Melissa Carter: A Fan First

Melissa Carter

I have watched other radio personalities wince at these words, suddenly reminded of their age as the gorgeous waitress elaborated about how she loved listening when her parents would drive her to elementary school in the ‘90s. I would chuckle at my colleagues’ dagger piercing reaction but I have never felt that same sting.

I have always loved being told that I have been a familiar or even comforting voice to someone who grew up listing to me. I have always felt so lucky and honored and I always remember standing in the shoes of a listener because I was a fan first. My favorite radio personality growing up was Patty Murray.

She was on the coolest rock station in Nashville, KDF. She had an infectious laugh and deep voice. She was beloved and respected by her colleagues and her career was on the rise. In the late ‘80s she made the jump from Nashville to Miami, which in radio circles was a huge deal for a woman because the Miami market was so much larger than Nashville

. By 1989, she had already inspired me to go into radio and I soon thereafter I was working part-time at a local station. She was one of the first women to become a music director of a rock station. I describe Patty as a cross between Leslie Fram and Mara Davis but with a perfect ‘80s perm.

In March of 1989, while traveling with her husband and son to Destin, Fla., for a family reunion, Patty was the only one killed in a head on crash with another car. I can’t tell you how I first found out, likely on KDF while visiting home during that time, but the news was a kick in the gut that truly saddened me. Sometimes with those who entertain us, we relax and just expect them to always be there. But the loss of her was different than a distant celebrity.

She had been an everyday part of my life. Her death touched me even though at the time I had not yet fully realized her influence on me. I regret that I never got the chance to meet her and simply tell her what a big fan I was and how she unknowingly had inspired my own life and career. Radio doesn’t always have the best reputation in the entertainment industry

. Radio personalities are seen as the goofy step-kid of media. This is sometimes deserved because so many DJs resort to pranks or dumb jokes as a way to get a message across. But I still believe that radio has the potential to continue to be the most influential of all mediums

. For whatever reason, radio, at its best, has always been and will always be an incredibly personal and intimate experience. Listeners often say to me with slight embarrassment, “It’s like I know you personally.” I always reply, “You do.” I get to go to work every day and share my life with people and there is no greater compliment to be told that someone connected with something I said. I am older than Patty was when she died, and I have been in radio longer than she had a chance to be

. That feels strange, since she will always be that larger-than-life rock chick to me. Even more strange is the thought that the guy who approached me feels the same about me that I felt about Patty. What I couldn’t have known before traveling in shoes similar to Patty is how wonderful it is to be able to thank that listener for all he has given me in return.