“Hey, it’s almost 10. Turn on the radio. Seacrest is about to start.” Said no one, ever.
I was on Maui and visiting with a friend who had successfully fought and beat cancer like it was her bitch. A celebration was in order. And on Maui, a place so laid back that an EKG would be hard-pressed to pick up a sign of life, a celebratory party like this involves a backyard barbecue. A dozen friends. Some coolers of beer. A pig on a spit and some music.
We were well into it the festivities, sitting around in lawn chairs, wind in the palms, enjoying the dinner and each other’s company when a neighbor, Wayne, said “Get the radio! The pirate’s about to start!” and someone dashed inside to get an old beat up boombox. He came back out, plugged it in, the party continued and I was exposed to The Polynesian Pirate and a couple of hours of the most amazing Radio I’ve ever heard.
The Pirate was the Saturday night jock/show on a station in Kihei and he did the program from his boat, sailing in the waters off the island. It was a specialty music show but what happened between the songs was what made this so remarkable.
“Remarkable” is a great litmus test. CBS destroyed a pretty historic station a few years ago and while I was trying to stem the tsunami of listeners flowing away from the brand, I had one of the smartest people I know listen to them for 60 minutes and his observation? “There was nothing remarkable about them.”
Sitting in my cheap little folding chair, eating pasta salad, working on my third beer and trying not to appear too gluttonous with the pork, I listened to him paint this amazing picture of himself, alone on the boat, the sound of waves, wind in the sails and occasionally laughter and music from other boats as he stopped at a cove party across the channel on Lanai.
For three hours the Polynesian Pirate provided the background music and banter to a group of locals enjoying a tranquil Saturday night in paradise. Three hours. Most stations would kill for three hours of block listening on any night.
As a Radio Geek I tried dissecting it and wondering how he was able to MacGyver a system to get his signal ashore and was he playing CD’s and….it hit me. This was theater. He was undoubtedly at the station creating this production with some basic sfx and a presentation that was so matter-of-fact that why wouldn’t you believe he was really out there, sailing around, playing cool music and just chilling out like his listeners.
I would never have told my new friends this. That would be like some amateur magician jumping onto the stage at a David Copperfield show to reveal his secrets.
We launched WiLD in Tampa on 48 hours notice so it required us having to go and buy all the music and come up with ground plan that would kill time and keep the audience engaged while we hired people, got vehicles and basically built the station.
Drew Rashbaum, the GM, probably would have fired anyone who suggested “Let’s play 10,000 songs with no DJ’s!” Drew got it.
So we created this premise that these two students, Josh and Brian, had hijacked the station signal and for three weeks were floating around off St. Pete Beach, playing songs and partying with people who ferried out more music.
Realistic? Tampa gets a thunder storm every afternoon at 4:12 and one of these knocked WiLD off for about a minute. The studio line (which was presented as Josh and Brian’s cell phone) BLEW UP. People thought they’d drowned. 18 years later people in Tampa will reply “Josh and Brian” when asked “Who started WiLD 98.7?” The stuff you don’t get with “10,000 songs in a row”.
When Strawberry was doing nights at Wild in San Francisco he would do rooftop parties and on Friday nights finish the last couple of hours of his shift sitting on the roof deck of some listener’s house. It was cool. It was immediately the hottest ticket on the station to get him to come and do it from your place, it sounded like the Bay Area….and it was all staged.
With so many stations that could be literally anywhere and have no local feel to them, what would be your roof top or pirate ship? It’s a good question that could lead to some remarkable Radio. What a concept.