GROUP 2B - 9,220 / 9,220 (100%) users invited back [last: ] Discuss
(note - some of the links below are to pages with more photos/info about the stations mentioned )
For a bon voyage gift I took a cotton jacket to the tee-shirt shop and had lettering added to the back :
"Disc Jockey : It's Not Just A Job, It's An Adventure ! "
Now HOW, you ask, can DJ work be considered an adventure? Man oh man, you don't know the career my sister has had (so far ) !
First off, I'm not talking that rap crap record scratching noise that earns some club clown a DJNoTalent nickname, I'm talking "Radio Personality" , or across the pond, "Radio Presenter". Of course there have been a few over the years that have gotten national fame, usually the shock jock type, but in the industry, there have been names from big markets that get to be known by the personality they bring to the airwaves - think Wolfman Jack.
And somewhere, just below that stratosphere are a legion of lesser known but highly regarded professionals. I think I can put Sally there without either embarassing her, or dissing her. First off, she's the middle of my three older sisters and I remember well when she went off to college. She went way north to University of Maine at Orono, and became a Maine-iac for life. I think she began in journalism studies, but after freshman year she transferred back closer to home, enrolled in the U of Md School of Radio and Television. Something to do with not liking the deadlines of newspaper writing, which is kind of funny given the type of radio work she has most recently been involved in.
First though, comes the name. I don't know the story, but she settled on Jessie, Jessie B, a nice ring to it and a little more rock n' roll and less 'girly' than Sally, LOL !
While she was at Maryland, she began working a small A.M. station in our hometown, WLMD 900, a sunrise to sunset low watt station that was hidden down a long dirt road in the woods adjacent to the swampy Patuxent River. I remember she got Dad's old Plymouth Duster and it was ALWAYS muddy! I would occasionally ride my bike down the path, around the water-filled potholes, towards the big radio antennae sticking up above the trees to the little white house that served as the station. It was cool as hell for a 13 year old to stand in the lobby looking through the glass into the studio and hearing my sister's voice coming over the speakers!
They were what I guess would become known as progressive rock. I know there are a few on Mindsay who are familiar with the old WHFS, WLMD could have been it's kid brother. Sally had, over the years, always shared her love of records and music with me. She introduced me to John Sebastion, Steve Miller, Franklin Ajaye (comedian), James Taylor, ELO, Firesign Theatre. She'd recommend albums, invite me to the stations she worked at, and even let her 15 year old little brother tag along to a CSN&Y concert at Merriweather Post Pavillian one summer. We share a common sense of humor and I still remember going to a movie with her, Mel Brooks "High Anxiety", a takeoff of all that is Hitchcock. And in one scene, riding in a convertible, the main characters are talking, one a psychiatrist investigaating why the other, who suffers vertigo (wink!), is being commited to a nuthouse. As the discussion progresses and the mystery and possible conspiracy is brought out, the tension is rising! the threats are being revealed! the guy is in TROUBLE! and suddenly you are aware of the soundtrack and that the orchestra is getting ridiculously loud and reaching a cresendo, when the two characters look at each other and say almost at the same time Sal and I looked at each other, where the hell is that music suddenly coming from? And then, pulling alongside their car, is a bus with a band on it, playing the background music. Funny as shit!
Uh, where was I? Oh yeah, music, concerts, and her radio station. She shared it all with me from the time I was a kid. I forget some of the local stations she worked at early in her career, I guess both while she was going to school and after, because she was still local when I was in high school and occasionally scored me some give-away tickets - the best of them being very close to the stage tickets at a Bob Seger show at the then new (and now wrecking-balled) Capital Center. I think she may have even done a country stint at one point! WMZQ in Virginia, I think. She went up to Conneticut for a while and worked one or two stations in the Hartford area (I dont have her resume with me so I'm just going with 20 year old recollections). One was a rock station run with an all woman staff , call letters, appropriately enough WOMN. Then to the bigger rock station WHCN. I finally went off to college myself while Jessie got a great gig in Seattle (where our oldest sister lived) at KISW. By now, half my tee-shirt collection relied on her jobs and payola - the coolest being one of a giant ear, the logo for the Manfred Mann Band "The Screaming Silence" . In Seattle she had her first real taste of stardom and was a huge hit, I think she was on the afternoon drive, with the young rockers who had not yet morphed into little grunge meisters. She told us once of finding her name graffitti/scrawled on a school wall and knowing she was a hit!
