Wednesday, Dec 11 2013 11:30 AM

Roadrunner Connection: Reflecting on my 'circle of influence'

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Watched a Garth Brooks television special last week, it was the TV version of his regular show hat the Wynn in Las Vegas -- the place where rich musicians go to end their careers and get even richer, it's like a retirement home for still-entertaining acts that just don't feel like busing around anymore.

The concert was great, made up mostly of Garth talking about the musical influences in his life -- what he listened to as a child and what brought him into superstardom. He played snippets of famous songs from great rock and country artists and showcased how he was able to weave them into his own unique sound.

All this got me thinking about influences in my style as well. Whether its writing, radio or television you tend to emulate those that you heard as you made your way into the business. I've never wanted to sound "just like" somebody famous. Nothing bothered me more as I was cutting my teeth in the business than people who asked me "so are you going to be the next Chick Hearn?" No I'm not. Chick was great, but I don't want to sound like somebody else, no offense.

I did learn a lot from listening to Chick as a youngster though, I realized true craftsmen can simulcast a radio and television broadcast, something I'm doing for the first time this season. I also took from Chick the ability to work alone. Sure he had some color commentators by his side during Lakers broadcasts, but as one former Laker commentator said "those five years were the quietest of my life." Chick rarely paused for "analysis" because that meant radio listeners were missing the action. Chick helped me learn the art of painting the picture on radio.

As did Edward R. Murrow for that matter. Murrow was well before my time, but studying in college I came across much of his work and recordings. Nothing brought to life a Blitzkrieg bombing like Murrow in Trafalgar Square, adding the natural sound of running footsteps by putting his microphone on the ground. A visionary indeed.

Living near Southern California I can't not mention the influence of Dodgers legend Vin Scully. I learned the art of preparation from Vin. You can't know too much about any one player, you never know when his hometown or his childhood interests will become a conversation point during a long baseball game. Vin also famously once gave the advice to up-and-coming broadcasters "never specialize." I've taken that to heart, can't you tell by my many irons in the fire? I also to this day refuse to go on air unless I am completely comfortable with my preparation level.

Then there were the other voices I listened to like Haray Caray as I watched Cubs games on WGN cable. Haray wasn't the prettiest voice in the world but man could he get excited. I also once had a former boss and racetrack promoter who regularly reminded us employees "if you're excited, they're excited."

As a show host it was Don Imus who probably had the most influence on yours truly. My first radio job was running his syndicated show at 5 a.m. every day. When you listen to a radio legend that many hours a week, some of it tends to rub off on you when you finally get your own airtime.

Like Garth Brooks, I even had a few musical influences. Texas country singer Pat Green would be one of them. While a great entertainer, he taught me a valuable lesson. On a road trip in college I was driving to Austin, Texas, to watch his concert; I was halfway through New Mexico when I found out he was attacked a few nights before and was canceling a few shows; at the time his Austin gig was still on, but in jeopardy.

I had faith he'd make it, so I drove on to Austin. He did play that show and also taught me a valuable lesson; nobody cares what you're going through, the show must go on. So sick, injured or otherwise I've yet to miss a gig, knock on wood.

Finally, in writing, every instructor I've ever had preached the process of "finding your voice." So if you can't tell, I prefer this stream-of-consciousness style that used to drive college professors and newspaper editors crazy. It's like I'm having a conversation with myself and my inner voice has a huge problem with using commas (although the editor sometimes adds them).

So, as I work with young people here at CSUB and help them along, I consider all that influenced me, hoping maybe one day when they break into whatever profession they choose, I might get a little mention for helping their careers, too.


COREY COSTELLOE, a Tehachapi High graduate, is Director of New Media and Broadcasting for California State University, Bakersfield.

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