Friday, July 22, 2011
The Air Aces
The recent passing of an old friend Allison Harte from Grand Rapids brought up a lot of memories of working with her and an amazingly talented team at WLAV.
At WLAV the on-air team were (and still are) named 'Air Aces.' It was sort of a tradition that reflected back on the 60s tradition of naming the air staff. You had 'The Good Guys' - 'The Boss Jocks' and a number of other names. I guess the thought was to brand the air staff and build them as a team. I bet Air Aces started as a sarcastic response to this Top 40 marketing ploy by a station that prided itself in not being anything close to the top 40s of the day. We'll top their Boss Jock hype - we'll be Air Aces - way cooler.
But, the reality was that being an Air Ace at WLAV was a true honor and much like being a skilled fighter pilot it also required that you be very talented and serious about your craft. Over the years the Air Aces became way more than just voices between the songs. They cut through and bonded with the audience in endless ways. Some of them like Kevin Matthews and Rick Rumble cut through with amazing comedic moments. Others like Aris Hampers brought an amazing wealth of music knowledge and understanding. Aces like Tony Gates dug into the community and the music and built a loyal following.
Allison was was sort of the 'sister' to the whole team of Air Aces. A daring and bold Air Ace herself that always put the listener first, brimming with energy, a genuine love of the music and a big heart for the community. She was also authentic and honest with the audience. Her real name was Prudence - not a great radio name so of course it was changed to Allison Harte. But, she didn't hide her real name or the fact that Allison was made up. She was active on the phones, always looking to jump out of the studio into the streets, and not scared to stand out or take chances behind the mic.
Being an Air Ace went beyond just a branding gimmick. The real key was that many of the Air Aces understood this more as a goal of bonding with the listener, the audience and the community. They honed their talents and built their on air presence to ace the task of building a bond with the people on the other side of the mic.
While many reading this never heard Allison on the air, but you can still learn a lot from her work. Next time you look at your show think of the qualities that made her an Air Ace and work on mastering the craft and art of entertaining an audience with just your voice and words. Yes these are pretty obvious qualities, but how often to we really find them in today's billboard/liner/positioning phrase break? The true Air Ace took their opportunity to bond to entertaining heights way beyond.
Thanks Allison - RIP.