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Jim Aylward: Whoops! And so a radio career was born

Some people think my name must be Greek. It's not. Aylward is Irish. County Kilkenny Irish. Some Aylwards succumbed to the pressure of immigration and changed Aylward to Aylesworth. Easier to understand, they said.

When I went into broadcasting, bosses suggested I change it to something people could understand. How about Jim Ward? Jim Woods? I stubbornly said, "My name is Aylward."

"But they don't get it," they said. "They don't know how to spell it. How can they write to you if they can't spell it?"

So I went on the air and I talked about it. I said, "Everybody seems to be having a tough time with my name. They don't know how to spell it. Well, it's really very simple. It's J-i-m!"

Actually, my name wasn't the problem when I first started in radio. I had several difficulties, including gasping for breath in the middle of a word. I would start to say the word and be totally out of breath because of nerves. If the word was, for instance, "January," I would say "Jan . . . GASP! . . . uary!" Not too professional.

And in those days, they didn't have tape. You had to record a disc. No stopping. No redoing. Do it right the first time.

So I went to a recording studio in Boston and recorded a presentation for the radio show I proposed to do if only somebody would let me. Somehow I didn't gasp.

I sent those discs to radio stations. One station asked me to come for a visit and then offered me a 15-minute show on Saturdays without pay. You bet I took it.

I called the show Afternoon With Aylward. I know. It was a short afternoon. Just 15 minutes. But I was rather optimistic. I had my own show! I tried to make it funny. I played "Little-Known Records That Should Have Remained That Way." I did voices and characters. I talked to myself. I was Uncle Rocco who read the funny papers. And I was a "star" at 19.

Art Hume, the host of the afternoon shift, thought I was funny. He asked the bosses to let me do five newscasts on his show following my 15 minutes. They paid me $5 a week.

One Saturday, deep into the show, I forgot about the news. I ran down the hall to the news machine, grabbed a "News in Brief" report from the wire, and ran back to the mike. I began to read the thing cold, and found the machine had skittered in the middle of the lead story and then had connected to a story that had nothing to do with it. I got flustered. I began to sweat. So I motioned to Art to cut my mike, drawing my finger across my throat.

I then said, loud and clear, "Dammit, Art, what the hell am I saying?" He took off his headsets, placed them carefully on the console and walked out of the studio.

I didn't know if he was fooling or not. I somehow continued and finished the radio newscast, and then waited for the angry calls to come in ordering my head on a block.

They never came. The boss didn't call. The owner never called. Listeners didn't call. Then I thought maybe Art was just having fun with me.

When I got home, my mother was at the door, waiting to know if they had fired me. She had heard every word I said.

No, they didn't fire me. It was a small station and evidently nobody was listening — except my mother. Well, if they had canned me, I could have changed my name to Jim Ward and had a whole new career.

New Port Richey resident Jim Aylward was formerly a nationally syndicated columnist and radio host in New York City. Write him in care of LifeTimes, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

Jim Aylward: Whoops! And so a radio career was born 05/25/09 [Last modified: Monday, May 25, 2009 4:30am]
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