Home Music Industry News Guest Post: Goodbye Radio, From Brian James

Guest Post: Goodbye Radio, From Brian James

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October 31st, was my last time being on the radio.

I still remember the day I fell in love with radio. I used to be such a troublemaker growing up. I would terrorize my parent’s beautiful home for hours until they came home and then I would get banished to my room for what felt like eternity. My parents would come in my room and unplug my games as well as my TV, leaving me by my lonesome. But, I wasn’t alone.

I had one of those huge stereos in my room with a tape recorder and fully functional radio. Standing at a mere 4 feet tall, the speakers were nearly as tall (or short, however, you want to slice the pie) as me. One day, while I was in time out, I decided to just turn the radio on and let the voices in the box keep me company during my stints in solitary confinement. I heard, “WPGC, 95.5, 18 Jams in a row. It’s Big T-I Double G, E-R.” Then the voice in the box said, “IT’S…. FRIDAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY.” I was pretty sure that I had struck gold!

I couldn’t see these people but I could feel them as they spoke and I began to fall in love. They would talk about my school, they would talk about my favorite artists, and they would talk about things that even at my young age meant the world to me.

As this relationship between radio and myself began, our honeymoon phase was unforgettable. I never turned my radio off in my room, trying to catch the new music so that I can record it through my tape player, and listen to it whenever I want. My mother loved the Tom Joyner Morning Show and every single morning, I would listen to them attentively as if they were telling me how to get the golden ticket to Wonka’s Chocolate Factory (I was obsessed with Willy Wonka, don’t laugh).

My parents, stressed out from my behavior issues, began to notice how the radio would calm me down and it was only a matter of time before they bought me my very own Walkman. It was black and yellow, the size of a bible and it recorded things off of the radio as well. I had all of the new music!

Around this time is when I began to listen to someone who became a mentor to me, Russ Parr. Every morning, I would tune into the Russ Parr Morning Show as I was on my way to school, not really old enough to enjoy the jokes but something about it felt so good to me that I was as hooked as Pookie in New Jack City (Yes, dancing all through The Carter and everything).

I even began to listen to this older guy with the “Pretty Eyes”, the legendary Donnie Simpson. The allure of his voice lured me into the world of radio as I began to practice being the ‘Radio Man’ in the mirror. Life was so good! My dreams were beginning to shape themselves.

12512817_998689140169693_4678738801329141800_nOne day, I specifically remember playing a horrible game in my AAU summer basketball league and feeling like my world was collapsing. I was so hurt about my performance that I didn’t listen to the radio on the way home and I didn’t talk to anyone. Once we got home, I stormed upstairs like any other brat would do (like Kevin McAlister in Home Alone when someone would tell him “No”).  I slammed my door and laid on my back staring at the ceiling. I grabbed my limited edition, all black,  ‘Washington Wizards’ basketball and began shooting it to the ceiling. I noticed a faint voice in the background and heard laughing coming from the far-side of the room. The radio was on.

I got up off of the bed and turned it up, “It’s Flex and Rane, on PGC! You know we number 1 for the D.C. Man, Rep your hood like it’s all good.” I was in love! I turned the radio up to full blast and completely forgot that I air balled that lay up a few hours ago. I had found my vice but little did we know, I had just found my passion.

-A passion that must now fade.

As years progressed, my love for radio never vanished. I got older and began to listen to more personalities across the city and even began discovering new styles of radio and music. I began to listen to news radio as well as sports radio, becoming somewhat of a ‘brainiac’ storing statistical information in my mind as if I was preparing to write a report for class.

Who would’ve known that radio would save my life in a few years.

Twisting the hands of the clock, my loving relationship with radio was still standing fervent and strong. I had enrolled into Salisbury University to play football and percussion (Concert Orchestra and Wind Ensemble). I don’t really talk about it much publically but anyone close to me will tell you that my freshman year was a heavy year for me. My grades were horrendous and I had gotten myself into a bind that seemed unmanageable. I was facing expulsion from the school for poor academic habits and basically had to plead my case as to why I should be offered a second chance.

After God allowed the university to give me a second chance, the President (Who is now forever a friend of mine and my family) informed me that my dreams of the gridiron would have to take a back seat if I wanted to continue to chase my degree. She also stated that while she was taking me off of the team, she would be recommending me for some social clubs and groups on campus. She suggested I get involved with the radio station on campus, WXSU 96.3. Little did she know, she just put me on a path that I would walk for almost 9 years.

