Tag Archives: Harrisburg Radio

Confucius + John Saint John = Airlift Productions

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“Try to remember the kind of September, when you were a young & callow fellow…” ~ Airlift Productions Proprietor Micheal Ziants as John Saint John, in the WKBO, Harrisburg, PA studios, circa 1976

It was the ancient Chinese sage Confucius who once said, “Choose work that you love… and you will never have to work a day in your life”. Joseph Campbell amplified this comment with his admonition, “Follow your bliss!”

Furthermore, the Cherokee used to tell their children that we are all ‘born with a song’, and that we all need to learn to sing that song. Not someone else’s song…. but our unique song.

Well, I actually used to fall asleep as a pre-teen kid in Youngstown, Ohio with a transistor radio tucked under the pillow, listening to far-off radio stations in Chicago (WLS & WCFL) and New York (WABC) dreaming of one day being a radio star.

To communicate with someone unseen without wires over great distances was to a kid the stuff of magic.  I wanted to be the magician – badly.

The millennial of 2018 would not even recognize the time.  At all.  No internet, no world wide web… no iPhones, iPads, iPods, or apps.  Video games?  Excuse me? Pong & Pac-Man were hardly even on the horizon. The compact disc & video tape hadn’t even been invented yet, let alone ‘cloud storage’ or DVD.  The 7-inch 45 rpm record, the audio cassette, and reel-to-reel tape was it.  And it was magic!

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Along the banks of the Susquehanna River, Harrisburg, PA … 1st WKBO Music Survey – 1973

My very first rock radio job – being a disc jockey, an air personality – was at WKBO Radio in Harrisburg, PA.  It’s where I really discovered my true love – communications.  It’s where John Saint John was born.  It’s where I learned how to work a microphone as though it were a warm human ear… instead of a cold metal object.  And it was magic!

** Micheal Ziants as John Saint John On-Air WKBO Radio, Harrisburg, PA – 1977 … with Listener Introduction **

But the afternoon air shift wasn’t the full story.

Everyday duties – in addition to the air shift – included production! Every day… of every week… for five straight years, I produced radio commercials.  Little did I realize, but the seeds were being sown for Airlift Productions…. one day… way down yonder in New Orleans. Boy, was it ever magic!

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Airlift Productions’ Micheal Ziants, as alter ego John Saint John, standing behind John Travolta’s brother Joey at a WKBO Radio promotion, Harrisburg East Mall, 1977

** Micheal Ziants ON-AIR at WKBO Radio – Summer 1978, shortly before the move to KSD, St. Louis **

Work I love?  Following my bliss? I tell you what, give a listen to the LIVE On-Air WKBO Airchecks within this blog … and then you tell me.

And the challenge of translating all this On-Air fun & drive into self-employment as a recording studio owner & VoiceOver Talent is the subject for yet another blog, another day.  But, oh, what days/daze these were….

“Try to remember the kind of September, when you were a young and callow fellow….” ~ from the Fantasticks 

MichealZiantsAkaJohnStJohnWKBO-1976

Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy & Magic from NOLA since 1984

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JohnDenneyRecordsVoiceOverAtAirliftProductionsNOLA“For voice over actors, the demo serves as a calling card and is unquestionably the most important tool in the pursuit of voice over work. Mike Ziants and Airlift PROductions produced my first VO demo and within weeks I landed my first job in the industry. Airlift’s state-of-the-art recording studio combined with Mike’s wisdom and expertise provided me with an excellent demo as well as the confidence needed to achieve success!” ~ JOHN DENNEY, founder & lead singer of the Los Angeles-based ’80s Punk Band The Weirdos – AND VoiceOver Talent

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Airlift Mike Mixes It Up With Todd Rundgren

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WKBO Radio in Harrisburg, PA’s ‘3-Ring Circus’ 1974 promotion featured Todd Rundgren (left) and Harry Chapin, for a “meet & greet” day at the Harrisburg East Mall

Alrighty then, avid blog readers, let’s lace-up the Nikes for yet another jog down memory lane … now forty-three years in the rear view mirror, the year is 1974, in a far-off land known as Pennsylvania.

My previous blog on the late Harry Chapin only tangentially mentioned the very-much-still-with-us ‘Wizard & True Star’ Todd Rundgren, so let’s elaborate on Todd and pick it up there….

As WKBO afternoon air personality John Saint John, I acted as host that fateful day for a Warner Brothers-Elektra-Atlantic label ‘meet & greet’ party we called the ‘3-Ring Circus’ as all of the state capital it seemed showed-up at the Harrisburg East Mall to welcome Todd Rundgren, Harry Chapin, and the group Cactus!

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WKBO Music Survey detailing the WEA 3-Ring Circus … along with Airlift Productions Micheal Ziants as that John Saint John guy – what a hood, huh?

