In this era of do-it-all technology and narrow specialization, Preservation Pub regular Steve Hines is a throwback, a Renaissance Man who has accomplished more, in more fields—in less than 40 years of living—than any three other people you’re liable to find belly-to-bar on an average weekday afternoon. Back in the early-mid ’00s, Hines served as DJ “Opie” on FM-94.3 WNFZ (the station has since moved to 95.7.) We asked him to hold forth on life as a radio jock, and the state of corporate radio today.
Q: How did you get into radio?
A: I went to school in Broadcasting, with an interest in doing video production. I had to sign up for a practicum, so I told them I wanted to do video production, but that I was also interested in a younger, laid-back atmosphere. The found me a position doing promotions for [rock station] 94.3—which I listened to at the time. It wasn’t video, but it was laid-back, and I had given them kind of a broad request.
My job was pretty much to go to bars and do radio promotions. I liked it so much I signed up for an internship there. Four easy credit hours—go to the bar and have fun. And I got to go to a lot of free shows.
The long and short of it is that by the end of my last semester of college, I was doing an overnight shift on the air.
Q: What was your DJ name?
A: I was Opie. I was bequeathed the name. My boss told me I needed to come up with a name. I gave him some names my friends had given me, and he didn’t like any of them. So one day I walked into a meeting and he said, “By the way, you’re ‘Opie.'” I assume after the movie “Almost Famous,” because I was the youngest person there.
Q: As a video production and promotions guy, how did you adapt to speaking on the air?
A: The best advice I ever got was to take a picture into the studio and talk to it like you’re talking to one person. I used an action figure. It was a “Homies” figure, from this line of Hispanic dolls. It was easier than I thought it would be.
Q: Did you have some interesting on-air incidents?
A: Several that can’t be in print. I was at a location promo once and watched a shoplifter run out of Wal-Mart with feces running down her leg.
Q: Why did you quit?
A: When I got into radio, it was ridiculously fun. It was the last big hurrah for local radio. There was no Ipod, no YouTube, no Pandora. The best way to discover new music was through friends and on the radio. Then came Clear Channel.
It became not so much about being local anymore. It became about investors; more meetings. The worst thing was the playlist. I was the music director, and I always looked at it as fun. Like making the perfect 24-hour rock mix CD—with lots of limitations, obviously. Then suddenly I had to send our database off to the local guru in Charlotte or Tampa, and he would annihilate my playlist. You can’t play this, you can’t play that.
At one time, though, it was really cool. I had someone ask for my autograph once. Which was weird, because I’m not “that guy.”