As a youngster, I used to put myself to sleep by lying face down and relentlessly thumping my head up and down directly into my pillow until I exhausted myself enough to deactivate my brain and fall asleep.
I recently shared the head-thumping history with my partner Derek who, without missing a beat, replied, “Well that explains a lot now doesn’t it?”
It was also during this time that I discovered a very private and special relationship with God.
I can only assume His original head-banging purpose was to knock some sense into me which eventually allowed my proclivity for nocturnal head banging to be replaced by a spiritual awakening. I should be relieved because, if not, I’d almost certainly have a one-way ticket to Hell—and a flat forehead.
While in college in 1983 at the University of Missouri, with God still at my side, I worked the overnight weekend shift as a DJ at 98 KFMZ, “the Midwest’s Best Rock.” I felt like a celebrity—I was a real Disc Jockey with the requisite (yet fabricated) low-pitched voice to prove it.
Though a really hip DJ name would have been preferable, I settled on boring “Randy Jones”—it was either that or “Spaz Nightowl” and the station’s Program Manager didn’t go for that. I guess he didn’t think that many people would be listening anyway.
I would soon find out the truth behind that notion.
My on-air shifts were from 11:00 PM each Friday night to 7:00 AM on Saturday morning and from midnight to 8:00 AM on Sunday morning. My mom, who typically listened only to Talk Radio, would leave on my broadcast and her police scanner all night long during my shifts. Whether she was listening to my radio program or just checking to see if I had been arrested, I will never really know. Probably both.
In my spiritual world, God was cool. Way cool. He was “Cool God” in my eyes. Not only was He always available but He was completely understanding of my adolescent emotional rollercoaster as well as my burning desire for fame and fortune.
Of course, Cool God knew that I really only wanted acceptance—He was older and wiser after all.
The best thing about Cool God was that I always knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was special and destined for greatness.
Throughout my childhood, the Jones family attended Calvary Baptist Church—the same church where my parents got married in 1954. I guess us kids whined and complained enough that, by the time I was about 11, my exasperated mom resigned from forcing organized religion and basically said, “I have had it with you kids. Find God on your own time.”
Unfortunately, in future years, I would often encounter a degree of bigotry and hypocrisy in organized religion. If I fell in love with a new church, I would almost always discover that some parishioners felt that they could do whatever they wanted Monday through Saturday as long as they spent a couple of hours at Cool God’s House on Sunday.
In my frustration, I have often “discussed” this situation with Cool God who was always quick to point out that nobody was perfect and all were welcome in His house. Cool God would then point out that, though I constantly claimed to be the ultimate rule follower, I did actually get caught cheating on a Biology test in high school and if Mrs. Robertson was merciful at that time–and she was–then I should be merciful now.
For the most part, my DJ nights went along relatively smoothly at “the home of the Midwest’s Best Rock, 98 KFMZ.” I would crank up the studio speakers, put on my best Spaz Nightowl DJ voice, take the occasional request call from the dorms and have the time of my life.
Part of my job was also to play the station’s weekly requirement of public service announcements and religious programming or “God Shows.” But working alone all night, and with no sleep, had its downside. And sleep deprivation would almost always kick in about 5:00 AM on Sunday morning—just in time for the God Shows to air.
All the weekly God Shows were delivered to the station, either on a reel-to-reel tape or on a record album to be played live on the air. If you are too young to know what a reel-to-reel tape and/or a record album is, please slap yourself really hard, right now—now, do it again, even harder, and go to Wikipedia and look it up because you suck.
Powerline was one of my aforementioned God Shows and arrived weekly in a record-album format.
My task was simple. Put the album on the turntable, place the needle on the appropriate starting groove on Side One of the record album, switch the turntable to “live air.” Pick up the new Pat Benatar album and get paid to go preview it, very loudly, in the adjacent studio. The louder the volume—the greater my chance of staying awake.
Cool God, at numerous times in my life, has been somewhat of a practical joker regarding my various foibles. After all, it was Cool God who predetermined that the world’s love of bunny rabbits was not to be shared by me. In my world, even the Easter Bunny appears to be off limits.
One memorable Sunday morning, I had begun Powerline right on schedule and retreated to the second studio for my Benatar fix. Chain smoking and dancing wildly around the room, for the most part, helped me to retain, if not regain, consciousness.
We are young
Heartache to heartache we stand
No promises, no demands
Love is a Battlefield…
If the phone at the station rang, which was rare during the God Shows, a small light would blink above the sound board to alert the “talent” of an incoming call. So, on this particular morning, if someone called I would certainly “see the light”—no pun intended.
