Christians Only Acting Like Christians Need Not Apply
God took me to the mountain top in radio programming as I had been programming pop for CBS in NYC, and in short time, opportunities in Tampa, Chicago and an OM job in Riverside had all started to look extremely obtainable as a next move, but then there was this on-air gig in Los Angeles that kept making things interesting.
KFSH, 95.9 The Fish in Los Angeles heard an aircheck from my time on the air at 98.7 in LA when it was KYSR, and since I had been proclaiming Jesus in mainstream since 1991, a move into Christian radio could fit like a glove at the OJ trial, you know without all that extending the phalanges.
If you even have a mustard seed sized faith, praying and waiting for the right direction when many options show themselves is important, which is what my then fiancé, Sarah Lee and I had done, as she was sitting pretty in a morning job in Tampa at that time, although I would call it sitting gorgeous. ?
The answer was so clear that I called Chicago and Riverside and discontinued the interview process, something I had not done in my almost 30 years in this Industry.
Frightened Out of My Ever-Living Mind
KFSH it was, and the transition was scary as I took over PM Drive, honestly frightened out of my mind as I had not been on the air in more than 10 years in any jock type capacity. Full disclosure, to get my bearings and comfort I was voice tracking a lot of my early breaks as the thought of going live had gotten to an unbearable place in my mind, although within 20 days of starting, I was as comfortable as I had ever been in nights in Syracuse or anywhere, but those first few weeks, wow!
Immediately, successes came and friends in Top 40, Hot AC and AC began calling for advice.
“How did you make that transition. I’ve often thought of going the Christian route. Can you give me any tips?”
How I made the transition was on my back on my bed looking at the ceiling wishing I was dead in 1991, with drugs and alcohol still flowing through my veins, I called out to a God I wasn’t even sure existed and with the most truth I had ever known at that time, I simply said, out of depression, “God, I cannot go on in this life, if you are not in my life.”
He Wasn’t the God of Hellfire, After All
And in that instant God made Himself known to me. It was such a real moment and powerful to the depth that cocaine and hallucinogenic drugs quickly became a non-option, because the love I had discovered was greater than the need to cover the pains of my childhood and the disappointments of my life.
Aircheck that got me the job from KYSR LA. Listen HERE.
You would have thought I chose that moment to go into Christian radio, but it didn’t happen. Trust me, I tried, but those doors were bolted and locked down tight and instead, an illuminated path begun shining before me, a path that quickly fulfilled dreams I had since childhood; dreams to work in alternative radio, dreams of being a night jock at a top 40 station, dreams of programming and dreams to execute wildly fun and successful head turning promotions that would change the dynamic of the station I worked at and the market I worked in.
I was in radio at that point for seven years or so, and there wasn’t much to show for it, even though I had moments of sporadic success, being marketing director for great radio stations from WEQX in Manchester VT to KIX 106 in Providence to the Power Pig, WFLZ in Tampa.
From that moment on my bed to the moment when Frank Bell and Jim Kirkland hired me to program a new station in Greenville SC was about 4 years, and God blessed our efforts at WFBC, the New B93.7, which not only went on to lead the market, but became a great launcher of many on air and programming talents, for years to come and even until this day.
Capture the Princess, Move to the Next Level
While I didn’t go down the Christian road, it would someday be in my future but until then God was giving me the greatest learning experiences from music programming tricks to handling talent for their greatest personal growth, to expanding the marketing brain he gave me to include station sales and national money making opportunities in booking and presenting concerts from music artists to comedy acts, all packed into a short amount of years.
So, when my friends asked what tips I could give them, the only tip I could give them was, “Don’t Do It!”
It shocked their senses and I’m sure made them think I was guarding my new territory like it was the last Oreo cookie five days out from the next time mom went shopping for the family.
But that wasn’t it. In my very first air shift on 95.9 the Fish in LA, as frightened as I was, I was excited too, and just like the demo that got me the job, loaded with funny audience interaction and phone calls, I was looking forward to answering phones and putting the witty banter on air for the regurgitation of laughter and entertainment, but then something happened with the first phone call that came in.
The woman on the other end desperate to get someone to respond to her began telling a story of divorce, having three kids and a husband that not only left, but had bailed on any responsibilities to add any moment of comfort in her life. I asked her if she had any family. She had a brother, but he was not available as he had stage 4 lymphoma, and with him her hope and rope came to a frayed end.
Not A Joking Matter
Hmmm, so much for moments of witty banter, comebacks and audience participation, I put an imaging piece in where a jock break was supposed to go, and I prayed for her, for God to open up doors for work that would lead to income, for provision for her children so she could find freedom to breathe and make a way, and for the healing of her brother from every blood vessel in his body to his bones and major organs. I meant every word I said and everything I was asking God for, but I felt very small in relation to the things that would have to happen for this woman to find peace in her stress-filled life, and in one phone call I had a feeling this Christian radio experience was going to be a lot different than what I thought I was signing up for.
The moments of witty phone calls and audience entertainment came, but for the most part, the need on the other side of the unanswered phone calls was much higher than anticipated and that became the ministry I was able to provide, mostly because there was a time on my back on my bed looking at that ceiling that I faced a moment, while not exact in details, was similar in that I felt no way out.
PHONES FROM KFSH LA. Listen HERE.
So, I would ask my friends who considered Christian radio as an option this simple question. If a listener calls and they are dying of cancer or their kid is, or mom is or they are about to take their entire family to the LA Mission just to eat, would you be able to drop everything and pray for them? It was usually at this point that they’d say honestly, I don’t think this format is for me.
While it took a year and a few months, the woman who called would find her way with a job and supernatural opportunities that allowed for her children to be cared for, and just like that, while the prayer wasn’t aired, the testimony of breakthrough was aired and that form of content became a weekly part of the show.
Broadcasting any format is a responsibility and privilege, but if there’s one format where those attributes will get tested often and draw the need for your mustard seed sized faith to be put into action, welcome to Christian radio.
Since 1991, Rob Wagman has been known first by his faith, and then by his skills in the secular side of this Industry, and now is known by his versatility, having succeeded in both radio and records in multiple formats from Christian Contemporary, Rock, Alternative, Top 40, Rhythm, Urban and Hot AC, in various roles from On Air to Programming to Marketing and Promotions.
Wagman has worked in all of the Top 3 markets, LA, NYC and Chicago, and returned to LA in 2012 as his entry way into CCM, in PM Drive at KFSH, 95.9 The Fish before becoming the Network PD for WAY-FM.
In 2013, Wagman launched Straight Path Media + Entertainment, a consulting firm which hyper focuses on talent and each station’s greatest need for growth, supplying a la cart programming services for branding, from music strategies, promotional and marketing think tank brain storming, promo and imaging creative, talent coaching and airchecking. Wagman presently coaches 27 air talents, consults 13 stations plus 4 clusters.
Contact Rob Wagman at StraightPathMandE@gmail.com