Back in the day, overnights were the training ground of many an announcer. After a tour of duty of small-town radio, I broke into my first major market when I started doing the all-night shift at Q94-FM in Winnipeg. When I made the jump to CFNY in Toronto, it was as the all-night guy. Yes, living like a vampire took its toll on my mind and body, but these years were essential to my development as a radio person.
I’d always been fascinated by the people who worked overnight. They seemed…different somehow, probably because listening to the radio when everyone else is sleeping seems like such a personal and intimate experience. I remember a character at a station in Winnipeg named Paul Pallas who was always a comforting presence at 3:30 am. When pulling an all-night shelf-stocking mission at the grocery store, we’d always take a break at 3am for a feature called “Bedcheck” on CFRW-AM. Other times I’d turn to AM to see what signals I could pick up from Chicago, Denver and even down to the Caribbean. One of my favourite news guys was Jim Lowery, who was heard on The Larry King Show on the Mutual Broadcasting Network. No one has ever put more information in fewer words that this guy. He was a genius.
When I became one of those people, I became equally fascinated by the people who listened and especially those who called the request line. Trust me when I tell you that they were really different.
But the overnight DJ (and to a certain extent, newscaster) is a dying breed. Why pay someone to man the station overnight when you can just flip everything into automation? From an economic point of view, this makes sense, but radio as a whole has been diminished by the loss of the all-night DJ. Plus a valuable training ground for up-and-comers has been axed.
Radio futurist James Cridland agrees. Take a listen to his short (four minute) podcast on the subject.
Anyone have any favourite all-night radio memories from either side of the mic?