JD Cannon Retiring: His Letter to You
Sylvia and I were going through my picture collection the other night and it hit me, like Kenny's song "Don’t Blink!"
It was May 13, 1973 when I started out in radio dressed in a coat and tie reporting for duty in the newsroom in Madison, Wisconsin... 44 years ago! I didn't last long in the radio news side. You know, I wanted to be a "jock" like those guys on WLS in Chicago. I thought I knew it all at 19 years old—but I found out! The evening slot opened up at the station and I begged to have a shot at it. Six nights a week—6pm to midnight, an all request show. Tough on the social life, but who cares, I was on the radio every night!
I found out the hard way how to pronounce the names of the artists at the time. Lefty Frizzell caught me, as did Janie Fricke. I learned how to be a personality instead of a jock, but the most important lesson I ever learned was when my Program Director, Dave Martin, pulled me aside and said, "Hey, the world has one Larry Lujack but we don't have a JD Cannon—be yourself and have fun on the air." I did for about 4 years—the hours sucked and pay wasn't much better. Which led to me moving back to my family's dairy farm in Iowa. Well, the pay there was even worse and who was I kidding thinking dairy farm hours would be easier? I believed radio was in my blood. I looked for another job.
Country music radio called and I answered. 5 nights a week, 8pm to midnight, and one 4-hour shift on the weekend. I was living high on the hog! Also, I learned my second most important lesson: Shut up and play the hits. I have Herb Allen to thank for that. It’s been a great almost 40 years here in Indianapolis. The listeners in Central Indiana know and love their country music and I learned early on that if you treat them right, you’ve got a friend and listener for life!!
Radio is great music and has some incredible entertainers. I feel very fortunate to have called many of them friends through the years: Steve Wariner, Blake Shelton, Kenny Chesney, Garth Brooks, Reba, Brooks and Dunn, and more! When you are there to support them in the beginning, they don’t forget. That’s what so great about country music, the artists are just real folks too. Very talented real folks.
I can recall sitting in the front seat of a rental car listening to new Kenny music he was playing from his cassette. Yeah, a cassette! By the way, the first song I ever played on commercial radio was the Statler Brothers “Thank You World” and it was on vinyl. Vinyl, cartridges, CDs, and now from hard drive, the music delivery system has changed but a great country song is still a great country song. Sometime over an adult beverage I can share some great artist stories!!
I’ve also been lucky (or make that blessed) to have picked up some awards along the way. I still scratch my head and try to figure that out. I don’t believe I’m good enough to have these awards, seriously. I remember the first CMA award like it was yesterday. I learned I had won just before I was heading to the airport for a long weekend in, you guessed it, Las Vegas. The flight attendants bought me drinks all the way out!
When I was inducted into the DJ Hall Of Fame, our Nashville reporter Hazel Smith called when I was on air to share the news. I sat down on the floor and cried. Tough to finish out the airshift that night. Again, no awards would have been possible without the wonderful listeners who hung with me through the years. What a ride.
Wouldn’t be right not to mention by name Charlie Morgan, Bob Richards, and Fritz Moser who took me in here at HANK FM and let me continue to play on the radio. I have had the honor of working with them for years and years! There are no better co-workers and bosses one could have had and I think of them all as friends.
Dave O’Brien the hardest working morning man I have ever met. Casey Vallier, Sean Matthews, and Lisa Wall thanks for your kindness as well.
Everyone else here at Emmis Communications as well! I’ve been blessed to work with some amazing, talented, and wacky folks through the years—friendships that have lasted for life! I appreciate all you have done for me through the years especially your help in limping through the digital age (Jackie Kew)!
Somehow I dread that last full time airshift that’s coming up. But I’m not hanging up my headphones just yet—you'll hear me on Country 97.1 HANK FM on weekends!
As I found out when I quit and went back to the farm once, radio is in your blood you’re hooked for life.
Thank you again for 44 years of doing what I love doing. I hope our paths will cross again soon. Don’t blink! Life goes faster than you think!!!