How Whitney Houston Influenced My Life
I was shocked when it was announced Saturday night that Whitney Houston was gone. It's almost a surreal moment when people you listened to, or were big stars while you were growing up pass away. It really brings home the fact that life is indeed a gift and that you must make every moment count. That's a cliche', I know, but in this case, it seems really fitting.
Honestly, I was never much of a Whitney Houston fan. I thought her music was OK, and I could understand why people would like it, but, for me it was really never my cup of tea. Whitney did, however influence me greatly when it came to selecting and playing hit music on the radio.
I first started out as an eager, young, and very bad part-time helper at KMGZ-FM, Magic 95, in Lawton , OK. i fell in love with radio from the start. I loved the music (most of it anyway), the work, the coolness factor (at least we thought we were cool). I was not allowed anywhere near the microphone because basically... I sucked. But, I kept bugging the program director to put me on the air. He kept saying no, and I kept bugging him. Finally, I got my chance when the regular overnight guy was sick and no one was there to fill in. From there, I became, what we call it in the industry a "swing" jock. No, that doesn't mean I was into partner sharing, it meant that I didn't have a regular shift, but would fill in for other jocks when they could not do their shifts .
What does this have to do with Whitney Houston, you may ask. Well, the year was 1992, (Yes I'm old, now kindly STFU) and The Bodyguard soundtrack was currently sitting at the top of the chart buoyed there by the success of the MASSIVE single "I Will Always Love You". God, how I grew to loathe that song. Why? Every weekday night, the station would do the "All Request and Dedication show". Mostly high school and Jr. High kids would call in and dedicate songs to their boyfriends and girlfriends. During that hour, the phone never stopped ringing. 90% of calls received for that show over the course of 6 months, 6 MONTHS, were for that song. You do not know the pain I felt knowing that EVERY TIME I picked up the phone it would be a 12-15 year old asking to hear that song! They weren't even listening! They would call and request it immediately after I got done playing it, hell, they would call WHILE THE SONG WAS PLAYING to request it.
The point is, that in my 20 years of radio, I have never seen another song react quite like that one. Sure, there have been massive hits since, but nothing that stoked the kind of frenzy I witnessed so long ago with "I Will Always Love You". I didn't know that my radio career would take me from Lawton, OK to Savannah, GA, Indianapolis, IN, Jacksonville, FL, Huntsville, AL, Shreveport, LA and back full circle to Texoma. However, I did learn how big a hit could be thanks to Whitney Houston. Nobody requests "I Will Always Love You" anymore. It's not really played on the radio much, if any, at all. But, there has never been a song that requested as much, or as long as that one. Nowadays, I don't think a request for the song would trigger my gag reflex, in fact, it would probably be a welcome relief from the Adele, Rihanna, and Gym Class Hero requests I get in droves everyday.