Radio Days Revisited – The Revolving Door of Madison Radio

I found an article in my box of radio memories about the instability of Madison radio. I think I kept it because I was part of a radio staff housecleaning a couple months earlier.

I graduated from Trans American School of Broadcasting in September 1991 and started working at WRDB/WNFM in Reedsburg. I stayed until February 1993 and left to work at 94.1 WJJO in Madison doing weekend shifts and weeknight full-ins.

At that time WJJO was a classic rock hybrid format – “rock and roll without the rough edges” and “deep tracks” (album cuts that most listeners hadn’t heard of). About two weeks after I started at WJJO the station was sold to Midwest Families. The air staff had a couple weeks notice to pack our bags but we were “welcome to reapply” for our jobs.

The station changed format and I think Midwest may have only held on to one or two announcers. Most of the rest of us went to 96FM WMLI. That’s another story for another post.

A radio career back then had a few common themes – sooner or later you’d get fired and friends would sometimes follow each other to work at another station. Often in radio the grass was greener elsewhere – at least until ratings dropped, the format changed or you became a budget cut.

Free CD’s, concert tickets and T shirts were great, but they didn’t pay the rent or put food in your stomach. The pay in the Madison market was generally low and some stations didn’t offer it. When I worked full time I didn’t have employer provided insurance.

Why did anyone stay in radio back then? I think a lot of us just loved music and being on the air. There were also a lot of good friendships made that stood the test of time. If you stuck it out long enough you had experience working at a lot of radio stations with different formats. The downside of that is your resume would no longer fit on one page!

Town to town, up and down the dial, indeed.

Three months into my career and I already figured out how it’s probably going to go: My 1991 Holiday Message

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