Monday, August 9, 2010

You're Live with Sandee & Buzz on WZYP 104.3

My current WIP in Revision is about a radio star who works in a southern Alabama station. Years ago I had worked in a radio station, and I wanted to revisit those memories with my heroine. I wrote the first draft and revised the manuscript based upon my experiences. However, I knew that a lot has changed in the world of radio and I wanted to reflect those changes in my manuscript.

But how? I couldn't revisit the old station I used to work at because it no longer exists and my former co-workers live in a different market. I mentioned this deficit (okay, I whined) to my friend and fellow writer and she said she knew someone who worked at WZYP 104.3. Several texts and emails later, we'd arranged to go visit the hosts of the WZYP 104.3 Morning Drive Show, Sandee Satterfield and Buzz Stephens.

Friday morning, at 4AM, my friend and I woke up -- actually I dragged myself to the shower, found a cup with my eyes closed and slept walked to the closet to get dressed. Then we drove over to Athens, Alabama to meet the hosts at 5:30AM. As usual, my friend and I got lost--writers without sense of direction and extremely sleepy ones tend to do that a lot. We managed to find the station and Sandee let us into the studio. Then she introduced us to Buzz who was as funny in person as he is on the air. 

I can see why Sandee and Buzz make such a great team. They are both witty, giving and driven people. While I could barely articulate that early in the morning, Sandee and Buzz were wide awake, happy to receive goodies from us, and very generous with their time and talent. What floors me is that they get up that early every morning, go in to host their fun show and then they keep on working for hours after they go off the air. I personally did not manage to do much of anything for three days after I watched them work. I believe I am still sleepwalking. But they put in over 12 hours of work a day on a regular basis. 

Despite my lack of sleep that day, I am so grateful that they invited me to visit their studio because radio has changed a lot more than I thought it did. I was surprised to learn that they no longer use CDs to run the show. They use a hard drive and a computer. There are tons of buttons to push, screens to touch, and playlists to run all stored on the computer. Commercials, taglines, jabs (a new term for me), swingers (not the human kind, but the verbal kind), and songs are all on beds that are stored on the hard drive. I asked what they'd do if the computer failed. They can use their back up CDs and wing it, but the show is well timed. In fact, so well timed that they know exactly what length of song to cut from a play list should they go over  or what to add if they have additional time. 

A lot of the stations are satellite driven with syndicated shows feeding through the dishes into our radio waves. I won't give away all their secrets, but I can say that even with all the technology that's available, the WZYP morning show would not be the same without the morning personalities running the board. I was very impressed by their ability to tune into their live chats and seg into the different on-air moments. When they weren't on-air, they were cutting commercials, taking calls, rehearsing their on-air moments, and talking to me and my friend about their work. They must have some kind of weird internal clock because one minute we'd be chatting about the industry and then they'd turn around, grab their earphones, adjust their mikes and countdown the seconds before they went on-air.

There were a lot of visual cues surrounding them in their tiny, dark and cold room. There was a white board with instructions. In another corner a poster board with notes from their engineer and program director on it. Pieces of paper with notes about what to say were taped to their computers and on their security televisions. A televisions set was on, muted. They watched their computers all the time for new information about the weather, the area in general and more. They have to juggle a lot of different balls while they operate their board and run the show. 

I asked about live remotes. I remembered how my old station way back when ran its remotes, but the advent of cell phones and satellites have made it possible for radio personalities to call in their show! Wow. Now I know my radio star's tour to promote her book is plausible. Sure, they still have a truck which can be part of the remote, but it's not always necessary. 

Once again I've learned how vital hands on research is to my writing world. I have so many real images and bits of information to incorporate into my current WIP in Revision. The duct taped chair, the cues, the terminology, and the overall feel of the studio will be woven into my story thanks to the generous hospitality of my hosts, Sandee and Buzz. 

Buzz Stephens Morning Show Host for WZYP 104.3

WZYP Morning Host Sandee Satterfield looking very awake at 6AM!

Shortly after this photo was taken, I went home to sleep for four hours. Buzz and Sandee continued working!


Lynn Raye Harris said...

Fascinating stuff, Christine! But I wouldn't want to get up that early. :)

Christine said...

I know! I had a hard time recuperating which made me admire the morning team even more!


MaryC said...

My daughter generally works the opening shift at Starbucks which means she has to be there by 5am. I feel like such a slug by comparison!

Sounds like a great research trip, Christine. What a wonderful opportunity you made for yourself.


Christine said...

Thanks MaryC-it was fun. I used to work an early shift when I was in my 20s, but I don't know if I could do it now. I learned a lot from Buzz and Sandee. They were very nice and extremely good at their radio roles!

Katherine Bone said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing your trip with us, Christine. I've always wondered what it was like in a radio station.

Love the pictures too. ;)

Christine said...

Hi Kathy: I loved visiting the radio station. It certainly brought back memories for me. There is a unique pulse and energy to working in that environment. Of course, new story ideas are tickling my fancy, too :-)

Gwen Hernandez said...

What an amazing opportunity, Christine. No radio faces in those photos. ;-)

Thanks for sharing the experience.

Christine said...

Thanks Gwen. It was a lot of fun! I loved the morning team and I am huge fan of the team in general.

Wendy Marcus said...

Very cool! Getting up at 4:00 a.m. Wow! You ARE dedicated!

Christine said...

Hi Wendy: It was so worth it--I had a blast :-)

M.V.Freeman said...

They are an Awesome Team at WZYP...

There is a lot that goes on in the studio, and the fact that they can be laugh and have fun every day is a gift! (Me, happy and perky that early on more than two consecutive days would be shocking)

Hope you have more field trips planned....

Christine said...

Mary, that's the truth--I couldn't do it two days in a row! They are cool. And yes, I plan more field trips. In fact, as soon as I wrap up this current revision, I am plotting a trip to someplace new and different just for fun, too!