I used to work in radio in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. It’s how I met my husband, who got his start in radio in the 1970’s. Every month or two, in non-Covid times, we get together with a group of deejays who I listened to growing up and they reminisce and I soak it all up. I’ve always loved the music of my brothers and sisters (who grew up in the 1970’s) as much as the music I grew up listening to in the 1980’s. So when I saw Radio Daze 1970-1976 (Amazon) offered by NetGalley and Cracker Box Publishing in exchange for an honest review, I decided to take another trip down memory lane.
“Take a behind the scenes look at what radio was really like in the seventies through the eyes of a Memphis DJ. Read firsthand accounts of some of the seventies biggest stars and a 1974 interview with Jim Morrison (just three years after his death).
Radio Daze is a lighthearted look at some serious issues, but mostly good times. Learn what it was like to be a disc jockey in the seventies. How much fun it was and how different it was from radio today.”
I’m really not sure how to describe this book, because quite frankly, McKracken was a DJ, but writes about his life. He spends a lot of time writing about how horrible his mother was. Seriously, chapters devoted to it. So his home life wasn’t great, but it led to the perfect setup: a teacher discovering this class clown, who joked around to hide how horrible his home life was, and telling him he should try out for the school play. McKracken gets the part, hears the applause, and his life was changed. He suddenly had focus.
Mitch grew up in Memphis, and through a high school project that involved interviewing a successful person (he picked George Klein, the deejay that was one of Elvis Presley’s inner circle), he found a mentor. Klein and several other deejays took McKracken under their wings, helped him make an air-check reel (audition tape), and got a job working as a DJ not long after that.
You’d expect the book to be full of all the interesting things that happened while Mitch was a deejay, but instead we hear about his turbulent private life with a string of women, some real tragic stories, instead of his life behind the console. When he mentions well known or skilled musicians whom he met through his work as a deejay, he might share one anecdote and move on, or simply say “he was a great interview.” I’m not sure who his editor was, but I would have asked for more stories about radio, you know, like the title implies?
I ended up DNF about 80% through the book because I wasn’t going to get what I wanted out of the book. It’s not as if McKracken were some big name deejay, either. He’s just a guy who was a deejay for a couple of decades like my husband, and he wrote a book about his life, of which radio played a part. There’s only so much I could take of the failed romances and the hatred of his mother I could take. The fact that his shining moment of 1971-1976 was interviewing a Jim Morrison impersonator should tell it all.
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