A Boomer’s journey

September 1969…

I was 17 the first time I sat behind a microphone and cued a record. I was nervous but too excited to be scared. I had dreamed of this moment since I was eight. I was ready.

The first button I pushed exploded with thunderous drums, brass and a godlike voice:

On the air at KROY, Sacramento 1969.

“And now, LEE WILLIAMS on a Solid Gold Weekend!”

(Singers) “K-O-B-O, Yuba City!”

The second button I pressed started a rock song and my career.

Liftoff! I felt like I was on my way to the stars.

Program Manager at WHBQ Memphis 1975

Somehow 48 years have slipped away since that Saturday morning in Northern California. My resume is as long as the roads that took me from Yuba City to Sacramento to Los Angeles, back to Sacramento and then on to Memphis, back to Sacramento again, to Los Angeles again, then Chicago and now Dallas.

Along the way I’ve been married twice, became a father and bought three homes in different cities.

I’ve made and lost friends and watch loved ones die.

My son just turned 40.

I’ll get my first Social Security check next month. Medicare has my vitals.

And still, I arise at 2:45 a.m. to go do what I do. The old giant radio studio console has been replaced by computer screens and I haven’t played a song since 1975. I talk about the news these days and frankly, most of the stuff in the news is either boring, depressing or comical in an inside joke way, because at my age I feel like I’ve seen and heard it all before.

In the 60s, at the so-called dawning of the Age of Aquarius I first met my now writing partner, Anita Garner, and was given my dream job at KROY, Sacramento. I was the youngest member of the staff. Now I’m the oldest by more than ten years.

Dave & Amy, Mornings on KLIF, Dallas 2014

Some of my colleagues today are young enough to be my grandkids. As people do between one generation and another we’re nice to each other but we don’t really connect. We can share a laugh and bits of our lives but we can’t relate.

I’ve had a wonderful life including my career in radio, though sometimes I wish I had been allowed to stay in one house for more than just a few years. As Anita points out in her latest post radio life is nomadic. Moving from city to city can be exciting but as I near the end of my working life I wonder almost constantly where I will finally call home.

Between now and then I will write about the places I’ve been, the things I’ve learned and some of the stuff I’ve thunk.

That’s the beauty of a life. By the time you close in on the finish line you have tales to tell and wonders to share.

What follows on this page are some of those tales and thoughts compiled over the past several years.

And, you will love Anita. See inside her delightful mind by clicking here.

The accidental journalist

I started writing and reading radio news a long time ago by accident. In my mid-twenties, after several years as a rock and roll disc jockey, I decided it was time to grow up.

One morning in 1975, whilSeattle 2012e writing and recording commercials for a news and talk station in Sacramento, I was drafted to fill in for the real news anchor, who was sick. The station was desperate for somebody to just sit in the chair, read the stories and play the commercials.

Almost forty years later it still feels like I’m just filling in for the real news anchor.

I never had any desire to be a reporter but I learned by being sent to boring news conferences and terrifying police actions.

Early on I did a live report from inside a cloud of tear gas while a guy in a trailer was taking potshots at anything that moved.

Another day I found myself outside a bank where a shootout and police standoff suddenly made me a network reporter for ABC. A couple of months later it happened again when an attempted plane hijacking occurred at an airport near my home.

In that first year or two I was always in the wrong place at just the right time. (Or, vice versa.)

I never wanted to be in the serious news business. I’m not a serious guy. I was just a radio guy doing what I was told to do: tell what’s going on and how you feel about it.

Some of my past and present colleagues won’t be amused to learn that I have always thought the word “journalist” to be snotty and condescending. A few of you who find and develop your own stories are the real deal, of course, but most of us are fakers. I never wanted to have that label, “journalist”, hung on me because I don’t like it and I haven’t earned it. I just tell stories and try to be interesting and entertaining.

Weirdly, along the way through forty years I have gotten a bunch of awards I didn’t seek or expect, including four Mark Twain Awards from the Associated Press. The anti-journalist in me must admit, I kinda like those because Mark Twain is my hero.

Mark Twain told stories. He was interesting and entertaining.

This past week I was stunned to learn that I’ve been recommended for a fellowship to join six or seven other American “journalists” to travel to Germany in early November for the 25th anniversary commemoration of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Suddenly – after forty years of delivering news and information in the morning – it has finally landed on my thick skull:

I am an accidental journalist in the tradition of my hero who said, among many other wonderful things:

 

If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed.
If you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.“

–Mark Twain