Tag Archives: Walton & Johnson

Airlift Mike And My Time With “The Saints”

While I daily walk with ‘the saints’ – ya know,  guys like Paul/Saul, Francis (of Assisi), Sister Thecla, et al – this post is all about my years and stories of time spent with our New Orleans Saints.

It all began way-y back in 1983.

As the young (er) DJ/Q-93 Radio air personality Mike McCann, doors were opened to me that, quite frankly, not everyone gets to walk through.

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Times-Picayune Ad for that Mike McCann dude back in the mid-’80s

Together with Walton & Johnson (new to NOLA and also new to WQUE-FM radio), I emceed talent shows, cheerleader competitions, and hosted Ladies’ Nights at the Airport Sheraton’s nightclubs known as Nightlite and Valentine’s.

My ‘job’ on those nights was to entertain – walk the club with a wireless mic, run crazy contests, give away concert tickets, albums (yes, vinyl), tell jokes, and keep the party going.

The club was packed every night and the dance floors were jammin’ to the likes of Rick James, Prince, Michael Jackson, Chaka Khan, Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder….

Morten Andersen, as he looked in those studly Valentines/Airport Sheraton days

The regular crowd on those poker-hot wild nights included Morten Andersen, Brian Hansen, Dave Waymer, Saints new & old, even members of the then-fledgling U.S.F.L.’s New Orleans Breakers.

In the ’80s, the Saints’ go-to kicking team was Morten Andersen & Brian Hansen, and one night I showed up for Ladies Nights only to find Morten & Brian, dates in hand, waiting in line to get in!

Of course, I helped them ‘cut’ the line. Wouldn’t you?

Saints’ Defensive Back Dave Waymer (1958-1993)

Legendary Saint free safety, the late Dave Waymer (ole #44) was a regular, sitting at the end of the bar through many a night. I have fond memories of Dave,  the laughs we shared, as well as the the way-too-many Canadian Moosehead beers he would send my way.

Sadly, upon exiting NOLA for brief stints with the 49ers & Raiders, Dave died suddenly on his North Carolina farm at the age of only 34.

In the early ’80s, now-Pro Football Hall of Famer Morten Andersen, the Great Dane, was new to the states & New Orleans, while I was freshly-minted as the new afternoon drive guy on Q-93.

Upon meeting in ’83, we bonded, talked on-air together, laughed and swapped stories, hung-out at the clubs together, even chased a woman or two together. Great guy, great times, greater stories. 

And not many fit for a blog post.

Ole reliable #8, Archie Manning, in a classic shot from his Saints days

Fast-forward to the ’90s, and in the early days of Airlift Productions, in the Iberville Street years, my audio production skills, voice and writing came to the attention of Archie Manning.

Archie, together with Mississippi bodybuilder Steve Smith, created Archie Manning’s Golds Gym at Cleary and Veterans Blvd. in Metairie, and I began a two-year run working alongside Archie to promote the gym.

This involved regular meetings with Archie, my writing of all the spots, audio production, and regular studio visits to record with Archie.

Like this gem we produced for Christmas one year…

** Archie Manning’s Golds Gym – Christmas 1992 radio :60 **

While I’ve never met his boyz Peyton & Eli, I’ve sure shared some amazing times with ole #8, the dude that started it all!

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Deuce McAllister records PSA TV VoiceOvers with Airlift Productions, NOLA

I first met and recorded living legend & ‘ground pounder’, the Saints’ Dulymus “Deuce” McAllister in 2016, after being sought out to record his voiceover tracks for the Mississippi State Child Protective Services Department.

Together, we phone-patched to their offices and captured his voice for use in a PSA campaign that ran all over MS. radio & TV for a cause that Deuce & I hold close to our hearts – keeping our kids out of harm’s way.

‘Nuff said. But what a great, humble, and soft-spoken guy this is.

The one Saint that stuck?

The one I still run with and call a good friend?

Brad’s trading card… gee, smells sorta like bubble gum

Brad Edelman.

St. Louis-bred Brad Edelman, ole #63, was drafted by the Saints in 1982, got to NOLA just a bit before me, and went on to become the first offensive lineman in the history of the Saints selected to the NFL Pro Bowl.

He exited the NFL in 1991, began a thriving photography business, took up drumming, the harmonica, acting – and took to hanging out with yours truly.

Brad Edelman & Airlift Mike, having a laugh at Airlift Productions NOLA, 2017

Brad has come to my Endymion parties on Iberville Street, got to know my family, bought me lunches… and has spent a lot of time around my Airlift Productions recording, laughing, and, well, just being brotherly.

Give a listen to Brad’s wailing harmonica as he backs up Richie Lenz on this post-Katrina ditty we entitled, “I Ain’t Livin’ in The Bowl No More”, here….