While it’s not totally visible in the above picture of Todd & Harry, Todd Rundgren was sporting quite the ‘do that day – he had his hair dyed … in four different colors & shades!  Four separate quadrants – black, blonde, orange … and green! Really.

But all the snickers, jokes, and good-natured ribbing – to say nothing of jealousies – that day were reserved for Todd’s love life, as Harry and the Cactus gang just would not leave him alone about his babe  Bebe Buell!  Do yourself a favor and ‘google’ this girl.

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The WKBO staff pic – along with Rockin’ Rick Shockley (lower left), Harry Chapin (lower right), together with son Josh and Airlift Proprietor Micheal Ziants as John St. John; plus a somewhat bemused Todd Rundgren

At this point in time, Todd was hot ‘n heavy with the ultimate groupie of all rock history!  Bebe was not only Hugh Hefner’s pick for the November Playboy mag playmate that year, she also went on to the bed of Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, and is, in fact, the mother of Hollywood actress Liv Tyler!  I kid you not.

Broke poor Todd’s heart is what she did.

But in 1974 – as the whole gang that day teased him endlessly about and would not leave him alone about – Bebe was all Todd’s.

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(L-R) Todd Rundgren, Bebe Buell, Alice Cooper … mixing it up over a Bud backstage back in the day

But, hey, women may come, and women may go … so, what else is new?  The remarkable thing about Todd Rundgren was and IS his blazing and amazing talents – on both sides of the glass.

Todd would write every song,  play every instrument, sing every vocal track, produce the entire album top to bottom – and it was ALL HIM!  He was the talent, the producer & the engineer.  Damn!

Every time you hear “Hello, it’s Me”, “I Saw the Light”, or “We Got to Get You a Woman” on classic rock radio, or sing along to  the anthem “Bang the Drum All Day” at a sporting event – that’s Todd!

As producer and engineer, Todd also steered the careers of Meatloaf, Grand Funk Railroad, Badfinger & countless others … while Saturday mornings, his contributions to Paul Reuben’s ‘Pee Wee’s Playhouse’ are legendary.  To detail all his input and impact on 20th century music would make this blog impossibly long.

The cutesy story of that amazing day in Harrisburg with Todd just has to be this one he gave me – the one about school desks at Upper Darby High School in Philadelphia still today carrying his rather unique and imaginative doodles and carvings.

As that little Pennsylvania boy just daydreamed his life away… as if!

 

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Todd’s Autograph to Airlift Productions’ Micheal Ziants (as that John Saint John dude) – across his hand, on the back of his “Something/Anything?” LP (remember those?)

Today, happily married to Michele with Upper Darby High School and Pennsylvania well in his rear view mirror, and living large on the island of Hawaii, Todd continues to mystify and amaze his planet-wide army of fans with tunes that stand the test of time.

“Aloha, it’s me!”

 

 Follow Airlift Mike and his latest Ad-Ventures & Misadventures on Twitter here – Airlift Productions & Airlift Mike on Twitter

Airlift PROductions Recording Studio ~ Making New Memories Every Day from NEW Orleans …. since 1984.

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Rhiannon Boulger & Airlift Mike at the Airlift Studios NOLA 1-6-17

“Thank you Michael for being so accommodating, and making my job truly enjoyable. I’ve recorded in many professional studios all around Australia throughout the years, but I felt right at home and was really impressed with the huge Airlift Productions recording space & booth you built. Recording with you was as easy as if I were in my own studio back in Australia – and that really makes for a successful session. All your wonderful compliments didn’t hurt the vibe either! My ego appreciates your generous, kind words. Thanks again for being such a gentleman.” — RHIANNON BOULGER, VoiceOver Artist & Aussie Voice for Shell Oil

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Airlift Productions ~ Telling America’s Great Stories from New Orleans since 1984

No Cat In This Hat … It’s In The Cradle!

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Singer-Songwriter Harry Chapin visits with John Saint John (Airlift’s Micheal Ziants), lower right, and WKBO Radio, Harrisburg, PA, 1974 ~ Oh my, the hair!

As I walked from yet another funeral just this morning (rest in peace, Raymond B), Harry’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” was still ringing in my ears.

For yet another person (two in the same week!) had incorrectly credited Cat Stevens with writing this song. Perhaps it’s the ‘cat’ thing, but make no mistake about it, “Cat’s in the Cradle” is ALL Harry!

But let me tell you the real story.

Every time I hear ‘Cat’s in the Cradle’, (like when I’m making groceries at the Rouses and it’s playing overhead on the store speakers), or I hear ‘Taxi’, or ‘W.O.L.D.’ … I always flash back to this day in 1974!