Then the adventures really begin! I was in Tallahassee at FSU, our other sister in New Orleans, and Mom up home in Maryland. Holly and Mom teamed up and I met them and we all met Jess/Sal in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. She had responded to an ad put in the trades for DJs to work on a Pirate Radio station. Pirate Radio, if you've never heard the term, refers to any 'illegal' or unlicensed broadcast station. They were, and are, legion in Europe. Better yet, they became truly PIRATE, by being based onboard ships moored in the North Sea where they were in international waters and thus, not technically in violation of any nation's laws. Of course England didn't feel that way. With their huge state run broadcast universe consisting of BBC1, BBC2, BBC3, and a couple of radio stations. I saw a cartoon joke of that once, a guy changes channels on the english telly and sees the exact same program on all 3 channels and when he turns to channel 4, it's a guy waving a gun saying "change back to the other channel". So, Jessie has not only agreed to accept a job with this new outfit called Laser, but she has signed on to get onto the Panamanian registered freighter, the MV Communicator in the U.S. and sail with it on a 'shake down' cruise across the Atlantic. Now this was no big boat. I bumped shins on the entryways, and bumped my head on the ceiling lots of times in my short visit aboard. Quarters were cramped, the 'studio' even crampier. http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/tony_horsman/laser2.htm The plan was to attach the antennae rigging to giant ballons that would be floated above the ship after it moors to a permanent anchorage in the North Sea between Ireland and Great Britain. It was in Florida that I gave her the "It's An Adventure" jacket. And off she sailed into radio history! http://www.anorak.telinco.co.uk/communicator_at_sea.htm
Actaully, pirate radio has a long history, and before Laser558, was the queen of all pirates, Radio Caroline. http://www.radiocaroline.co.uk/ But Laser558 was trying something new. They were bringing AMERICAN voices, and AMERICAN rock, to the European airwaves. http://www.eylard.nl/OffShoreRadio/Laser/index.htm The idea was "you're never more than a minute from the music". So in effect, the djs wouldn't get a chance to show their personal sides as much as they were used to in the US. Now Jessie has a silky smooth voice and fun, ribald, laugh - VERY distinctive. So she didn't need more than a minute to make a good impression. Between song intros, commercials, and news announcing, her voice stood out and she fast became a favorite. I can't tell the stories that she can about that period of her career, but it was simply incredible. They survived technical difficulties, British government condemnation (Britain would not let them be supplied from their shores),
British fan support (fans who motored out to the sea in their own boats to meet the crew, and bring them supplies clandestinely!), sea storms (force something or another gale winds), and I would assume, their own personal demons as they were a group of jocks, techs, and a sea captain, all with very different personalities living on a pretty damn small boat.
I'm not sure how long that lasted, about a year, maybe? When she was done with that gig, at one point, back in Maryland, we received a big crate that held her personal footlocker accompianied by a letter from British authorities who had 'confiscated it' and would not let her into England to reclaim it. She was persona non grata! But the Brits loved her and the big commercial station in London, Capitol Radio wanted her bad. But she could not get a work permit. I think for the meantime, she worked an Irish station before returning to the US. Radio Nova was the name, and if you visit this link of audio archives, scroll down to the entry for 1982 and catch a short soundbyte of Jessie on the air : http://www.mediaireland.net/irishpirates/nova_jingles.htm When she came home, Capitol Radio had a solution - they put her up in a hotel room in Manhattan and bought satellite time from, I think, NBC! Jessie went on the air for a couple of hours every day at the studio broadcasting live to England! I got to go visit her in that studio, too!
After that contract ended, she returned to work at other stations which I've probably forgotten. I do remember helping her move down to the Raleigh/Durham area where I think she was on the air with rock station WTRG for 2 years or so. Then her international exposure again brought results. Working on Laser558 she got to know a lot of people both on the boat, and in the European radio industry community. She got a call from someone she had worked for, maybe a programmer at Laser or more likely Capitol. They had an opening in Luxumbourg!
It was Radio Luxumbourg and they had a certain part of the day dedicated to English language programming. English jocks, I think, playing Euro rock and they had a slot and wanted Jessie to come join them! So off she went and moved into a little apartment there in the capital city. At about this time, I was going to Africa on my Somalian expedition. Going to keep a construction site free from Weapons of Mass Destruction or something like that. After several months of swatting flies, I got my papers to go home.
My departure was unexpected and I couldn't find out why I had been dismissed from my security duty. I was a little pissed. OK, a lotta pissed. And I said my goodbyes to Tom D the team leader and the guys who had been my housemates. I gave my boombox to JaJa, our driver, and he now had the coolest taxi in all of Mogadishu. I had to toss all my laundry in a box and leave it at the curb to save shipping costs. Somewhere in the 3rd world slums of Mog is a little skinny black kid wearing a KISW ROCKS ! t-shirt, LOL!
On the flight from Mogadishu to Kenya, I had an idea. I called the states and asked my boss if it would be a problem if I didn't come home for 2 weeks. He said go ahead, have fun, just check in for debriefing as soon as you get back (I never did learn why the govt.refused to grant me Top Secret clearance which I needed to stay at my embassy securtiy post - I'd been given a Secret clearance, but the company who hired me felt it was easier to release me than fight big brother ).