** Post-Katrina Therapy with Rich & Brad ~ Oh my! **

Through my now-36-year run here in New Orleans running the Airlift Productions Studios – from Iberville to Pomona – I’ve certainly got more than my share of colorful stories.

But my days/daze with our New Orleans Saints, young & old, still with us and those departed, are among my favorites.

And today, with so much of my work centered around the AudioBook field, I was joking just the other day with son Ben about Drew Brees.

Come on, I told him, if I’ve already recorded James Carville, Mary Matalin, Congressman Steve Scalise,  & Necar Zadegan for the top AudioBook producers in NYC… even personally read “The Chef” for James Patterson’s gang….

Drew Brees entertains a captive Sunday Superdome crowd

Upon hanging up the cleats and retiring, walking away from the game,  it’s safe to say that ole #9 Drew’s got a book or two in him, right?

Stranger things than this have already happened – one day he’ll need a great space, a finely-tuned recording studio, together with an experienced and reliable producer, to lay it down…

“Drew Brees, take #1…”

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​”Airlift Productions in New Orleans – Perfect sound in the booth, amazing engineering, and Mike is a man of all trades who can do voice work as well. (Probably the most golden-toned voice I have ever heard and we’ve all heard some lovely voices)… I cannot say enough nice things about the experience of working with him.” ~ LISA CAHN, Veteran Producer, Hachette Audio Book Group, NYC

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Airlift Productions – we’ll leave the mics hot… and the light on for you.

Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from New Orleans… since 1984

Mike McCann asks “What’s in a Name?”

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The Legendary Walton & Johnson flanking that imported Yankee Mike McCann, Times-Picayune TV Focus, June 1983

It’s kind of funny after all these years and all this time, but I’m still asked about the ‘Mike McCann’ thing.

After all, most disc jockeys (as we were called back in the day) or air personalities on the radio used a stage name or alias for on-air purposes. Perhaps this gave us a more dramatic & imaginative persona, but it also assured us some form of anonymity and privacy. Some form.
 
A Pennsylvania native with roots further back in Austria & Hungary, and with brothers & uncles who’ve actually mined coal for a living, I’ve long been proud of the family name ‘Ziants’, but never used it on the radio.
The Ziants Boyz (L-R) Tommy (coal miner), Micheal (radio/recording dude), John (Ohio coal mine boss), Steve (newspaper writer/sports editor) ... on vacation, Holden Beach, 1994
The Ziants Boyz (L-R) Tommy (coal miner), Micheal (radio/recording dude), John (Ohio coal mine boss), Steve (newspaper writer/sports editor) … on vacation, Holden Beach, 1994
 
In fact, through 12 years on-air, all through my tours of duty in Harrisburg (WKBO), Saint Louis (KSD), Nashville (WLAC), and Philadelphia (WIFI) … I was known to the masses as John Saint John!
 
And it really worked.  I could play on and riff on that name all day long … ‘Philly’s one radio saint – that ain’t’, or (in St. Louis) ‘preaching the gospel according to St. John from the banks of the Mississippi’, and … well, you get the idea.
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Micheal Ziants ON-AIR at WKBO Radio, Harrisburg, PA as John Saint John rocked the state capital for years, 1973-1978
Without a doubt, the radio days/daze in Harrisburg, PA are among my favorite memories through all these years. “And don’t forget to smell the flowers along the way, ’cause we’re only here for a short while.”
 ** Micheal as John St. John,  On the Air @ WKBO Radio, Harrisburg, PA **
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Pre-MP3/Downloads – in the days of 45 rpm records – a WKBO Radio weekly music survey, charting record sales … with John Saint John

In fact, some of my best pals & brothers-in-arms from along the banks of the Susquehanna now belong to the ages and pages of broadcast history.

Big names all – Charlie Adams, “Big Jim” Roberts,  Marv “The Goose” Goslin, Fred “Honzie” Honsberger, Jeff Kauffman, Gary “The Pit” Magill … much love & respect, my brothers, and prayers to ‘the other side’. I cherish the time we spent ‘in the trenches’ together.

Your names – and broadcast contributions – are now the stuff of Legend.

** Micheal as John St. John, WLAC, Nashville, 1980 **

But you know, names, people and places will always change … and upon my arrival in New Orleans in 1983, so did the  “John Saint John” thing. 
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a full-page ad in Sunday’s Times-Picayune promoting WQUE’s Mike McCann

Q-93 (owned at the time by Insilco, an international silver company, really) employed a mid-day jock (who still today does production for Entercom’s WWL) by the on-air name of STEVE St. John … a jock that I would have to follow in afternoon drive!  Uh-oh.

WQUE management loved what I had been doing on-air in Philadelphia, and flew me down to hire me in June of 1983. But the name had to go!
Oh well, (sigh) what’s that old Billy Shakespeare line about, “A rose by any other name…”?
 
