R.A.P. Interview: Sandy Thomas

R.A.P.: Can you recall any special thing you learned during your internships that has stayed with you?
Sandy: I really learned about being thorough and checking my work while I was at WSHE. Rick Peters, the Vice-President of Programming for Sconnix, was the Vice-President of Programming for TK Communications at the time. TK owned SHE and Rick officed there. I definitely owe a lot of my success in my career to Rick because of the help and the recommendations that he gave me. He also gave me my first real scare, you might say, in radio. I can't remember what I did exactly. I think I had put some test tones on a cart with a commercial, and that fired another cart... Whatever it was, it was really stupid. Rick heard this on the air and came in with this look on his face and said, "If you ever do that again, you'll never work in radio in this market again!" He wouldn't let me do production for about 2 weeks. It teaches you that in this profession you have to be really thorough. You can make a little mistake as a secretary, not to play down the job of a secretary, but mistakes on our part show more than a mistake that you might make on a piece of paper, like a grammatical mistake.

Everything in production has to be a hundred percent. If you give ninety percent, that other ten percent isn't going to do it. You always have to be almost perfect in what you're doing. I think there's a great demand in our jobs to be very alert at all times. You never hear about your work when you're running at 100% perfection, you only hear about it when you're at 99%. When you do everything right, everything is just normal. Nobody notices. It's when you make that one mistake that everybody notices. That can be a pretty stressful thing if you're not ready to tackle that as a responsibility from day to day.

R.A.P.: So did you go directly from internships to WSBR?
Sandy: No. There was a duration of about a year and a half between SHE and WSBR. I spent about a year and a half in my room. That was a gig. I should put that on my resume'. It should read something like, "From 1982 to 1983 -- ROOM!" What did you do in your room? I was like Production Director, Program Director...

Eventually I got the gig at WSBR. I was there for close to a year and ended up doing middays. Then I decided to send an air check to Hot 105, using their call letters and playing their music. I sent it to Duff Lindsey, who was the PD after Bill Tanner. The station was pretty hot at that time. I got home one day and got a call from Duff saying he wanted to talk to me. That really was my first break.

R.A.P.: What was the production situation at Hot 105 when you got there?
Sandy: Bob McKay was the Production Director. I was hired to do overnights. It was in July of 1986 when I got hired. As over-night jock, I was called on to do production when the Production Director was out. I did overnights for about two and a half years. Towards my last seven months, I came off overnights and went to production. I always had a strong desire to do production. At Hot 105, I had all this equipment around me and had a chance to really try to perfect my skills and improve. I would come into work a couple of hours before my air shift and sit in the production room and do my production, and then I'd do more. I'd practice doing sweepers and drops and all that stuff. They were terrible back then. I wanted to have a sweeper company back then, but my skills weren't there. It just wasn't happening. We're talking 1986, so I was about 23.

R.A.P.: How did the move to WXDJ happen?
Sandy: I was hired at Hot 105 by a guy named Chuck Goldmark who was the GM at the time. He left about a year and a half after I got there to buy WXDJ. When I was let go at Hot 105, I called Goldmark. After a week, I crossed the street to WXDJ. I started in February of 1988 as Production Director.

R.A.P.: WXDJ, at that time, was on the Wave satellite format. How did that affect your position as Production Director?
Sandy: There were no jocks. We were live in the morning and had a news guy and one production guy. It's a really unique situation, being at a station that is on the satellite. You don't have any jocks to do production. There's just you. So you're really pressed to be diverse in your styles.

They gave me a little budget to bring in outside voice talent, but the station was brand new and there wasn't a lot of money. That was a difficult time, from a creative standpoint. It was also difficult to do contesting because you didn't have jocks to give things away live. They wanted the station to have a yuppie image, and they didn't want it to be like your typical radio station. They still wanted to do contests, but they wanted to do them in a way that seemed like you weren't doing a contest! They wanted to give away prizes, but they didn't want to say, "Be caller number ten right now!" They wanted to do it in a classy way. So there was that constant creative pressure to be thinking of ways to do things that would appeal to these yuppie guys listening to the station.

R.A.P.: When did WXDJ dump the satellite?
Sandy: We abandoned the Wave format in September of '88. I started doing middays as well as production. You talk about responsibility -- I was responsible for my airshift, I wrote all the copy, I wrote all the promos, and I produced them. I was there until about 10 o'clock every night. I had no assistant and no Continuity Director.

R.A.P.: When did you come off the air?
Sandy: I came off the air about seven months ago. It stung in the beginning, but I do swing. I go on the air when someone's out. If I really wanted to go back on the air, I could; but man, they pay you a lot of money to do spots! I can't believe how much.

I did a commercial once for Burdines. They're a lot like a Macy's. The first session I did for Burdines took me about a half hour. They were TV spots. I did these different tags, and it came out to about seven TV spots, but I only laid down about twenty seconds of copy. So afterwards, I asked the person that set me up with the gig, "How much am I gonna make on these spots?" She said, "You'll make fourteen hundred." I said, "Fourteen hundred??!! Do you know how many hours I've got to work to make that kind of money at the radio station taking bullshit from Account Executives?" So, I decided it would be worth my while to perfect that end of the business from a logical and a financial standpoint. I asked myself, "What do you want to do? Do you want to travel around the country being a disc-jockey, or do you want a little more stability?"

I think if you want to get the most out of something, you've got to give it 100%. To give 50% on the air and 50% in production is going to get me 50% in return. I'm going to try to get into a national arena, and the only way I'm going to do that is to put 100% into my production. I definitely miss being on the air though. I'll always have that in my blood.

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