Advertising alum describes journey through a career in radio

Story by Dalia Moreno:

RogerAllenKONORoger Allen found an interest in radio at an early age. His parents usually had a pop or country station playing in the background during car rides, and in their home in Memphis, Tennessee.

Allen recalls listening to Rick Dees, a radio personality on WMPS-AM and later at WHBQ-AM, “He was funny, used a lot of character voices, and unique skits on his show. He made listening a fun experience.”

Eventually the Allen family moved to San Antonio and young Roger Allen was hooked on radio. His mornings in San Antonio consisted of listening to Bruce Hathaway on KTSA and Don Couser on KONO before heading off to school. “This kept my interest at an all-time high,” he said.

Allen constantly read articles pertaining to music and radio and would imitate the radio talent he heard on the air, “I continually practiced by announcing into an analog cassette recorder,” he said. Allen became his own worst critic, but was open to learning, “Every night I was calling the local radio personalities on the request line asking questions about how radio worked and what I should do to get my first job.”

Allen’s constant effort and his willingness to learn from others paid off his senior year of high school. He was on the verge of graduating from James Madison High School in San Antonio when he was hired by KONO’s general manager, Jim Dunlap, for a position that didn’t yet exist. Dunlap noticed Allen’s talent, but also his lack of experience. Allen refused to see it as a barrier, “I was persistent in calling him and asking for a job- so he created a part-time position,” he said. At just 17, Allen was determined to get a step ahead in the direction of his career.  “If I didn’t get that break I was going to have to take on any job I could find outside of broadcasting,” he said, “this opportunity meant breaking into a large market radio station and gaining valuable experience.”

They say making mistakes is the best way to learn and this was the case for Allen on his first air shift at KONO.

I put on my headphones just before midnight while waiting for the ABC newscast to finish. As the seconds ticked by I repeatedly rehearsed the station ID over and over in my head. The moment came…I flicked on the mic button and announced: ‘86-K-O-N-O San Antonio, Playing the Music You Grew Up With.’ At that moment, I fired off the song Barbara Ann by the Beach Boys. Quickly removing my headphones, I immediately noticed there was no audio to be heard. My trainer was standing right behind be as I sat in the “air chair” and I loudly pronounced, ‘Where’s the music!?’ He covered his mouth with his hand and made an exaggerated gesture at the time pointing at the microphone switch. Instantly I realized I’d forgotten to turn off the mic. You see, when the mic is on, the overhead speakers automatically shut off to avoid feedback through the microphone. I was mortally embarrassed by such a rookie mistake. I’m sure the few people listening that late on a weekend heard me yell, ‘Where’s the Music’ over the air and over their favorite song!

The summer of 1981 meant the start of Allen’s Radio, TV, and Film studies at San Antonio College, but Allen already had a head start because of his weekend overnight shifts at KONO. He received an Associate of Applied Sciences from San Antonio College while working at KONO. Through these experiences Allen realized that he wanted to go further than just being on the air. He managed to complete a minor in Business Administration by taking marketing and business courses at the University of Texas- San Antonio since it was close to home and his job. He soon found he wanted to look into something that was different than what he had learned through KONO and the classes he had already taken. “During those years, Texas State was gaining notoriety by competing (and doing well) in national advertising competitions,” he said. This led him to pursue his Bachelor’s degree in Advertising at Texas State.

One of the instructors at Texas State that stood out to Allen was Senior Lecturer, Larry Carlson who teaches several courses including Advertising and Writing for the Electronic Media. “…I especially enjoyed Larry Carlson as an instructor. Larry connects very well with students and it was the same for me when I took his class. His experience in the field and his passion for teaching make you want to engage in the discussion,” Allen said.

He also remembers a fun yet challenging experience in Dr. Michael McBride’s senior level class, Advertising Campaigns.

Dr. McBride, at that time, structured the final project as a competition among our classmates. We formed teams, and each team created a campaign for a real-life local client that McBride had lined up for us. For the final, we presented our proposed advertising campaign to the client in the upstairs auditorium of Old Main. It was exciting. Each team member had a role and a hand in the project. In the end, the winning team was chosen by the client and awarded a small cash incentive. They also got an A! I was the lead spokesman for our team. We won the competition and passed the class.

Another challenge Allen faced throughout his college career was balancing his classes and his career at KONO. “Though I didn’t live in San Marcos, I spent all day and many after hours on campus and in town. I love San Marcos and the scenic campus we have at Texas State. I recall looking forward to eating lunch sitting on the wall outside Old Main. I recall staring off at the view and daydreaming about my future in the business of radio and advertising.” Allen is now the program director at KONO 101.1 in San Antonio.

For students, the journey through college may be an ongoing struggle as they try to determine which career choice will be best for them and whether they’ve acquired the right skill set to move forward in their career with confidence. Allen says these types of worries are natural, “…the experience is recent and fresh in my life.” In the midst of his career, Allen recently found time to head back to college to complete a Master of Communication Arts degree. “…going through an academic process of learning, stretching your experience level and discovering new things leads you to interests you may not have known were within you. You will grow in your knowledge and your confidence. The best advice I can give is this: Do your best to understand people, get to know the different types of personalities around you. Dedicate your life and career to always getting better at your human communication skills. Pursue the truth with confidence.”

As December nears Allen and the team at KONO 101.1 will be looking forward to the annual KONO Kares for Kids Radiothon that benefits The Children’s Center of San Antonio. The shelter cares for children that have been abandoned or neglected. The radiothon is held to gather donations of essentials like clothing and personal care items for the children in the center, and has become the shelter’s largest fundraiser of the year, consists of a two day live broadcast that is determined to reach a set goal of $100,000. “I’m happy to say several years we have reached that figure or have come within a few thousand dollars of that amount,” Allen said. “What I like most about the event is making a difference—about coming together as a community and helping those children find a better life. When you’re as blessed as we have been at KONO, you have a responsibility to give back to the community that supported you.”

In the future Allen may even extend his resume to include teaching. He has been a guest speaker at Texas State, UT- Austin, and San Antonio College. He was also a guest lecturer at the University of the Incarnate Word. “I see teaching at the college level as a real interest of mine. It goes back to making a difference, passing on knowledge and experience and giving back to an industry that has been so good to me.”


One Response to Advertising alum describes journey through a career in radio

  1. A GREAT story about an OUTSTANDING friend and person !!!!

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