As a result, there was absolutely no need to stifle Ms. Benatar’s considerable vocal prowess so I let her hit me with her best shot until about 5:24 AM when I decided to return to the Powerline studio to change to God Show #2.
Regardless of if Wikipedia explains this specific phenomenon, record albums can “skip.” Meaning that if the needle were to hit an imperfect or damaged groove in the album surface, there was a good chance the album would repeat the same single second of content…
When I returned to the first studio, based on my swift calculations, Powerline had started to skip at approximately 5:07 AM and had repeated (and broadcast) the same exact word for approximately 17 minutes:
“Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus…”
And no one had called.
Because, as both Cool God and I discovered that early Sunday morning, NO ONE WAS LISTENING to 98 KFMZ or Spaz Nightowl or even Powerline. Not even the original night owl herself, my mother.
Being a “broadcast professional,” I immediately sprung into action. Even if one poor fool (perhaps a shut-in with no telephone) was listening, I had to respond quickly. I owed Cool God that much.
Though I briefly considered Benatar’s “Hell is for Children” as a stop gap, I grabbed the first album I found—the Von Trapp Family Singers. No, not Julie Andrews and the really cute kids from movie but the real Maria von Trapp and her rather sturdy offspring.
Why a hard rock station even had a von Trapp Family Singers album remains a mystery.
I ripped Powerline off the turntable—no point being subtle now. A few seconds of silence or “dead air” followed until my imaginary single listener was treated to a live broadcast of my attempt at lining up the needle with the Von Trapp’s first song groove.
Let’s just say that Julie Andrews and those darling movie kids made the real Von Trapp’s sound much better than they deserved and, within two minutes, I knew the real Von Trapps had to say “so long” and “farewell” for good.
I grabbed yet another record album and, after scanning at the cover, I knew I had found the perfect song to keep within the theme of God Show programming.
I grabbed the microphone and hastened to explain my shut-in/ listener, “It’s 5:27 AM here at the home of the Midwest’s Best Rock, 98 KFMZ. I apologize for the technical difficulties we have experienced during this morning’s religious programming. While I sort out the situation, here’s a special musical treat for…uh…well….you?”
The artist was Adam Ant.
The record album was Friend or Foe.
The song was the previous year’s mega-hit, “Goody Two Shoes.”
And Spaz Nightowl was a God Show genius.
However, I must also explain that sometimes, it is not the actual record album that causes the skipping problem but can be, in fact, the needle retaliating due to being overused and/or mishandled. And, after 17 minutes of repetitive “Jesus. Jesus. Jesus…,” and two live broadcasts featuring careless needle ripping and album switching, the odds of a smooth transition were not in my favor…
Adam Ant sings:
Spaz pushes needle to a new grove:
Spaz, flabbergasted, pushes the needle again, harder and further into the song:
One last attempt:
Spaz gives up—it is now 5:32 AM.
With the next God Show finally playing, albeit two minutes late but from a reel-to-reel tape and not a record album, I was once again safe, exasperated and exhausted.
The rest of my on-air shift that morning ran relatively smoothly until I made my last Public Service Announcement at 7:56 AM—just four minutes before I could retreat to my king-sized waterbed for some well-deserved rest.
“Be sure to visit us every Sunday at Missouri United Methodist Church at 209 South Ninth Street in downtown Columbia. Worship services will be conducted today at 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM. It’s now 7:56 (pause) and if you want to make that 8:00 AM service, (pause) I suggest you book.”
Finally, at 8:04 AM, I was once again reunited with my 1979 Ford Pinto and, though most credit Carrie Underwood, I assure you it was actually an extremely distraught Spaz Nightowl who first exclaimed, “Jesus! Take the wheel!”
As I grew older, and allowed my childhood dreams of stardom fall to the wayside in favor of mortgages, children and job pressures, I came to believe that I wasn’t special after all. I had sacrificed my dreams and let down my childhood Cool God.
In truth, in my effort to become a “mature adult,” I was solely responsible for suppressing the spirit He created within me at a young age. For many years I even lost touch with Cool God because I couldn’t face failing in His eyes.
I am happy to say that Cool God eventually made a triumphant return to my life—but Adam Ant was history. After all, sometimes GOD SHOWS when you expect Him the least but need Him the most.
Marketing guru, business humorist, professional-courtesy advocate, branded-content writer, creative-development consultant, and entertaining motivational speaker Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of RediscoverCourtesy.org and the president of MindZoo, a marketing communications firm in Naples, Florida.