I joined the school station and by my senior year, I was running the station along with one of my best friends in the world, Garrett Connell. We made history as a college station with limited power, promoting ourselves in the local community as if we were a “real” radio station. It was unbelievable the amount of work we were able to accomplish but I didn’t do it on my own.

I remember a few days after President Eschbach told me to join the radio station, I began streaming radio from back home on my computer. I would listen to someone who would become my mentor, EZ Street, every day, never missing a beat. One day, I sent him a tweet just wondering about the possibility of learning a few things from him. He responded, “If you can make it here tomorrow with your resume’, then we can talk.” I hopped in my 1990 Volkswagen Passat (With No Brakes) and flew across the Bay Bridge to the 93.9 WKYS Studios at Radio One DC. I met with EZ and sure enough, our vibe and chemistry was unbelievable, almost as if God ordained this himself. I began coming back home on Saturdays to learn about radio. Then those Saturdays turned into Fridays and Saturdays until the summer hit, when I started going every day. Other people would come and go in the class but I was the only one who showed up not only on time, but consistently asking questions about radio. I would take that knowledge back to school and share it with the other students on the radio station with hopes of creating an army of bad-ass radio people!

11057264_933518230020118_3965058198025794109_nI was hooked. Addicted at the core. 

I was learning so quickly, I was being offered positions at (real) stations in the city of my school.  I was teaching everyone the ways of radio and continued to build my dream of becoming an on-air personality. I remember we put together a crazy line up of shows for our college station and gained so much listenership in the city of Salisbury that the school began booking us for everything. It was heaven. I even had a lawsuit against me, you know it’s not ‘lit’ until you have a lawsuit.

May 19th, 2012, I graduated from Salisbury University with a degree in Media Productions and a minor in Music (Duh). 2 days later on May 21, I was offered my first real position at a big market station, 93.9 WKYS. These guys were already family but now it was time to really grind and put in the work. I began as a Promotions Assistant and Board Op working under one of the most charismatic and wise Program Directors, Neke Howse. I also worked under someone who became a big brother to me, Calvin Lewis in Promotions. It was tough but it was needed.

My mentor, EZ Street, had showed me everything he knew and I immediately began to show it off. I ran the board flawlessly day in and day out, “Make the board sing,” they would tell me. I was enamored with the overall ‘Art’ of radio and how to create a vibe on the radio. I was just waiting on my chance to ‘talk on the radio’.

On July 24th, 2012 that dream came true.

I’m not sure what happened but I got the call to come fill in on the radio. It was already 2 in the morning and I had to be there within 10 minutes but I lived 35 minutes away. Not to mention, I had just lost my third car and had no way of getting there as I didn’t want to wake my parents and I was also not allowed to drive their cars because of some bad driving decisions.

I used my last $100 to take a cab from Bowie, Maryland to Silver Spring, Maryland which is a trip long enough to get through at least half of your favorite album. I ran in and prayed to God saying ‘Thank You’ and hoping that this was the beginning of something special. I killed that show and was then offered the overnight slot permanently.

I learned so much at WKYS but in 2014 I had to go out and soar, seeing the world for what it was or wasn’t. I accepted a position in Buffalo on it’s heritage station, 93.7 WBLK. I worked for someone who looked out for me like a son and taught me about myself, Chris Reynolds. I also met a person who is now my big brother, DJ Big Rob and learned all of the life lessons that I could possibly learn from him.

When I got to Buffalo, I wanted to make history and so did Chris. We put together a night show that was designed to be like a ‘Breakfast at Night’ type of show. We took the entertaining ideas and personalities that you would usually see in the morning and used it at night. It worked perfect for me because I always wanted to do morning radio anyway. We picked up my sister and friend, Michelle Visa and created a show called “Brian’s World”.

I don’t really talk about it much but if you come to my apartment, you’ll see those ratings still hanging from my refrigerator even unto this day. We literally made history and had some of the highest ratings ever as well as was the number 1 night show for an entire year. The only reason that history stopped was because I got greedy and wanted more. Sad face.

With that being said, I accepted a midday position on Indy’s HOT 96.3. Although I couldn’t bring my co-hosts, I took the show ‘Brian’s World’ on the road. I landed in Indianapolis with a passion for people and a passion for radio, two things that if you saw me; you could tell that’s what I was about. I made so many great relationships through my move to Indy and helped out a lot of people. I would get daily calls that would go into my “In Case of a Rainy Day” file, calls from people saying ‘Thank you” for a funny bit on the radio or calling to tell me thank you for helping get them a job. Good times.

