Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Another Excerpt from Traveling a Rocky Road with Love, Faith and Guts, How I became a DJ in 1967

The excerpt begins right after I had moved back to a small town in Southeast Missouri, and was in the middle of divorce proceedings. This was in 1967, and there were not many women in broadcasting at that time.  Few people know that I was one of the first DJ’s on the air.  It begins like this:

I found a job at Montgomery Ward’s as the Head of the Fashion Accessories Department.  Again, I was working forty-five to forty-eight hours a week, but this time I made sixty-five dollars a week.  This was in the late sixties, and the world for women was still very limited when it came to jobs and pay.

It was a time when men were paid more for the same position.  The men who were heads of department made a little over one hundred dollars.  I really did not think that was fair.  I was the head of my household, I had children and I was stuck with the bills incurred while I was married, and the money was tight.  The manager who hired me said that I would get a raise in six months, when six months passed I had not received a raise.  Finally, I made an appointment to talk to the manager about it.  He laughed at me.  I told him that I really needed to make more money because of my situation.  His response was, “Why don’t you get a part-time job as a carhop.”  To say the least, I was appalled.  However, I had no recourse because there was no such thing as gender discrimination at that time. 

Just before I had gone to the manager to ask about my raise, the marketing director had asked me to make some radio commercials for them.  There was at a radio station, KWOC, in the little shopping center where Ward’s was located.  I made several commercials, and one day while I was there, I overheard they needed a DJ for the Sunday night show.  I asked the DJ who had been working in the sound room helping to record the commercials about the position.  He said it was four hours and the pay was twenty-five dollars.  I wanted that job.  I went to the manager of the radio station, and told him I wanted the job.  I know he did not take me seriously because in those days, it was a man’s world.  He told me to “go get one of the guys to make a demo tape, and he would listen to it.”

I immediately went to the recording room, and snagged the DJ who had worked with me on the commercials.  I told him the boss had told me to make a demo tape, and I asked if he would help.  I made the tape, and returned to work at Wards. 

The next morning before I went to work, I stopped in at the radio station, and asked the manager if he had listened to the tape.  He said he had not but he would try to get around to it that day.  I went back after lunch, but I got the same response.  I returned the next morning, same answer.  I returned on my lunch hour and after work.  After doing this for about three days, he was really getting tired of seeing my face.  This time when I arrived at his door, he said, “You really want this job, don’t you.” I said that I did.  He said, “Oh well, show up Sunday evening for work.”  

On Sunday, I was early.  The DJ that was finishing his shift sat me down at the microphone.  He showed me the log, how to work the cassette tape for commercials, and the eight tracks for station ID’s.  He said I had to pull my own records for the show, and I had to go up front to get the AP news that came out on log sheets off the teletype machine.  I had to edit this to make a news broadcast.  He took me back to the microphone.  He said that if I flipped the switch to the left, I was on the air, and when it was straight, I was off.  There were three turntables.  One was for the FM, and that one used 331/3 records.  The other two were for the AM broadcasting, and would be the ones I used for the live show.  He told me to stick to middle of the road music.  He said I was to take phone calls for requests.  All this was done in a matter of minutes, and then he walked out of the room and said, “It’s your show, baby!” 

It was my show and it was called, Easy Listening with LaVon!  I was excited, but I was also filled with fear. 

What happened  that first night on the air and later, is the rest of the story.  You will have to read the book to know the outcome.  It is funny, embarrassing and even scary!

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