After 36 years on Philadelphia airwaves, Debbi Calton bids farewell, and during her final month at MGK we get to take a peek into her scrapbook. 30 Days of Debbi features some of her most memorable on-air adventures, interview clips, classic photos, commercials and more…
Day #1: Debbi’s First Day at MGK
I don’t remember all the details about my first day at MGK but it was a Saturday airshift. And I was SO grateful to be back on the air again after a number of months being unemployed. A little background: I had been unceremoniously let go from WYSP after 10 years. Ed Sciaky and I got canned the same weekend. Ed went first. It was early October and I remember this because I was having a 2nd birthday party for my son Dustin. Ed called and said he’d gotten the axe after getting off air on Friday afternoon and was told that there were going to be changes (with an “s”). I agonized all weekend but went in on Monday morning, waiting until Howard Stern got off air. I started feeling cocky and went into my boss’s office and said “so I guess I’m NOT one of the changes?” To which he replied “about that…” and that was it.
So when my former boss Andy Bloom told me that WMGK was going to be making changes from their easy listening format to something that would be up my alley, I was all ears. I thank Andy and also Program Director at the time, Julian Breen for bringing me onboard during MGK’s Greatest Hits of the 70’s transition. What a wild time! Playing The Spinners next to Joni Mitchell next to Bad Company next to Bob Marley. If it came out in the 70’s, it was fair game. And what fun to work alongside Harvey, Mike Bowe, Chris McCoy, Juan Varleta, Bill Womack, T Morgan and so many others. And what a sheer delight to share the hallways with the WPEN icons like Joe Niagara, Wee Willie Weber, Elaine Soncini, Tom Moran, Dean Tyler, Ed Hurst and on and on.
Within a few weeks, I was working the midday shift which I have done here at MGK since 1994. I never could’ve imagined I would be here so long and I am so honored. In the earlier years, I was able to drop my son off at school AND pick him up. It’s been the greatest shift ever and the greatest run ever. From the Greatest Hits of the 70’s to Classic Hits to Classic Rock….thank you for letting me be a part of your lives every day!
Day #2: David Crosby Made Me Nervous!
People often ask me about my favorite interview. I don’t know if I would say this was my favorite but it certainly WAS my most memorable. In 2003, David Crosby was out doing a publicity tour for the band he formed with his long lost son Raymond Pevar. The band was called CPR and as David typically does, he was totally immersed in what he was doing at the moment. I was excited and nervous because DAVID CROSBY! He was coming into the studio and initially the idea was to record him while I was also doing an airshift but we decided that it would be best just to have him live on air for the hour or so that I had him. Again, nervous because DAVID CROSBY! He was certainly known to speak his mind and get quite political so I had to be ready with the “dump” button just in case. It was a cold rainy day and David had had a bad experience with a TV station earlier that morning so he was grumpy and cranky when he came to the studio. I had been preparing for a week for this interview so I laid out my plan to him that we could approach his career chronologically ending up with his current project. He started berating me (off air) right away saying “you have no intention to play my new music or talk about my new project, do you?” I kept reassuring that yes, we would definitely get to that but it would be towards the end of the interview. I was shaking and my heart was beating rapidly but I was determined to do the interview that way I had planned. As soon as I turned on the mic and we were live on the air, David was as charming and talkative and funny as he could possibly be but as soon as I would turn off the mic, he would start in on me again. I was almost in tears. But I kept on going. And it was one of the best interviews that I ever did. I did have to cut him off at one point when he started getting overtly political and some angry phone calls started to come in. And yes, we finally did get around to playing a couple of CPR songs! Hear more about this crazy day HERE.
Day #3: Funny Phone Calls
So you can only imagine that during all these years answering phones in the studio (no, I don’t have a producer and yes, I do answer all the calls myself!), I’ve gotten a few doozies. I WOULD like to give a shout out to all those regular callers who are there with me every single day. When the phone lights up at 10:20AM, I know it’s Rob from Jersey. If it’s 1:30PM, it’s Peter. If I don’t hear from Bill from South Philly or Doreen or Joe, I get worried. I’ve been to listeners’ birthday parties, their retirement parties and shared in their heartaches and joys over the years. That’s probably been the most special part of my job.
With that said, at times there are “huh?” kinda moments on the phones and here are a few of those:
Day #4: You Want Me To Do WHAT?!