But all good things must come to an end, right?

Now what you have been waiting for:

The last 9 years of my life have been dominated by my undying passion for people and radio, taking me to 5 different cities as an air personality and even more cities as a DJ and performer. After all of the memories, the time has come for me to unplug my headphones, turn off my mic, and log out of my Vox Pro.

October 31st, was my last time being on the radio.

While it was a perfectly timed decision, I can’t lie and say it was all mine. I’m not sure if this like a ‘See you later’ type of thing or if it’s a ‘Goodbye’ forever type of thing but I will not be on your radio in the mornings anymore. 

I wanted to first of all. say Thank You to anyone who has played a role in my fast and strong radio career.

I would be remised not to say thank you to someone who made me a monster on the air, EZ Street. He showed me everything he knew about radio and taught me how to properly engage communities. He told me the importance of never stopping the music and how to properly prepare myself for the next 3 minutes of life on the radio. The life lessons he spewed out to me were even more valuable as he began to look at me as a son. Thank you brother.

Also, a huge thank you is directed toward someone else who brought me into his family, Russ Parr. It was funny; when I first began this journey of radio I was really scared to meet Russ and I think he could see that. He began bringing me into his studio during his show and I would learn how to unapologetically be myself on the radio but, he also introduced me to the art of radio telling me that it was much more than just songs. I learned so much from you bro, thank you so much.

Also, to Neke Howse and Kelson, two people who were drill sergeants in my radio life but people who also opened the pathway of knowledge, exposing me to some of the most coveted of radio secrets making me the personality I am today. These two were also the first two Program Directors who believed in me from day one. It was painful some nights but I thank you so much for leading me down this path and molding me into a man.

I also have to thank my Program Director in Buffalo, Chris Reynolds who made me believe in myself as well as everything that I do.  I remember how nervous I was getting off of that train in Buffalo, getting ready to do my first Air Shift as a full time personality. You calmed me down but assured me that this is now the real deal and I would have to give it my all. I haven’t looked back ever since.

I would like to thank Rickey Smiley for being a great role model, friend, and frat brother. It’s interesting how timing is with everything; God makes no mistakes. When you were here last week and we had our conversations catching up with each other and talking about perseverance, you reminded me what I was made for and whose I was. We talked about when we first met and how eager and hungry I was as a young personality and how much I’ve learned in a short period of time. You reminded me that I can do all things thru Christ who strengthens me, a reminder that I needed. I’m glad I was able to introduce you to my girlfriend finally as well! Thank you for everything.

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I also would like to thank my big brother, DJ Topspeed. What you guys heard on the radio was literally just a microcosm of our relationship. I had been struggling with life and some things but DJ Topspeed, you sir had made sure that I never had to struggle alone. Whether it was dinner on an ’empty table night’ or a new hard drive full of music, saying thank you is the least that I can do. As I continue to perform my music, you will be on every single stage with me, and I appreciate you more than you know!

I have to say a huge thank you to my brother and sister, B-Swift and Keisha Nicole. Thank you guys for being there for me in Indianapolis and for allowing me to join your team. Swift, I will never forget that night you saved my life because I had gotten myself into some crazy trouble (LOL). Keisha, you’ve supported everything I’ve done and truth be told, I may not have written my first book without you because you were one of the people to tell me to chase the dream. Thank you! P.S: Thank you for your acting skills on the album too.

Lastly, I have to thank Indiana for giving me my girlfriend! 😉

I have so many other people to thank and you know I could write a book but I will thank everyone in personal conversations.

Radio has been my life for so long but it has birthed a career of entertainment that has opened my iris up to all new levels and possibilities. As I close the book on radio, several other books have been opened. I’ve never worked this hard in my life on some of these projects. God is truly good.

Indy! I’m still going to be here and me and my team have been working on a huge charity event for Christmas time. I want to make sure I can get everyone there, I’ll have the details coming soon for you.
Hey, just like I said on the radio every day, “If you need me for absolutely anything, find someone who has my number and hit me up.”

One love! Thank you!

HUGE announcement on Black Friday, stay tuned.

CEO of RF Focus, Radio and Music Industry Veteran. Radio DJ, Programmer, Musician and Voice Talent. Graduated from Performing Arts in Buffalo, N.Y. and worked at the legendary KKBT (92.3 The Beat) during its nationwide heyday in the early 90s. Also worked for Stevie Wonder at KJLH.