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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Happy Birthday to a mentor, teacher and above all...

... the big brother in life I never got to have.

Maybe it's just me. But when you do what I do, you find people who have done what we do now, and you look to them for inspiration.

At times, you tried to sound like them.

Only to find your own sound.

At times, you tried to emulate them.

Only to find who you truly are.

At times, you bug the eff out of them, calling them repeatedly on a weekend shift to ask the most simple of questions just to get a morsel of knowledge from them.

At times, you drive hundreds of miles, just to hear them on air in a big city close to where you're working at.

At times, you you let them play a crappy aircheck of a break you did - badly - over the allpage in the building so that everyone can hear just how badly that break really did suck.

At times, you make them coffee with a creamer in the United Station coffee mug that he had mornings while you produced his morning show in the middle of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania.

At times, when they're leaving to go back to a station which is so synonymous with his career, you help him move out and have a conversation in which he tells you that you're 100 percent better than when you came to work for him... but that one of his regrets that was you weren't 110 percent better...

... and you swear that you'll surpass all his expectations in your career just to prove that all the time he spent mentoring you was time well spent.

And at times, when you're up for one of the biggest radio jobs on the planet, you make a trip to their house via NY/NJ transit to prepare yourself for whatever may come.

There are a million and one more stories I could share here tonight. But this isn't the time for that. Looking back isn't what he reminded me to do when I wore an old station polo to work one day. He reminded me that he had some amazing radio station stuff he could wear if he wanted to do so, but he never did. Why? Because for him, it was about where we were going.

And that's why I don't wear some previous station gear to this day.

Funny. Yesterday, I wore a Bucs jersey to work, but the number on it wasn't 93. It was 24. For Cadillac Williams. Why? Because he taught me that lesson all those years ago.

In the middle of a medium market in Northeast Pennsylvania. At a station once called Hot 97.

I can't explain here what this time at WBHT was like back then. The station had a different name then. The times were very different. But at that time, as I've said so many times sense, I was just lucky to be in the room.

In the years that followed, our friendship, at least to me, grew. A former PD became a trusted sage. An advisor who was there to aircheck me when needed, to counsel when needed. To correct when needed and through it all, to support through everything.

Conversations about radio and our gigs became talks about life. Our mutual circles of friends grew. But at the core was a relationship that on my end started with a phone call asking if "i could just be in the room to learn. I'll take out the trash. I'll run syndication on weekends... I just know that I need to learn something from you and if you take me in part time, I'll make you proud..."

The Kid Kelly I know is beyond one of the best jocks in the country. In the history of a format. He's beyond some syndicated talent who served the universe more times than I can count.

I called him once a hero. But for some reason now, as life has gone on, that title doesn't do him justice.

He's been a true friend. A trusted compass who never let me drift too far from the basic truths he taught me so many times all those years ago. When he said "button one, button two, make sure there's no silence inbetween..." to me when explaining a great segueway, he might as well have been talking about life.

Simply put, he's been that guy who always reminded me to keep going. No matter what, keep going.

In the years since, his wife and his dog, have become among the most inner of all circles in my life. When I've needed to taste bad medicine in life, they've told me to swallow the pill and grow from the experience. I've taken the women I've loved to meet and see them so that I could get a wink or a nod or a   seal of approval from them so that I knew I might have been along the right path at the time.

I've never made a career decision in my life that I've not bounced off them and I've found that with their counsel, I've been right more times than not.

And it all started in the most unlikely of places.

Kid, you've been the big brother in life I never got to have. In this business, you've been my trusted advisor and truest of friends. You've taught me the basics which I hope one day become characteristic of the legacy... the mark... you've made on our industry.

And as we've lived our lives in the many years since we've worked together, you've continued to be an inspiration.

Happy Birthday. To one of the most amazing men I've ever known.

And thank you. For teaching me the things which will guide me for as long as the ride we're both on in this radio game lasts.

With respect, admiration and friendship...

Toby