Sunday’s the day – the day we honor Mom.
If you’re in the radio or the music side of the entertainment industry, chances are you owe a special thanks to Mom. No doubt she played a role in your career choice. Or at least putting up with it.
It’s one thing to aspire to be a dentist, a CPA, a lawyer, or a software engineer.
It’s another thing entirely to announce to your mother you’ve decided to be a morning show host or a rock ‘n roll drummer in your friend’s band.
Even if you’ve made it to the top and have experienced a successful career in radio or records, you very likely started at the bottom. That probably meant interning for a radio station or record label, or even schleping amplifiers around for weddings and Bar Mitzvahs.
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Not only are radio and music very difficult fields in which to break in, it’s even harder to achieve success. And for so many of us, the support and understanding from Mom may have been just what you needed when perhaps your career choice wasn’t looking so smart.
That was on display last Friday night at the Detroit Music Awards held in downtown Detroit each spring. The photo at the top of this post shows a couple of very proud rock n’ roll moms – Lori Wagner and Karen Kiszka – collecting three awards because their sons – Frankenmuth, Michigan’s Greta Van Fleet are currently on tour and were unable to show up for the event. These two women collectively gave birth to the entire band – specifically, Danny Wagner, and the three Kiszka bros, Josh, Jake, and Sam.
As the oldest of three boys – all of whom went into radio – I can only imagine what it may have been like in the Kiszka home a decade or so ago. It’s one thing when one of your kids takes the plunge into the great unknown – but when all three elect to cast their fates to the rock n’ roll winds, that’s a whole other thing. It takes special parents – and a very patient Mom – for good things to happen in these kinds of households.
I remember how my Mom (and Dad) were understanding of my career path down Radio Lane – mostly. But they also required some explanation and rationale along the way, too. And then there was the problem they had explaining precisely what it was I was I did for a living to friends and family.
I’m not alone by any stretch of the imagination. Many of you reading this post remember all too well the wild roller coaster ride with Mom about your choice of livelihoods. Hopefully, for most of you, she was understanding and supportive. And in the event she was adamantly against your decision, well, you know she always had your best interests in mind.
Today at 89 years-old, my Mom has watched it all happen with great interest and loving support. She’s proud of her boys, and always makes sure she’s keeping up with news stories and publicity we generate.
I remember at the beginning of my run at WRIF, the station had a less-than-spectacular rating book. A story about the ratings appeared in the paper, with a note that my return to the station hadn’t moved the needle. I was devastated by that blurb. My Mom, on the other hand, was excited to read my name in the paper, and called her friends to brag about it.
I’m sure that if you’re lucky enough that your Mom is still on this earth, you’re able to share your successes – and even your setbacks – with her.
She always had the ability to make you feel better. And even if she thought you were nuts, she meant well. For so many of us, Mom believed in us, trusted in our career choice, and encouraged us to pursue a path that would make us happy. We owe her a lot.
And as my Mom asked more than a couple of times in the early years, “But can you make a living from it?”
To which I not-so-confidently answered, “I think so.”
Happy Mother’s Day to all those women who suffered with us, got us through it, and supported us along the way.
We wouldn’t be here without them.
Special thanks to Stacey Sherman and Gary Graff. Gary is the founder of the Detroit Music Awards Foundatie hon, celebrating its 27th anniversary this year. He’s one of music’s great supporters, a wonderful journalist, and a good friend.
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