successful voiceover business, is a smart and thoughtful radio observer, and is always generous with his time and effort in responding to me. And, he is loyal to his friends, including Steve McCoy, whom John convinced to move to Atlanta back in 1981 from Nashville, where he was comfortable. When he was inducted into the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame last year, McCoy acknowledged that John Young had instilled in him the courage to go head-to-head with 94Q's Gary McKee, then the market's top morning man.
While listening to and recording John Young back in 1972, I could never have imagined that I would become friends with him 35 years later. Whenever I think about that, it still blows my mind.
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Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV Blog: http://blogs.ajc.com/radio-tv-talk/