Several nights ago, I was channel surfing when I stopped at CSPAN and watched a portion of the book reading and Q&A session with Paul Porter. The more I listened to what Porter was saying about the business of radio and the state of the entertainment (music) industry (based on his 40 year experience in both worlds), the more I wanted to read his story. So, I bought this book.
Porter spares no punches. He names names and takes the reader through the ups and downs he experienced as one of the top DJs in the business, first in Washington DC with WKYS-FM and WMMJ-FM during the 1980s and later in New York (the No. 1 media market in the country) with WBLS-FM, HOT 97, and KISS-FM in the 1990s and the early 2000s. Along the way, Porter also worked in TV with BET and performed a variety of other roles (e.g. Program Manager) in radio.
As someone who grew up during the late 1960s and into the 1980s with a deep, abiding love and reverence for R&B music and radio, Porter really opened my eyes to the "dark side" of radio and the music industry and how, over the past 30 years, money and ratings increasingly became the sole metrics by which success and longevity in FM radio were measured. Porter for a time, played into some of this aspect of the business, achieving considerable success in terms of wealth and recognition among his peers until he received one day a note from a little girl in which she complained about a popular song that was receiving a lot of airplay in which the rapper proclaimed "I beat that b--- with a bat (Say what?!)" In the words of the little girl: "They keep playing that song on the radio." "... You just don't understand, Mr. Paul. My mom is in the hospital. My father beat her with a bat, and all the kids are teasing me." Porter later met with the girl at her school in Queens, NY and began to put his career in a completely different direction: to promote positive music in radio while at the same time, fighting against the stream of rap music and music videos promoting violence, misogyny, and negativity.
In every business, there is good and bad. And Porter lays it all out across 133 pages. "BLACKOUT" I couldn't put down. Besides rock and pop music from the likes of Zeppelin, Cream, The Doors, Peter Frampton, Jethro Tull, the Moody Blues, the Steve Miller Band ("Jet Airliner" is one of my fav songs), the Eagles, Heart, Hall & Oates, Pablo Cruz, Todd Rundgren, Fleetwood Mac, The Doobie Brothers, et. al, I was also especially attuned - via FM radio - to the romantic and positive, uplifting, and inspirational R&B music from the likes of The Ohio Players, The Isley Brothers, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Main Ingredient, The Stylistics, The Dramatics, The Delfonics, The Mighty O'Jays, The Spinners (with Philippe Wynne), Deniece Williams, Minnie Riperton, Chaka Khan & Rufus, Heatwave, The Brothers Johnson, STEVIE WONDER, Chic, LTD (with Jeffrey Osborne), Newbirth, The Whispers, PHYLLIS HYMAN, Blue Magic, Shalamar (their music was part of the soundtrack of my high school years, which ended with my graduation in June 1982), Sister Sledge, and The Jacksons (and Michael, whose "Off The Wall" album from 1979 is one of my top 5 favorites). As well as the funky and highly innovative music from Parliament Funkadelic, Rick James, the Bar Kays, Patrice Rushen, Cameo, the GAP Band, Steely Dan, and PRINCE. All of that wonderful music helped to shape me on so many levels from childhood to young adulthood. But these days, I don't listen to FM radio anymore. Ever since the early 1990s, I have become largely disenchanted with R&B and rap music on the airwaves. So much so, that I stopped listening to R&B (and rap) music on FM radio about 15 years ago.
Thank you, Paul Porter, for this book. Anyone who has a love for music and radio should read it and share it widely.