Sometimes DJs are asked to do silly and crazy things for radio promotions. Like milking goats. Yeah, I did that. I also drove a BMW at 155mph around their racetrack in South Carolina. It’s also not uncommon for us to be asked to do things that we have absolutely NO qualifications for. I’ve sung (ouch), I’ve acted in a play (terrifying!) and I’ve called BINGO (now THAT was FUN!). I recently was asked to moderate a discussion on movie soundtracks. I did it but I had to do a LOT of homework beforehand.
Anyway, I did an ON THE RECORD podcast a few years back about some of the things that I’ve been asked to do over the years all in the name of radio. Enjoy!
Day #5: MGK Time Tunnel 1976
Over the years, I’ve done a number of features here at MGK. First off, can I just say that Noontime Nuggets is possibly one of the, if not THE longest running radio features in Philadelphia. The request show got its start at WYSP under the tutelage of Randy Kotz way back in the the mid-80’s. I inherited it when I took over middays at YSP. It went on hiatus for awhile until YSP’s rights to the name expired and then we took it up again here at MGK. Meanwhile, I’d been doing a request show we called THE 70 MINUTE LUNCH HOUR. We even had little clocks made up with the extra ten minutes as promotional items. I also have done features at 10AM like the 10 O’CLOCK COFFEE BREAK, the 10:10 THEME THING and the current CONNECT 3. But WAY back in the 90’s, I had a feature called the MGK TIME TUNNEL. Each day, I’d feature a particular year in the 70’s and give fun little facts about what was happening at that time. Take a listen! CLICK HERE
Day #6: Debbi Wins a Grammy
How could I ever have even dreamed that one day I would be on stage at the Grammys? And actually be on the receiving end of an award? Well, it happened and what a whirlwind that was. Several years in a row, I had been asked by local producers Steve Pullara and Kevin Mackie to lend my voice to projects they were working on. I was happy to do so.There were a number of people who participated in these projects and on this particular one, Cyndy Drue, Eric Bazilian (The Hooters) and Little Steven were also featured. In 2011, I was asked to read the words of Paula Lizzi and Steve Pullara for an album called ALL ABOUT BULLIES BIG AND SMALL. Bullying had become a very hot topic at the time and the album garnered a lot of attention including a Parents’ Choice Award. Plus for me, it was a personal subject as my son had been bullied a lot in school. When it was NOMINATED FOR A GRAMMY in the Kids Category, we were all extremely excited. I had been to the Grammys the year before with my friend Marcy but knew that I had to go to the LA ceremonies in 2012 to see what the experience was like from an insider’s view. It was thrilling to be in the audience when the category was called and OH MY GOD! when they announced ALL ABOUT BULLIES as the winner, it was like a slo mo dream. A number of us (including Cyndy) were in attendance and we were all welcomed to the stage. What a proud moment. My parents finally felt validated in my career choice! hahaha. The producers got the statues but I have an embossed framed certificate for my participation and it’s one of my most prized possessions.
And this year, I have been honored to add my voice to another project of producer Kevin Mackie. It’s a film called ONE LITTLE FINGER and who knows? Maybe we’ll end up at the Oscars for this one!! Take a listen to my On The Record podcast about that experience.
Day #7: Joe Walsh’s Lunch Hour
In September of 1997, Program Director Dan Michaels set up a fun collaboration with Joe Walsh and Rick the Bass Player. The two of them took over my 70 Minute Lunch Hour by phone from the road. In those days, Joe didn’t get a wake up call: he got a “go to bed” call. Although he had gotten sober at this point, I still had the “dump” button ready because with Joe, you never know. We had a good time with listeners singing Joe Walsh songs, Joe encouraging the audience to all bring bongos to the show at the Electric Factory and talking about him singing the National Anthem the next day at the Phils game. I just recently found the cassette of this day so I’ve included the whole hour HERE.
Day #8: Debbi’s Break from MGK In 1996, I was going through a lot personally. I decided that I needed to leave MGK and move to North Carolina to be near my parents. At that point, I’d been here for about 3 years. I not only quit the best job ever I also uprooted Chip and Dustin. Luckily I came to my senses and was able to come back to MGK. Whew! And here I am some 23 laters later. (this time it’s for real though!)
Here’s my On The Record podcast about how I almost didn’t stay at MGK.