My story is long. Too long. It’s almost 50 years of doing radio.
At first, I just wanted to connect cables and get the sound from point A to point B. It was an internal obsession that led me to destroy stereos, tape recorders, and other electrical devices in my house.
In 1975, a friend who saw my interest in electronics came up with a Popular Mechanics book with a project to build a small AM radio station.
The thing is, after creating the station, we had to create a program to transmit. That’s how I started doing voiceovers, inspired by the voices I heard on the radio in my city.
A few days later, I took that program that I did on my little experimental station to an AM radio station, and, to my surprise, that same night in August 1975, I began my career in radio.
At the same time, another friend gave me a shortwave radio. I had a serious case of radio listening fever. I was able to get to know voices and sounds from other latitudes, not only from my country but from abroad.
Little by little, I was polishing my own style. First, by copying voices like those of Otto Greiffenstein and Armando Plata Camacho, two legendary Colombian radio broadcasters. Then trying to adapt the style of the announcers I heard on BBC music radio shows, especially Ian Matthews BBC Top 40.
Later I began to listen to some stations in Miami such as WGBS, WQAM, and WAXY, whose waves traveled to the beaches of Cartagena, in the Colombian Caribbean. Then I met “Midnight Special” with Wolfman Jack. And one day, the inimitable Casey Kasem came to my ears.
I always wanted to copy the American style because I didn’t want to sound the same as my Colombian colleagues, and Kasem provided a great education. I was fortunate to translate his program on my station, Veracruz Estéreo in Medellín.
I learned his tricks in voiceover, scripting, and writing, and felt great pride when he recorded American Top 40 promos for my station. He even mentioned my name.
Then Came Shannon
I was living (temporarily) in New York City in 1986 when I first heard the person who most influenced my work in radio: Scott Shannon at Z100.
Scott’s voice, style, energy, and the way he connects with the public are amazing. He connects the stories of musicians with funny anecdotes a great sense of humor. My life changed.
Two years later, I was working with my friend and colleague Donnie Miranda, with whom I did radio for 13 years. We visited Miami’s Power 96 and Y-100, then New York’s Power 95 and Z-100.
Each station treated us very special. They taught us how they did their programming. We got to know Selector (we traveled to Scarsdale by train and bought it, the first station in Latin America to use their music scheduling software).
They showed us their secrets of production and creating events. But the best moment was when meeting Shannon, who allowed us to be on his Morning Zoo.
We saw him in action alongside Mr. Leonard (John Rio), Ross Brittain, Claire Stevens, and John “Professor Jonathan B.” Bell. He even invited us to read the Horrorscopes and take calls from listeners.
There was a lot of learning. We understood how a Morning Show was done. We learned about the preparation required of the entire team. We saw John “JR Nelson” Marik in action, editing audio and delivering the results on cart within minutes, ready to go on air.
I feel like I did a whole college radio career in just 4 hours.
Mr. Shannon doesn’t know what a great influence he had on me. I am convinced that much of my success on the radio I owe to him, as a source of inspiration. What I learned listening to him I applied throughout my career for all the radio stations I’ve worked on.
But the other side of the coin is that of my achievements.
After having 65 stations under my command as National Program Director of Musical Stations of Caracol Radio in Colombia; then, having been National Program Director of the 80 music stations of RCN Radio, and after participating in the research, creation, and launch of stations in Chile, Panama, Costa Rica, and Portugal, I think I have left a legacy for radio in general and having influenced numerous talents who today achieve great success in their careers.
I humbly feel that I created the foundations for the new way of doing music radio in Colombia. In the same way, I was the pioneer of morning shows in my country (nowadays, all music stations have one).
But my influence as a host of programs and as a simple disc jockey reached such a level that I can even say that a listener had his real name changed to be called the same as me. But even more funny is one anecdote.
Tito The Host
In 1978, I used to say on the air:
This is your DJ Tito speaking to you….
In Spanish, it is pronounced “Su dee-jay Tito”. The problem is that very few people in Colombia speak or understand English.
A listener liked my work so much that she decided to name her child ‘Suyei’ (Sue-jay), thinking it was my real name!
Today, though retired, I advise some radio stations outside of Colombia. In addition, I do a weekly radio program on a cultural station in Medellín, my hometown.
I do this program with the same passion as my first program in 1975 when I created the experimental station from Popular Mechanics. I write the scripts, record my voice, edit the music, make the program, and send it to the station for broadcast.
The Next Generation
For the last 5 years, I have written two weekly articles about radio that share my successes, failures, and lessons learned.
The articles are aimed at young people beginning a radio career who have not found a way to educate themselves in radio.
When I started, there were no radio academies in my country, so I had to learn by copying others and by trial and error.
How much I would have given to have access to radio books, articles, workshops, and conventions. And, obviously, the internet.
Later, as a professional, I was able to attend 5 NAB conventions, 4 NAB Radio Shows, and a Billboard Convention. Along with many books, I learned techniques and secrets that until then were unknown to me.
In the mid-1990s, I worked with John Parikhal and Chris Kennedy of Joint Communications, a consulting firm in the United States. We created new music formats in Latin America and Portugal. The lessons I learned were invaluable.
I found books by important authors, including Creating Powerful Radio by Valerie Geller and, especially, Tracy Johnson’s books Morning Radio and The Ratings Game.
Tracy and Fred Jacobs inspired me exerted to publish my radio articles at www.radionotas.com.
I have been (partially) retired on the Mexican shores of Cancun for 8 years and feel it is my obligation and duty to give back to the industry that gave me so much.