Then, on the flight to Frankfort, Germany, I told a stewardess my plan. I'm going to get off the plane in Germany and take a train ride to surprise my sister in Luxumbourg! From there I could train it to Paris, then ferry up to England and London, grab a fast sidetrip to Ireland, and return to London and reboard PanAm at Heathrow for the remainder of my return flight! She laughed and reminded me my luggage was stowed for Dulles Airport, that I was wearing shorts and a hawaiin shirt, and that it was 38 degrees and snowing in Frankfort. She stuffed a blanket into my briefcase with 3 Heinekin tallboys and told me that should keep me warm, and told me to just return the blanket when I get back on in London. And so I got there (Luxembourg ), got a taxi, and knocked on Sally's door, SURPRISE! It was a fun, short visit. We toured the city, the escarpments, and over to the French and the German borders. I have photos of flooding in Vianden, and of a castle high on a cliff that looked like it was from "Frankenstein". St. Patrick's Day was during my stay and we joined several of her friends at a local pub - she had to leave early because she was on the air in the evenings. I don't recall HOW I found my way back to her flat! Since then I've always felt Sal and I were true world travelers, a brother and sister both pursuing different careers that allowed us to travel and now gave us a common road story of meeting in Luxembourg. Cool! rock on, Sal!
So I came home and returned to my PI business and a year or so later Jessie returned and got back to business in the states. I think by this time she had answered a DC ad for a jock to play jazz music. It was a new format just then sweeping the nation easy listening jazz. She was at one station for a while and I think they went under, but the big outfit that does EZJazz all over the country bought a local station (WJZE ), and she got a call asking her to come aboard with them. Pretty smooth transition for a smooth voice!
It was another year or two and I made my change to trucking and Sal was on leave from work when she accepted a parttime gig with a DC area news and traffic outfit. And thus, a circle for her was completed just as it was for me! She was now a news announcer, researching, writing, editing, and reading news - just the kind of deadline crap she wanted to avoid 20 years earlier, and me, you know my story, I wanted to drive a truck before being sidetracked to college for a law enforcement career hunt only to now find myself behind the wheel of a big rig.
After a couple of years, there was somebody in DC who heard her voice, and it rang his bell! By fate, she had had to join a union to do the news gig, thus putting her name in a database. The guy who remembered the voice of Jessie B from her days in Pirate Radio when he was growing up in England, tracked her down and offered her a job. He was now also in radio, he was now also in news! He was starting up a worldwide news syndicate (if you listen at all to FOX news, you may have seen or heard him, " And now we're joined by Simon Marks, chief correspondant for FeatureStoryNews " ) - http://www.featurestory.com/ the kind that offers 'news packages' to subscriber stations around the world. South Africa wants an hourly update of London news. London wants a 5 minute political report from DC, DC wants a 30 second world headline bit, etc, etc. And shazamm, Jessie switched over to Featurestory
She had been there for a number of years when our mom suddenly became very ill during one of my weekend visits home (after I left to be on the road, mom began to show signs of senility and Sally came home to live at the house so she would have someone around for at least part of every day). Mom recovered from the never explained medical emergency, but it was apparent the stress had accelerated her problems and that she really now needed someone to be with her as a companion 24/7. We discussed it as a family, both Sal and I had careers we could step away from without losing our place professionally, and it was decided Sal would hang up her headphones and I would return to the road (I had taken 6 months off while we decided what course to take).
And so Jessie was off the air. But did her little red light go out? NO ! Because of her years of experience and her number of fans both in and out of the industry, she has remained in touch not only with her news boss, but other radio contacts who she occasionally travels to London to see. (and of course, once a Maine-iac always a Maine-iac, so road trips to Bah Ha Bah are also a summer routine ) Last year, one of her Brit (or is it Scot? ) friends told her he was going to start a new radio station, on the Isle of Man. Would Jessie do some work for him? Aw, I know it's hard for her to have that dangled in front of her - but she has done occasional promo stuff for him using the DC studios, and now, as the station start up is getting close, she may again return across the pond and do a 3 or 4 week stint on-air. The boss wants to offer Jessie B as a headliner to get the audience to tune in for the first weeks of the new station's life - we're all waiting!
Stay tuned, it may happen later this fall - if so, I'll share the news with you and hopefully the station will have a webcast available so you, too, can listen in to the smooth rock voice of Jessie B, PIRATE. (the adventure continues! )
ps - interested in pirate radio? just google it, laser 558 or radio caroline to get TONS of articles. The story of Laser558 is even told on CD! www.radiofab.com/index.html
Update - in the fall of 2009 Jessie was invited to the awards prsentation called Radio Days in Amsterdam - they were celebrating the 25th anniversary of Laser 558 and Jessie and some of her co-workers, shipmates, and backers all attended and sat on a panel for story telling and Q&A - she was presented with a "Radie" award for "Outstanding Contribution to Offshore Radio".