"A compelling look at the personal costs of a seductive business."
Now re-issued in Kindle and eBook version and a new PAPERBACK edition! Contains updated material, additional disk jockey dedications, and an author's note that brings this novel up to date with what is happening in today's radio broadcasting business.
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Jimmy Gill was only a child when he discovered radio and the wild, new rock and roll music it brought into his home. And, at an early age, he was accidentally immersed in radio's second "golden age" himself, becoming one of the dee jays who were re-inventing the medium on the fly, fighting off the threat of television in the fifties and sixties.
From his accidental birth into the world of broadcasting, Gill eventually builds a media empire. But when he loses sight of the magic that brought him into the business in the first place, he almost loses all he has built, as well as the two people who matter most to him, his brilliant friend, Detroit Simmons, and Cleo Michaels, the beautiful country music star he loves.
If you've ever been mesmerized by the wizardry of the people who work their magic, distant and unseen, from behind a microphone, or been uplifted by the music spilling from your radio's speaker, then you'll love "Wizard of the Wind." And you'll hear the soundtrack playing as you read this remarkable novel by former award-winning broadcaster Don Keith!
Personally dedicated to more than 300 radio personalities...true wizards of the wind!
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PRAISE FOR WIZARD OF THE WIND
"It's rare when nostalgia, a flair for storytelling and suspense come together in a single novel. Keith pulls it off with a practiced ear for the sound of the South. A classic rags-to-riches story...Keith writes with enthusiasm and energy."
-- Scripps Howard News Service
"All the ingredients for a great story..."
-- Publishers Weekly
"Everything you could want in a story, including sex, drugs and rock-and-roll. Don Keith has written a rare and exceptional novel, and one that gets the radio details exactly right."
-- BILLBOARD Airplay Monitor Magazine
"WIZARD OF THE WIND is a compelling novel that anyone who listens to the radio should read."
-- RADIO INK Magazine
"A compelling look at the personal costs of a seductive business."
"This book will engender the same enthusiasm for radio that was for me...this game of magic and wizards, whether you are just a loyal listener, a student of the medium, or a longtime media professional. Reserve a copy of "Wizard of the Wind." You will devour it!"
-- Jaye Albright, consultant, RADIOIQ
"Don Keith has created an absorbing elixir composed of the South, the 60s, the craziness of rock and roll, drug runners, and the raw ego of big-time, big-money broadcasting. And he got it right!"
-- Alan Burns, consultant, Alan Burns & Associates
Excerpt from WIZARD OF THE WIND
by Don Keith
Copyright 1996 by Don Keith. All rights reserved.
Any reproduction without prior written consent is expressly forbidden.
There was a promise of autumn in the breeze the next morning. It must have rained briefly overnight. The air seemed cooler and cleaner, the humidity lower, the view out Jimmy’s dingy bedroom window for once not dimmed by mist or haze. The floor was cool to his bare feet so he got a pair of well-worn socks that were twisted together in the chiffarobe drawer and then fetched a half-empty bag of stale cookies and a glass of Kool Aid from the kitchen. He brought his breakfast back to the bedroom to kneel and worship before the radio.
The volume stayed low, his ear close to the grill cloth so as not to awaken Grandmama. She was still noisily sawing away in the bed across the room, sometimes talking to game show hosts and soap opera stars in her sleep. The night before had brought another batch of miraculous revelations from behind the Zenith’s dail. Jimmy had stayed up later than usual, but he had spent only a few minutes in front of the television set with Grandmama. She never noticed when he slipped out of the room to pass several hours in the same spot he occupied that morning, twisting the "TUN" knob on the big radio until distant voices grew clear, until the music that was being sent out to ride along the wind became distinct and melodic.
And he had listened in awe that often approached disbelief as he heard the rumble-throated announcers rattle off strings of call letters. Some he had heard the night before. Others were new, from even more distant locations. WLW in Cincinnati, WHO in Iowa, WBAP in Ft. Worth, Texas, WWL in New Orleans, WGN and WLS in Chicago, WCKY, WHAS, WNOX, KDKA. There were commercials for stores and restaurants and businesses hundreds of miles away from where he shivered in the darkness, sitting cross-legged on the chilly linoleum in the duplex. News reports about real people in real cities and towns he had never even heard of.
Then there would be a strange noise that would creep in like some audio tide. Something that sounded like he imagined an ocean wave might sound, though he had never actually heard one. It would rise up out of the sea of static to overtake the signals and eventually wash them away. Even the ones that had been the strongest, the most solid, would fall victim to the surge. He then would have to turn the tuning knob again to search out another clear voice in the night.
Sometimes the voices he discovered spoke a language he couldn't understand, and the music was tinkly, the songs sung in words he didn’t know. And then that, too, would fade into the twisting current of static crashes and whines that seemed to rise up and claim what it had allowed to float to the top of the din for a few precious minutes of lucidity. Jimmy could only imagine the exotic, foreign locations of those stations, what the view might be from a perch high up on the sides of their red-blinking, candy-striped towers.
"Hav-a-Tampa cigar time is 9:50. With studios in the French Quarter at the Roosevelt Hotel, this is WWL, way down yonder in New Orleans."
"This is the air-castle of the South, WSM, Nashville, Tennessee. Webb Pierce will be stopping by later..."
"It's 57 degrees on Peachtree, and you're listening to WSB, Atlanta."
"It's the All-Night Trucker's Show here on WBAP, with a song going out to John and all the drivers at the Mid-Con Truck Stop up there in North Platte, Nebraska, tonight. Here’s ole Hank Williams himself..."
"And now, folks, stay tuned to the Back-to-the-Bible-and-Jesus-Hour here on XERF. But first, have you ever thought about how much money you could make raisin' baby chicks right there in your own backyard?"
Most of the stations were only people talking, or bits and pieces of dramas that Jimmy happened to drop into the middle of. He felt as if he was eavesdropping on someone else's conversations. But some of the stations were playing the same songs he had come to know from WROG. And their announcers had the same break-neck spiels, the same joy and excitement that rattled the speakers and slapped a smile on his face.
He carefully tweeked the knob to pull those signals through more clearly. He was disappointed as they inevitably faded away. Then, later, he would locate some of them again on the crest of another wave and could listen to a few songs before they once again plunged beneath the surf noise.
The strain of saving all those drowning signals had finally made him drowsy. He fell into sound sleep right there on the floor, then awoke to the hums and sirens from the radio an hour later, his arms and legs cold and stiff. Grandmama had fallen asleep in her well-worn chair and snored louder than the hiss of her television set, now delivering nothing but snow and noise. Jimmy turned the set off and shook her awake.
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