My class in broadcasting school got confirmation of what we already suspected – a lot of radio announcers use fake names. Most of time it’s the last name, but I met a few announcers in my travels that ditched their entire name for something different.
There were a few unwritten rules with names. Too many syllables in your real name – change it. If your last name didn’t have a natural rhythm or wasn’t memorable – change it. If you were born with a cool sounding name like a guy in my class named Roger Moore, you’re set!
I kept my name when I started at WRDB/WNFM in Reedsburg. I didn’t see a reason to change it. I also started working at WPDR in Portage and chose Chris Walters as my name so I wasn’t using my last name at both stations. Walter was my grandpa on my dad’s side, but why I took the name is beyond me – he was a jerk to most everyone his entire life.
I wasn’t Chris Walters for long. The air shifts started to conflict so I left WPDR and stuck with WRDB for a year and a half. Then I was hired at WJJO.
The program director at WJJO asked if I was really going to use Zantow on the air. Ummmm…I guess not! I decided to flip open a phone book and see where I landed, which was on Ryan. Not only did Chris Ryan sound good, I had a friend with Ryan as their last name.
I remained Chris Ryan for the remainder of my career. At some point I signed a commercial log C. Ryan and the letters ran together so it looked like CRYAN. That became my new signature. Many people called me Zany Z or Crazy Chris back then but I don’t believe I ever said those nicknames on air. I used other monikers such as “Sunday evening companion” or “weekend warrior.”
I said Chris Ryan on the air probably more than I’ve said my real name in my lifetime. When I worked at AM 1310 WIBA in the mid-90’s I didn’t have to say my name as much. I got a “name liner” that I could play a couple times an hour, done by someone with a deep authoritative voice.
Here’s how my name liner sounded with a song intro playing underneath: