THE FOLLOWING IS AN EXCERPT FROM MY MEMOIR “RAISED ON THE RADIO” WHICH I LOOK TO RELEASE IN 2018.
As the summer of 1981 wound down, I decided to transfer from S.I.U. to Elmhurst College, right here in my hometown. Elmhurst College, home of the Blue Jays is a small liberal arts school that had a ten watt radio station WRSE found at 88.7 FM which I tuned into from time to time. After a couple of campus visits it looked like this would be the place for me. I could get my degree in Communications, get on the radio and still be at home so I wouldn’t go too nuts with the partying. Classes began the day after Labor Day and I never looked back. The proximity to home, the small class sizes and the openness of the radio station were a perfect match for me.
A taped audition to host a radio show at WRSE landed me the 9pm to 12 pm slot on Tuesday nights. The first song I played on the air being The Romantics’ “When I Look in Your Eyes.” We could play any of the albums, singles or songs on tape (via single play cartridges or ‘carts’) at the station and were allowed to bring in our own music from home.
Very early on, the students who ran WRSE learned I wanted to get as much air time as possible. and happily obliged. I nabbed two permanent three hour shows per week and would often fill in for those who were sick or couldn’t make a show due to a school or personal commitment. After that first semester, my built in shifts were Tuesday and Saturday nights from 6 til 9 pm. The bottom line is I was FINALLY on the air and loved every minute of it! The radio road was located and I turned on to the fast lane. All in, that was me, radio boy.
WRSE’s listeners were made up of mostly high school kids from Elmhurst and the surrounding towns of Villa Park, Lombard, Addison and Elk Grove Village. College radio is where you’re supposed to learn what you do well in and what you liked to do in broadcasting. I gobbled it all up, hosting local concerts by young garage bands and interviewing them on the air. At the WRSE studio controls I learned about the alternative bands that were not heard on most radio stations and would play songs by Adam Ant, XTC, Depeche Mode to pre-mega fame Duran Duran, Devo, early Prince, U2 and REM. I liked most of this new music but U2 and REM were my favorites. My musical tastes were expanding at a time when college radio was starting to grow its influence and flex its muscle all over the country. Classes were going well and my GPA got above 3.00 but the true education was happening in the studios of WRSE. I could not wait to see where this “education” was going to take me.