My iPod holds 1000 songs. It fits in the pocket of my jeans. And it’s the envy of people way cooler than me. But I hardly ever use it. Because I cannot seem to tear myself away from the radio.
To me, country radio represents everything I want in life: concert announcements, acoustic studio performances, elusive backstage passes, live artist interviews and the singles you can’t buy yet. Like Garth Brooks’ “Good Ride Cowboy,” his first new single in three years. For two months, country radio was the only place you could hear it. Legally, anyway. So there I’d sit. Waiting and waiting. Listening to the DJs tease me with their familiar refrain: “And stick around for the new single from Garth Brooks, right after this.” After what? After I listen to a hundred commercials and songs I already know by heart? After I ignore the piles of dirty laundry, because my radio doesn’t come in down in the basement?
And then there’s those call-in-and-win situations that make me feel like a 5th grader doing a story problem: if Alison wants to be the 15th caller, and each caller before her takes two seconds, and the odds of getting a busy signal are greater than the odds of actually getting through, how many minutes should she wait before dialing the number? It’s enough to drive you insane. Insane, but still glued to the radio. Last year, my local station had a Be-Tim -McGraw’s-Roadie-for-a-Day contest. You had to listen for clues all day long. Not for a few minutes. Not for an hour. All. Day. Long. Who has time for that? Apparently, I do. Even with a column to write, children to raise and friends to drink margaritas with, I was able to keep my radio on 24, 7. Which is supposedly way more than average. Experts say heavy users listen to country radio about 17 hours a week. Please. That is so not true. In fact, last month a caller told the DJ on WUSN’s 99.5 that his 6-year-old’s teacher asked him what number comes after 99. He responded, “Point Five.” You don’t get that kind of brand recognition by listening for just a couple hours a day.
Something like 45,487,000 adults listen to country radio each week. So I know I’m not alone. Even the DJs themselves were listeners once.
Terry Coffey, KISS, Miami/Ft.Lauderdale
I won radio station passes to a haunted house and a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. It arrived on November 1st, when the haunted house was closed and the KFC coupon was expired.
Jim Mantel, WGAR, Cleveland
I have never, ever won a contest on the radio despite wearing out fingerprints on two fingers trying.
Karen Dalessandro, WMIL, Milwaukee
I remember listening to the radio, laying in the sun with girlfriends and timing our tanning to the songs. We’d stay on our back for one, and flip over to our stomach when a new song started.
Scott Dolphin, WMIL, Milwaukee
Every time the station in my town played “Hey Jude,” the 100th caller won a thousand bucks. I listened about 23 hours a day but never won a thing.
Chris DeCarlo, Y108, Pittsburgh
As a kid I requested songs and bugged the DJs until it dawned on me that the songs I wanted were going to play anyway, and I wouldn't miss them if I stopped flipping stations so much.
Morgan Thomas, KSON, San Diego
In the 70’s, when I got home from school the radio went on and stayed on. I even left it on to lull me to sleep.
Irv Harrigan, KILT, Houston
I remember a request show in Ft. Worth. I called in and dedicated a love song to my girlfriend Donna, after we’d exchanged class rings. She moved out of town, and my finger turned green.
Ray Stevens, WUSN, Chicago
The station I would always try to call was the Loop (WLUP) with Johnny B. He was the guy when I was in high school.