|The 1996 version of the logo.|
Twenty years ago today was my first day at WAY-FM.
Getting the job was a long process. It began with an application to their new station in West Palm Beach as it was about to launch. I applied twice - once as Program Director and once as Music Director. Realizing my dream to work as a Canadian in the U.S. was highly unlikely, not to mention the slim chance they would present another offer anyway, I decided to visit WAY in WPB, take a radio tour, meet Station Manager Dusty Rhodes and bring closure to the job I would never have.
While there, Dusty and I hit it off. He took me to lunch, and we visited the president of Radio Ink. He invited to his house for Christmas dinner, he took me to church and then he asked if I would send him a (no charge) report about what I heard. I jumped at the chance, and that report was sent to Nashville, where the President Bob Augsburg offered me the job of VP of Programming.
As I recall, I wasn't the first name on his list. Or the second. That's ok - I was stoked to have this amazing job! Evidently, I had "networking" experience that WAY needed, and the technology was so new, most radio guys didn't have it.
After four months, my work permit had stalled in paperwork and Bob suggested we forget the job. I remember him phoning to say, "I can't wait any longer - I need you here now." I saw my dream job slipping away so I found an immigration attorney, paid the bill myself and she sealed the deal in less than 10 days! (I got in on the NAFTA agreement.)
I arrived at WAY-FM, greeted by Bob at the airport. A couple of days later it was Canada Day, and as it was not a national holiday, I worked a normal day. Bob and the American staff knew nothing about our national holiday. Haha! On July 4, my new friend and Promotions Coordinator Tim Cardascia, and Bob and the staff all sat on the rooftop of WAY-FM in Brentwood and watched the 4th of July fireworks.
I could write (another) book about the experience in Nashville and WAY. So many great memories - new friends with real southern hospitality, a great house, meeting rock stars (and befriending a couple) and two fabulous, safe schools for our kids. But the most significant experience of all was being in the process of Sharathon and learning how to work in a listener supported radio station.
What?! Listeners GIVE MONEY to a radio station? Yes...because the format means so much to them. Christian radio is more than music. It is a lifestyle format, with songs that remind them that God loves them and Jesus died for them. I knew that if a station like WAY existed in Canada, the results would be the same.
There are many lame Christian stations in the U.S. that sound a bit worse than college (and many in Canada still do), but WAY-FM was the contemporary model that other stations aspired to.
I never quite got adjusted to seeing rock stars everywhere. I remember pumping gas in Brentwood and at the next pump was Michael Tait. "Hey Mike...!" I thought - man this is weird!
Had I not worked at WAY-FM I would not have been inspired to start LIFE. Had I not been fired, I would not have returned to Canada, period. I learned what I needed to know. I never would have believed that God could bring me something I could love more, than my dream job at WAY-FM.
A couple of years after leaving, Bob and I reconnected and to this day stay in touch. There are no hard feelings. Bob knows he planted a seed that has bloomed big-time in Canada. Dusty from West Palm Beach and I stay in touch quite often. My best American friend Tim Cardascia and I chat monthly. WAY was a dream job that led to something bigger.
As I reflect on my first day at WAY-FM, 20 years ago this week, I wonder - what are the chances of a Canadian guy getting a work permit in the first place? And little me, showing the Americans how to do Christian radio in 1996?
To cherish the memory and honour the past, last year, I got a tattoo of "the batman building" in downtown Nashville on my left arm. The memories remain - fabulous!
If you visit LIFE 100.3 in Barrie, we built a lunch room, that is named "The WAY Café" as a tribute to the station that inspired me.
My journey here. (scroll down to WAY)