Posted by MadisonRadio.com on May 19, 2010 at 21:13:57:
Doug Moe: Radio's Blake Patton going out blasting
Posted: Thursday, May 13, 2010 4:42 pm
You can have James Taylor. Blake Patton will take Five Finger Death Punch.
He took them in Tuesday night, in fact - at an Alliant Energy Center show that also included Hellyeah and Seether - and only left halfway through the Five Finger Death Punch set because he had to get to another show at the Majestic. Patton got downtown in time for Halestorm to call him onto the Majestic's stage for a farewell bow.
Patton, 56, whose last day on WJJO-FM 94.1 is Friday, is going out blasting. It couldn't have been otherwise. The man who helped launch WJJO's "active rock" format 13 years ago - "there was nobody playing Metallica in Madison!" - still likes the action. It's just this feeling he has that maybe after all these years it's somebody else's turn. And Patton likes the idea of walking away while he's still on his game.
It's a game he's been playing most of his life, since he plugged in a microphone in his home growing up in Minnesota and broadcast out a window in the back of his house. Patton listened to WLS-AM out of Chicago and somehow found romance in the baritone sound of a newsman beginning his broadcast: "It's 68 degrees in Chicago and I'm Jack Swanson."
Patton attended the Brown Institute (now Brown College) in Minneapolis, known as a training ground for broadcasters. He concentrated on radio.
"There's no magic in TV," Patton was saying Thursday. Radio, on the other hand, engages the imagination. "If there are 10,000 people listening," he said, "there are 10,000 ideas of what I look like."
His first radio job was in Milbank, S.D. He did news in the morning and an air shift playing the station's country format in the afternoon.
He left the news behind when he moved to Sioux Falls and an adult contemporary format. Rapid City was next, where Patton worked at a station co-owned by Tom Brokaw.
But the real reason Patton remembers Rapid City is that when he was checking into his hotel on arriving in town, he struck up a conversation with the woman behind the counter.
"She was wearing a brown silk blouse and white wool slacks," he recalled.
Patton, never shy, announced that he was in town to start a new job. "Mid-days on KTOQ," he said.
The woman said that meant Patton would be in direct competition with one of her good friends.
"I don't have any competition," Patton said.
Mary Love married him anyway, and today Mary Love-Patton is a nurse practitioner with UW Health.
The couple made a couple of more stops before Madison, the last one in Rockford, where Patton worked for a station owned by the Mid-West Family Broadcasting Group, which brought him to Madison and WJJO in 1994.
Patton was program director and had an air shift as well at what was then a classic rock station. In 1997, Patton, having left his management position because he couldn't abide all the meetings, was chatting with program director Glen Gardner about shaking up WJJO.
They decided they had heard "Hotel California" one time too many, and settled on a take-no-prisoners hard rock format, heavy on metal. Their slogan: "Shut up and rock."
It was a gamble and at one point Gardner said, "Do you realize we're launching this thing on April 1?" Patton replied, "It's brilliant. I thought you planned it."
The format was a hit, and Patton helped grow the station to the point where two prominent industry trade magazines, Radio and Records and FMQB, each named WJJO rock station of the year in 2006 and 2007.
Early on, they had a promotion that brought a band named Stir to a listener's living room. It was a year after the format change and Patton was handling mid-days, having never appreciated sunrises. "Those morning guys are a special breed of cat."
All these years later, he's still on mid-days, wondering a little where the time went, but ready to step aside with no regrets. "I've had a grand run," he said.
Patton intends to concentrate on voice-over work in the future. He has one more show to do Friday. He considered a special sign-off, but decided he'll go with the one he has used for 16 years in Madison:
"Thank you for listening to me today."
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