My Radio Daze… in the words of the Grateful Dead, “What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been.”
I started out my college years wanting to be in TV production, only to be bitten by the dreaded radio bug. After all, TV, what was I going to do, be a news anchor? I was 18, who knows what’s going on in the world at 18? So my radio life began at Hofstra University’s radio station. It actually had a transmitter that broadcast PAST the university, cool! By senior year I was TA-ing production classes, and part of a paid radio staff. I was half of a team, “Good Morning Hofstra.” Each weekday Shawna Wharton and I would inform the campus, and the south shore of Long Island, what was going on in the world.
While working the college circuit I discovered if I wanted to be in commercial radio, I’d better start Interning! So, Summer after Freshman year I sent my very light resume out to the local Long Island TV and radio stations. That’s when I truly fell in love with commercial radio. I was interviewed by this guy with the greatest set of pipes, Roger Luce, who he hired me for the FREE position, and I was off on a 3 year ride at “Long Island’s Home of Rock & Roll.”
Spring ’91 arrives, and so does graduation. The gravy train was coming to a grinding halt in just a few months. The rocker in Babylon was growing old, and my bank account drained. A professor at Hofstra told me a new morning show at K-Joy, which was no longer K-Joy, it was “the New WKJY,” was looking for a producer. Ugh… another Internship I thought, and really lame music, I’m too cool for that! So I reluctantly went on the interview and met T.K. Townsend and Lisa Ritchie. We hit it off, and I could make a few bucks driving “Lucky the Duck” to events. After a stale relationship at BAB, the new crowd was refreshing, and rewarding. I made friendships there that I still have, and value greatly, to this day, with the then night guy, Jonathan Sands (AKA Charley Connolly). Charley, though I’d never tell him to his face, is one of the most talented, good hearted people, and a true inspiration in radio. And pipes… he made Roger at BAB sound like a school girl. He always played fair (odd in radio), and has always been straight with me. Can you tell I really like this guy?
As winter rolled in, so did my desire to do what I needed to do to get on the air professionally. Winter ’91 – ’92 was a cold one for me, with lots of deep snow, especially when you drive a Camaro in West Dover, Vermont! I started part time and quickly graduated to morning news (ugh, news)/side kick of the “Smooth Start” (did I mention this was some wacky Jazz format?) plus midday guy. Work started at 4a, and ended at 4p. All that for $10,500 and NO benefits! Ah, radio! Like most folk in that part, Mount Snow ski lodge supplemented the income.
Low pay in the icy mountains grew old fast, plus, the FCC started granting a load of FM signals on Long Island. East Hampton’s “Voice of the East End” was signing on March of ’92, and some old K-Joy contacts, Andy & Aaron, helped me get my tape to the then PD, Steve Richards. I met Steve a few days after being hired part time for Beach 104.3 in Amagansett. They were in a race to sign on. EHM beat ’em, and offered me full time, 7p-Midninght, essentially doubling my mint Vermont salary! I was on the fast track. The station signed on like a lion… then came the insultant, I mean consultant… 3 formats in 1 year before settling on this new funky format, “AAA.” What’s it with me and screwy formats? On a positive, I did move to mornings, and loved it! Then one day… what was this, a computer, doing in the air studio? The Arakis Digilink. Wow, a CD jukebox that holds 500 CDs that a computer can segue… what’s that writing on the wall? So the resume started going out.
So while at EHM as myself, Peter Elia, Pete Evans was born. I started doing part time at “Long Island’s Oldies, B-103!” I have to say, while I loath oldies, it’s a fun format to do. But the split personalities didn’t end there. I got a call from my old PD at K-Joy, Tony Florentino (thanks Charley for giving him my tape and steering him right!). Thus, Peter Byrnes was born. Now, keeping my name straight would be the tough part. I only slipped once, and it was at the full time job, where I gave out the “Bee Line” instead of the EHM request line… oops! K-Joy was an A.F.T.R.A. shop, now being married, the money was quite helpful.
The fall of ’95 (just shy of the year of deregulation and oh how radio was to change)… the triple madness came to an end when K-Joy, “Long Island’s Best Mix,” soon to become “Long Island’s Soft Rock” and yes, back to “K-Joy 98.3″/ WHLI, “Music of your Life,” offered me a full time job in the production department. Charley, now morning guy, later jumped from Production Director to Program Director, and I elevated to Production Director and became the computer and web guy (helpful for my next job). How did the computers work in there? ENCO! The automation computer had made its way to this end of Long Island. If you can’t beat ’em, learn how to run the computers better than anyone else and be safe in your job. During my nearly 5 years tenure I achieved the near impossible. On my last day there, radio legend and former “WMCA Good Guy,” Dean Anthony said to me “Peter, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go, most I didn’t care about, but you, I’m going to miss.” I was honored and touched, he was not someone you won over easily, you really had to earn his respect, and I did. I kept in touch with Dean-O over the years, helping from time to time on his web site. Dean passed away in October 2003 from cancer, quite suddenly actually. Unfortunately for me it was just a few days after I had found out about his condition. He worked to nearly his last day. Mental note, NEVER go to a funeral with Charley if you need to be serious.
Y-2k (AKA, the end of the world) was coming, and I wanted out before all the stations’ computers exploded on January 1. Besides, if I was going to be working on computers, I wanted to be paid like I was, and not paid like a DJ. So, just shy of computer Armageddon, I was hired by the then AMFMi to run New York City’s number one radio station’s web site, 1067litefm.com. The Big City! AMFMi was quickly “assimilated” a few months later by Clear Channel, and the stations started piling on one after another…
Peter Byrnes did a couple of shifts for a while at K-Joy at one point, but family time became more important to me then air time. The web site work, and opening our own business, takes over from that point. Oh sure, from time to time I did a few commercials on Lite fm (quite an honor to be on NYC’s #1), and I was Pete, Q’s web guy on the on the Q1043.com report. I even sneaked in a few spots with Q’s Production Director, Rick Gangi.
“Every time I think I’m out, they pull me back in!” – Michael Corleon
October 27, 2004… After 5 years of loyal service you find out in radio just how much you’re worth to a company, evidentially, too much. Fortunately, I try not to burn bridges. Thanks to a good friend (Charley Connolly) and his good friend (Charlie Lombardo), I was back on the air and bringing in some cash and benefits. Production Director for Love 96.1 and WRCN, and afternoon guy on the Love. Not exactly where I wanted to be at this point in my life, back where I started, but you do what you got to to do. In the end, I made a friend in Lombardo, and had some fun on the air again. I found out for sure that I am indeed over becoming a radio star. Oh yes, that happened day one, driving in a blizzard to tell people to stay home.
“I’m Living On The Air In Cincinnati…”
WKRP In Cincinnati