Introduction To WFAL Radio Sound System Daze
The other day I was thinking, how did I actually start my professional DJ career? In summer of 1992, I went to a meeting that changed my life forever. I had just met my roommate Ray and he was going to a radio club meeting. Ray dreamed of being a Major League Baseball radio color analyst so I went along for the ride to see what it was all about. The meeting was really about joining the stations to work some radio shifts and play music. After the meeting, I asked Ray what he was going to do and he said he was going to think about it. After a week, I ended up going down to WFAL by myself, Bowling Green State University had two stations – WFAL was the am station and WBGU was the fm station, to talk to the general manager about getting an on-air shift. I figured start on am and then work my way to fm.
The only slot they had available was a 2am – 6am slot so I took it. I coined the overnight graveyard shift “Marc Anthony’s Mad House” and I played classic and alternative rock deep cuts. I got lots of calls from the local prison to play Jail Break by Thin Lizzy. One early morning shift, I was back in the record stacks and I couldn’t find a new song from a Ted Nugent album. I got the keys to the main programming room to grab some new music CDs to see if the Uncle Ted song was there. In a moment of discovery, I saw in the corner, a box covered in posters. The large wood rectangular box was painted black with the station logo and nicked up beyond comprehension. At the end of my shift, I asked the programming manager what was in the box and he told me it was the old WFAL sound system. I asked him for the keys and I checked it out during long break during my next overnight shift. [I played the classic song Maggot Brain by Parliment – it’s longer than Meatloaf’s Paradise by the Dashboard Lights.] I felt like I was unearthing Al Capone’s vault when I opened it. Inside the box were two Technics turntables and a RadioShack mixing board mounted in the middle. I plugged in the surge protector and turned it on. A feeling came over me, the sparks flew and I knew this was my destiny. The only problem was no sound was coming out because I needed to hook it up to speakers. Thus, I grabbed some records out the stacks and listened to them gently as the needle played over them unamped.
The following day, I asked the station manager Tom why the mobile DJ system wasn’t being used. He said no one asked him about it in years but you’re free to take it out. He said you get paid $3.33 an hour and the station would get half of that back. You would be responsible for booking your own gigs and each customer has sign a liability agreement. He then gave me the keys to the speakers & amp – and said, “it’s yours if you want it!”
I took the keys to unlock the two missing pieces of equipment and I went down to the basement to hook up the speakers and amp. However I could only find one record to do a sound check; it was crammed in the amp case – It’s Raining Men by the Weather Girls. I cranked it up and danced around for a moment 🙂 Yet I felt something was missing; I needed to take this to the next level – I needed more DJs. I had one friend in my dorm that had the same insane interest in music as me so he was a sure thing. It wasn’t until the following night when I bumped into another musician that changed my philosophy of DJing and showmanship completely.
I also worked part-time at the ice cream shop on campus, the Galley, to make some extra money in addition to the radio station job. After I uncovered the sound system, I had to work late there for a special event featuring a stand up comedian. Around 1 am when I was closing up, I saw this dude out of the corner of my eye wearing a tye-dyed hat rolling speakers into my shop. He told me he was breaking down some equipment from a party he DJ’d up stairs and was putting it away. He then starts talking about how you can’t have a party without special effect lighting. I asked him on the spot if he was interested joining the WFAL Sound System – he said yes and the rest is history. Stay tuned for more stories from the DJ Chronicles.