Giving Steady Employment a Bad Name: Phlash Phelps Gets Phired OPhten

Opinion

Phlash Phelps and dog
Phlash Phelps with dog Clyde in 2010. Photo: Swedr1, Public Domain

The other day I was punching through some of my favorite channels on SiriusXM when I settled on listening to Phlash Phelps, the morning personality on SiriusXM’s 60s on 6 channel (channel 6). I happen to tune in just when Phlash decided to play his “Radio Resume” which absolutely made my day. (In a moment, I’ll give you a link to the audio so you can hear it if you wish.)

What began with pomp and circumstance surrounded by a bigger-than-life announce extolling the virtues of Phelps quickly degenerated into a self-deprecating, over-the-top and funny bit about how many times Phelps had been fired across America.

By the time this 1:41 second piece of audio was over, I was smiling ear-to-ear because it reminded me how ridiculous working in radio is. In a good way.

Now, I’ve been fired plenty of times myself during my radio career - though certainly not as many times as Phlash Phelps. Apparently, Phelps has made losing a job almost an art form and for that, I salute him. As a matter of fact, when I got home that morning from my own humble radio show, I immediately emailed Phlash and asked him if the audio was available to share with you.

Anyone who has worked in radio knows that getting fired is more than an occupational hazard. It’s part of the radio lifestyle. Being “on the beach” as radio folks call it, is as natural as actually being employed.  When I first started in radio, the business was quite different because automation was sparse and voice tracking was non-existent. Every station which operated 24-hours-a-day required a personality, deejay, or host to be live on-the-air.

Can you imagine how many jobs were available then?  Thousands!  There were so many jobs in radio it didn’t matter if you got fired as long as you were willing to move to another city. Radio personalities and deejays were vagabonds who had no problem picking up and heading off to another opportunity if they lost their job.

As a matter of fact, people in the business used to say the only way to get ahead in radio was to get fired.

Knowing there was always work somewhere else was very comforting. It took the fear out of working in an extremely competitive field. I also loved the freedom that afforded me. When I first got into radio, I could pick any city I wanted to work in or work near on a map, send an aircheck or audio demo to every Program Director at radio stations within 60 miles of that location and wind up being offered work. I used to do this very successfully because there were just that many jobs. 

The radio environment is not at all like that anymore. Since the mid-1990s, thousands of jobs have been lost because of deregulation and consolidation within the industry. The U.S. government made a big mistake when it allowed a few companies to swallow up much of the local radio stations. The resulting cutbacks, use of automation, voice tracking, and syndication, have stripped away the ability of many professionals to work in the field they adore and are trained for. 

I love radio – and I also know that the days of easy employment are gone forever. But, listening to Phlash Phelps' “Radio Resume” reminded me of the time when the radio industry was a cornucopia of opportunity.

My regards go out to Phlash Phelps and I thank him for sharing the audio with his listeners - and now with you. Listen to it using this link and keep in mind there was a time when the radio industry couldn’t hire hungry newcomers fast enough - and that was a great time, indeed.

(Phlash Phelps has worked at 17 radio stations since 1984. Amazingly, he has been employed at SiriusXM's 60s on 6 continuously since August 21, 2001. Will miracles never cease?)