"Believe it or not, there are no 'needed' steps other than...love for radio." ~ JoJo Walker
Cumulus Radio holds 460 stations in 90 cities and prides itself on providing a top level of quality for local marketing solutions. Home to New Orleans' Power 102.9, Nash 92.3, Old School 106.7 and the Underground 106.1, Cumulus keeps its variety diverse and interchangable.
JoJo Walker, a veteran in radio and the man behind numerous commercials and other on-air projects heard by thousands daily, gives a brief narrative of his introduction to radio. Walker even opened up about wearing his first bow tie, from the accessory line Jean Lorent, ever. His words are in a lane geared to tackle the impeding hunger radio enthusiasts may want to know.
What attracted you to get into the radio industry?
I was attracted to radio because I have loved music since I was a small child. I wanted be a performer but I couldn't sing. I could clear an auditorium in 10 seconds. My sister, now Penny Winnie, (I swear I'm not joking) married a legendary DJ in Buffalo named Kelly Karson at WUFO. That's when I realized I could perform without having to sing. I started radio at 17 and became Program Director at 20. My Brother David Micheal, and my step brother Keith Pollard also followed my Brother In Law's lead. We all started at the same station in Buffalo. Nepotism at its finest.
What do you consider the "needed" steps to get involved in radio?
Believe it or not, there are no 'needed' steps other than a serious desire and love for radio. College helps in terms of getting an internship. Especially if you want to learn a technical skill like Audio Production. A nice voice also helps, but your personality has more to do with it if you want to be on the air. The easiest way is to befriend someone on the inside, like any other job. Flatter the heck outta some radio personality, they usually have huge egos.
Why make the transition from the forefront to the production side?
I transitioned to Production because I am better at creating things from scratch than following another person's direction. The Production Dept helps to create commercials to sell to potential clients for the stations to make money. It's a tough job but it's rewarding if you like creating from behind the scenes. A radio DJ's career can last 20 years; however this is my 40th year because of my audio productions skills and copywriting ability. A lot of people don't know that I've written tons of jingles. Most notably the lyrics for the Chip Forstall TV jingle and a Banner Chevrolet TV jingle which Aaron Neville sang on, through my own production company.
What are the benefits of working in radio, to you?
One benefit of radio is that it's an awesome springboard to other careers. Ludacris was an Atlanta DJ, Wendy Williams was a DJ in New York, Sunny Anderson and I worked together at I Heart Media and she's now a fixture on The Food Network. There's Ryan Seacrest from LA on American Idol, Lala...um I think her last name is Vasquez from WHTA in Atlanta to MTV and moved on from there, oh and believe it or not Oprah Winfrey started at WVOL in Nashville. Radio gives you plenty of options, man.
How does radio help listeners, outside of music, from your perspective?
Remember Hurricane Katrina? (laughs) Radio was the primary and even sole source of information for people who were stranded in this area. We solicited donations for the victims during the recent tornado recovery and devoted plenty of airtime to give as much info as possible. Switching gears to a lighter subject, Cumulus Media held a Battle Of The Bands for area High Schools which was a total success. An event like that ...instills school pride and displays the talents of potential future musicians.
What's different now with the current climate in radio as opposed to let's say maybe a decade ago?
Radio is a lot more corporate than before. In the late 90's Radio companies began buying up radio stations and there are only a handful of radio companies that own nearly all of the major radio stations in the country. If you notice, the drive time shows are dominated by big stars like Tom Joyner and Steve Harvey. They require a great deal money to acquire so that's why you hear them on stations all over the country. Its makes better sense for a radio company to syndicate them on all their stations as opposed to paying that kind of money for just one. Plus ...for the entertainment and ratings value, it's worth it. Also social media plays a major role because now people can see you and you can communicate with your audience "one on one." People can feel closer to you via Instagram, Facebook,and Twitter. A decade ago a radio personality was not as accessible.
What advice would you give to students, or even the non-conventional student, that's wants to pursue a radio career?
I would tell young people to understand that in spite of all of the different mediums out there, Radio is still one of the most popular. If you get the opportunity to get a foot in the door, don't waste it. Learn as much as you can and network like your life depends on it. You will come across so many influential people. Always make good impressions and work hard. Nothing will be given to you...and most of all...don't be a jerk. Radio is a small world. Accept your responsibility with a smile. Believe me, people will take notice and you will be promoted and people in important positions will remember you. Entertainment is a privilege. Stupidity will not be tolerated!
...and just like that, a career is created. Walker also admits that since everyone will have a different journey, words are still a powerful tool to help someone conquer their goal(s). "Stay focused, keep trying and never give up" are the words Walker uses to empower others. Cliche lines never get old, if you're young enough in mind to receive.
For any additional inquires, Walker can be found at JoJoWalkerProductions@gmail.com.