A little diddy bout Mr Bobbo, the MC of ESPN 1230AM
They finally kicked me out of radio in October of 1999. Being my chosen profession, and one I’d entered at a pre-adult stage, it was somewhat of a painful departure; if I’d been feeling any pain at all, in that particular year, I probably would’ve felt more loss and regret than I ever really did. Strange thing that, my complete inability to react or panic when one certainly should, perhaps, to some degree…but that’s a facet of my personality, for the most part. “We don’t rattle,” John Cusack says aloud to the haunted hotel room in the excellent fright-film 1408, and that’s just how I’ve felt, deep down inside, during most of my life’s really difficult moments. Go figure. That phase of the game began nearly ten years prior to John C. Wolfe’s reboot of my “career,” by way of asking me to sub-sidekick for Cletus on his infamous Daily Nooner show, on KSEY-AM. As you can guess, Toto old friend, we were a long way from home by then.
I’d entered that most easily-entered arm of Show Biz at the age of seventeen, while still in high school; what I mostly remember is frustration with my current job in the electronics department at the Wal-Mart store in Bowie, and hearing a local “jock,” Wassie Reynolds, on the hometown station. It had never occured to me that there was a live person there, doing that job. That is, the job of playing records, and talking about the tunes and the artists, taking phone calls and interacting with total strangers on a common, basic level…these were attractive additions to any formal Job Description, I thought, and I wondered how to get involved in the medium just like that, all of a sudden one afternoon, while heading over to my girl friend Leigh Ann’s house.
I went out to the station the following Monday, talked to the owner, and did an “audition.” The next day at school, the vice-principal, Mr. Bridgewater, called me to his office and said that he’d had a call from said radio station owner, asking general questions about my character and such…he said he’d given me a Good Word (a favor never taken lightly, here in Texas), and advised that I’d better do the man a good job. I was hired that afternoon. This was the early part of my senior year in high school, in 1987. I was seventeen, and on my way.
The man who trained me was an astute, amazingly talented announcer named Barney Henson. He showed me “the Board” for two full weeks, and demonstrated how to cue records (yes, there was still vinyl in those days, and I still miss those records so) and work multiple channels on the Board. Barney gave me a motto, way back then, that I still am wont to use today: “Plan your work, and work your plan.” He was a serious cat, for sure; and his style and instruction painted the early years of my approach to live announcing greatly. The man showed me fundamentals of broadcast announcing and production that I still use today, and I still insist that I’ve learned more from Barney, in two weeks in 1987, than I ever did from anyone I’ve worked with since.
And, just like that, KRJT-AM and FM became my whole damned world, for three years. Mom insisted that I needed to pursue an education, and I convinced her that the Associate’s program with the Columbia School of Broadcasting (keep your damn jokes to yourself, I’m not kidding here) would be both more inexpensive AND practical than sending me off to Gainesville, to slave upon “basics” like Algebra III and Psychology I, at Cooke County College. Boy, was I ever right!
And good Lord, the fun I had for the course of those first few years, learning and honing new skills with natural comedic timing and my tendency to “become” other people by changing my voice to step into the shoes of characters that I created myself. They commonly never did really have names at all, but Old Black Man, Punk Kid, and Superboy Sidekick are personas that existed within my own ego and imagination, and it occured to me very early on: what I was embarking on was more than mere Radio. Though it helped, I’ll tell you here-and-now, early on in this missive: For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a comedian.
You could say that radio just carried me there.
::to be continued::
—October 20th, Vernon, Texas