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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Memories of Mark...Early Days

Mark Shannon was arguably one of the best radio talents this market has ever experienced.  Next to Mike McCarville himself, few had the mastery of the art of theater of the mind like Shannon.  Mark has influenced many people in the radio business and probably more than we will ever know.  This evening, I've been sitting around thinking about some of the early days, when I first met Mark.

The first time I actually met Mark Shannon was at the Citadel complex of radio stations, I believe it was in the conference room.  Larry Bastida was introducing everyone and we were talking about the "new lineup" at WKY.  In the room was Jim Traber, Brad Copeland, Mike Steely, Larry Stein, Dax Davis, Todd Lisenbee, my producer Kevin and of course, Mark Shannon.  I was introduced, as I recall, as the newest acquisition from Renda Broadcasting - from the station now known as KOKC.

Mark stood out among the crowd, his trademark ballcap and unlit cigar hanging out of his mouth.  He was the first to share ideas for promotions and always aggressively looking for a new angle to promote the station.  I remember sitting back in amazement as Shannon got on Bastida's case for not being willing to spend more money to advertise the station.  He said something to the effect, "You know, we sell people every day to buy ADVERTISING on our station, but we don't ADVERTISE OUR STATION."

It was a special moment.  We didn't bring that up to Bastida again after that, by the way.

Mark had the morning groove with Larry Stein and it was a well-oiled machine.  I remember asking Shannon how he accomplished it so effortlessly and he was more than happy to share with me his secret:  Show preparation.  We sat in one of the production studios talking as he showed me his "script" for the show and how every single segment was planned out to the minute.  It was amazing to see.  He suggested that my "style" didn't necessarily fit that format, but that I should work on making sure that each quarter-hour had a list of topics in the event the phones didn't ring...something we rarely had a problem with at WKY.

Mark taught me about "bits."  How to put together 1-minute to 2-minute vignettes that were humorous, designed to shock and often just make people laugh.  Many of you remember "Stephen from the Paseo."  Well, he was inspired by Mark Shannon.  Stephen was a "bit."  He was a set-up caller who owned two dogs, "Powder" and "Blue" whom he loved dearly.  There were times I did that bit and absolutely almost wet myself.  It was one of the funniest and most hilarious moments I have ever experienced on radio and it was all because of Shannon's inspiration.

Over the next few days, I'll share more "Mark Moments" that will perhaps show you a little more about Mark and his intense radio talent.

UPDATE:  Here is the Mark Shannon story from Oklahoma City's Fox 25.