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Cam Marston On Growing Up With Radio

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On today’s Keepin’ It Real, Cam Marston repeats a tall tale about people in radio and wonders if it applies to him.

A story I’ve heard about people in radio is that many of them share a similar childhood experience: They tried to get their parent’s attention but their parents shushed them – told them to be quiet – they’re trying to listen to the man on the radio. The children begin to think that whatever is coming through the radio speaker is more important than what they want to say, and later, those children begin a career in radio to get their parents to listen to them.

Is it true? I don’t know. Regardless, when I heard the story, I had to assess if that’s the reason I’ve begun these commentaries and the business talk show I have on other stations across Alabama.

My earliest memories of the radio are as a young boy of about ten. My father would wake me early in the morning on Saturdays in the winter and we’d drive north out of Mobile for a hunting club in the small dirt-road town of Suggsville, Alabama deep in Clarke County. We left well before daylight and I lie across the bench seat in the old yellow Jeep Cherokee in my hunting clothes with my head on my father’s leg trying to get back to sleep while he drove. This was long before using seatbelts was a thing. The radio dial was the only light in the car, and it shined in my eyes while the radio played country music. I remember hearing the piano in Crystal Gayle’s song “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” and thinking, “Wow. I really like that,” and I still really like it to this day.

After that, the memories jumble. I remember the Top 40 radio stations of the late seventies and eighties and one time as a pre-teen calling a station over and over again to request a song. When the DJ finally answered, and I told him I wanted to hear “Emotions” by the Bee Gees, and I’m shocked that I can remember that, and he said, “Well…It’s playing right now.” I had become so focused on dialing and redialing I stopped noticing what was playing. Alone in my bedroom, my face burned bright red in embarrassment and hoped that DJ couldn’t ever figure out who I was.

And, I remember hearing Paul Harvey. There are over 3000 episodes of his The Rest of the Story. 3000! He did six per week, all about four minutes long. You can find his catalog online. Today when I listen, I hear that remarkable voice, that remarkable control in his delivery, his word choice, his inflections, his tone, his variations in speed to perfectly sculpt the story he was telling. Today I recognize those as the tools of his craft. Back then, though, I just listened - probably impatiently - sitting in the car with my father or my mother in a parking lot somewhere in the middle of running an errand.

“Mom” or “Dad,” I very likely said, “can we get out now? Can we go?” “No,” they said, “not until this is over.”

And, here I am.

I’m Cam Marston, and I’m just trying to Keep It Real. Oh, and welcome to my new listeners with public radio station KXCR in Florence, Oregon. I’m happy you’re along for the ride.

Cam Marston is the Keepin' It Real host for Alabama Public Radio.