So, ‘Mike McCann’ was born.  And in one fell swoop, Q-93 hired me for afternoon drive … and these two crazed characters out of Beaumont, Texas – Walton & Johnson for morning drive … all in that one fateful week!

** Mike McCann On the Air @ Q-93/WQUE-FM, along with Walton & Johnson, May 1984 **

 
Now, at that point in time, John & Steve had only been together for 5 months as a team, having met for a breakfast and formed their alliance just a half year before – in Beaumont.
 I had been a top-rated and tested major market air personality for years, and was looking to do mornings at Q, but management had other ideas.  And that is the subject for yet another blog…  another time.

What’s in a name? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

 Or is it … ON it?
MichealZiants-aka-MikeMcCann-TV-Focus-TP_1984
 
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L-R.HeathAllen, TheresaAnderssonMichealZiantsRichLenzAirliftProductionsNOLA
L-R, Heath Allen, Theresa Andersson, Micheal Ziants, Rich Lenz – during a break from the original HEALING HOUSE sessions, Airlift Productions

“For years, I have worked with Micheal Ziants and Airlift Productions recording songs for Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Miracle Network.  Mike’s attention to detail is legendary, but his commitment to the kids and the challenges they face goes far beyond that.  He gets it.   Professionally, he’s as good as it gets.  Everyone SOUNDS better after a session with Mike.  And no matter what the audio project, you FEEL better after a session with Airlift.  That’s “Z” truth! — HEATH ALLEN, WDSU-TV Reporter, and Veteran Guitar Picker

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McCann, Walton & Johnson On-Air At Q93-WQUE, 1984

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Times-Picayune Pic  featuring WQUE Radio’s new hires – Walton & Johnson … oh, and that Mike McCann dude (Airlift proprietor Micheal Ziants ) during the radio days/daze)

The world sure was a different place in 1984.

Ronald Reagan sat in the White House, America was watching ‘Cosby’ & ‘Family Ties’ on cathode ray tubes, Wendy’s was asking “Where’s the Beef?” …

Videotape & VCRs were state of the art,  ‘Romancing the Stone’ was huge at the box office, Los Angeles hosted the Olympic Games, the NFL had competition with the USFL – and Cut Off, LA native Bobby Hebert was QB for it’s Michigan Panthers …

Closer to home, ‘Dutch’ Morial reigned as Mayor of New Orleans, K&B Drugstores were on every corner, Maison Blanche still sat on Canal Street … and the Crescent City opened it’s doors and welcomed the world with the 1984 World’s Fair!

And the day it opened – May 12th, 1984 – yours truly, as Mike McCann, was wrapping up my first year on Q-93 as afternoon air personality.

AirliftProductionsRecallsWorldsFair1984WithMikeMcCann

My weekend gig was doing mid-days on-air every Saturday and, as fate would have it, the day the World’s Fair was unveiled, I was doing the duty – with Walton & Johnson as co-stars.  

Really.

John & Steve had a remote broadcast on this Saturday from the remodeled Maison Blanche department store on Canal Street – and dropped in from time to time on the broadcast.  Oh boy! 

Hard to believe that this aircheck is now thirty-three years old! Although the station positioning statement  “30 minutes of non-stop music IN STEREO!” is for sure a giveaway.

And the music?  Cindy Lauper, Van Halen,  Rod Stewart, Culture Club, Madonna …and Prince Rogers Nelson danced in the ‘Purple Rain’.

Give a listen to New Orleans radio in 1984 – in this newly unearthed, never-before-heard gem.  It’s WQUE-FM broadcasting from the top of the Tidewater Place building in the 1400 block of Canal Street on May 12th, 1984 – LIVE with Mike McCann —-

Man, it was so hard to find good part-time help in those days. 🙂

 

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a full-page ad in Sunday’s Times-Picayune promoting WQUE’s Mike McCann

 

Interestingly – and not so coincidentally – 1984 was also the year that I decided to prepare my exit from the radio days and create Airlift Productions!  As to Walton & Johnson?  Well, John & Steve are still today in 2017 plying their trade in syndication on some of America’s finest radio stations…mgz

 

 

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MikeChurchKingDudeSiriusRadio“When I need BIG ‘I-know-that-guy’s-voice!’ sound for any production I am working on, the first call I make is to Airlift Mike.  Micheal’s penetrating vocals and second-to-none production quality give my movie & audio feature projects the instant respectability they need.   If you want to sound like a pro, meaning no one gives a second thought to your audio because it is so well executed, you want to call Airlift!”

MIKE CHURCH, World-Famous Sirius/XM Talk Show Host, Founding Father Film Maker, Writer & Producer of ‘The Spirit of ’76’ and ‘The Road to Independence’ & Creator of the Veritas Network/Crusade Channel

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from NOLA since 1984!