I was John Saint John, Harrisburg, PA’s ‘politically apathetic, tho’ ultra-liberal and semi-hippie rock ‘n roll disc jockey’ at WKBO Radio, and HARRY CHAPIN was making HIS mark on radio stations all across the USA.

In fact, as few today remember, in addition to his stellar music career, Harry helped to create the Presidential Commission on World Hunger, and in 1987, President Reagan posthumously awarded him the Congressional Gold Medal for his dedication and tireless humanitarianism!

What an extremely fine human being and incredible spirit this guy was… and remains today.

 

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“To John St. John ~ Thanks for giving my music a shot and making the day at Harrisburg such a pleasure! Good luck & Keep on Trucking! ~ Harry Chapin”

 

On the day these pictures were taken, Harry and I spent the entire day together at the Harrisburg East Mall, and had lunch together – cheeseburgers and fries – along with his son, Joshua, the inspiration for his only #1 song, ‘Cat’s in the Cradle’.

Oh, and the pride of Upper Darby High in Philadelphia Todd Rundgren of ‘Hello, it’s Me’ fame sat in the booth with us too! But that’s another story altogether.

Harry, Todd and I laughed, exchanged jokes and even got philosophical and metaphysical together.  Some memory, I’ll tell you that.

As Harry’s epitaph on his tombstone reads, Harry Chapin (1942-1981) … ‘Oh, if a man tried to take his time on Earth and prove before he died what one man’s life could be worth… I wonder what would happen to this world?’

Indeed, Harry, indeed.

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WKBO Radio, Harrisburg, PA – ‘3-Ring Circus’ promo – with Todd Rundgren, Harry Chapin & son Josh, Cactus – and the WKBO gang – Harrisburg East Mall 1974 … Harry Chapin with son Josh shoulder to shoulder with John Saint John in lower right hand corner

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blackstoneaudiologo“I had the extreme pleasure of working with Mike of Airlift Productions for a project in 2016. He was professional, courteous and most importantly, fun to work with. Mike is patient and very thorough with his recording, making sure that what you want is done before he powers down the gear for the day. 10/10, I would work with him again.” -Jared Garcia, Sr. Recording Engineer for Blackstone Audio and Downpour.com

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Airlift PROductions ~ Making New Memories Every Day!  Audio Alchemy from New Orleans since 1984 …

 

Radio-Activity in Harrisburg, PA? TMI, it Ain’t!

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Airlift Proprietor Micheal Ziants as John Saint John, WKBO Radio,                                                     Harrisburg, PA ~ circa 1976 ~

Long before I dreamed of New Orleans – to say nothing of owning and operating my own recording studio – and in those dark, prehistoric days before the dawn of the internet, I was radio-active in the state capital of Harrisburg, PA.

This has nothing to do with the infamous Three Mile Island incident, although it did make for a rather clever blog headline, no?

Actually, America’s most volatile and scary nuclear accident occurred in early 1979 shortly after I exited Harrisburg for my first major market radio job at the Pulitzer family-owned 55/KSD Radio in Saint Louis, Missouri.

Yes, long before New Orleans and long before Airlift Productions, I was thrilled to be the #1 Arbitron-rated afternoon air personality/disc jockey in Harrisburg, PA! Along with the largest cumulative audience between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. I always kind of looked at my ARB ratings as ‘bowling trophies’.

WKBO Radio was just smokin’!  The air was filled with the sounds of the Steve Miller Band, David Bowie, BeeGees and Donna Summer … weekends were spent in the sun, sand & surf at the Jersey shore.  And the internet, mp3s, i-pods & downloads were but dreams in a tech-head’s head. Radio – and AM at that – was it!

A name like Micheal Ziants just wouldn’t cut it for 1970’s radio … so John Saint John was born!  It was my stage name, my alter ego, the Batman to my Bruce Wayne for a total of twelve years, through Harrisburg, Saint Louis, Nashville & Philadelphia.

Truth be known? I would have paid THEM for the opportunity. To be hanging out, stoned  backstage with George Carlin and on-stage with Cheech & Chong … to ride the largest elephant in the Ringling Bros/Barnum & Bailey circus – bareback!  And fly upside down at 500 mph with the Blue Angels.

Radio active?  You betcha’! Catch just some of the fever ( Saturday night and otherwise ) with Harrisburg’s ‘politically apathetic, though ultra-liberal, and semi-hippie rock ‘n roll disc jockey’ –  John Saint John here… 

Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n Roll, everything was on the table, er… ah Turntable … and ‘On The Air’in this edited WKBO AirCheck of Micheal Ziants as John Saint John from June 1978, Harrisburg, PA ~

MichealZiants-aka-JohnSaintJohn-Behind-JoeyTravolta-WKBO1977-AirliftProductions ~ Micheal Ziants aka John Saint John, standing behind John Travolta’s brother Joey at a WKBO Radio promotion, Harrisburg, 1977 ~