Here’s what one experienced DJ says you should do to get on the radio

Dean Hill will be signing off and not returning to the Vancouver airwaves.

Rock 101’s Dean Hill didn’t plan on being on the air for almost 50 years when he was younger.

His path to radio initially led via a detour to a sawmill on Vancouver Island. One day he had a little accident.

“The paramedic in the back of the ambulance looked down at me, who was bleeding from my back, and said, ‘Maybe that’s not your job,'” says Hill Vancouver is great.

When he recovered he took that advice and his interest in music and record players and showed up on CKDA, a radio station in Victoria. They liked his stuff, hired him and he spent the next 47 years on the air, with stops in Calgary and Toronto before returning to the west coast.

“The only job I ever begged for was to get out of Toronto,” he says; that led him to CFOX in Vancouver.

Over a couple of years he moved to Rock 101 (a station manager hired him over the phone while Hill was at a hotel in Singapore), CKLG where he and the morning show team won a national award, and then back to Rock 101 where he was over a quarter of a century, beginning in 1995.

Leave Vancouver for a ‘cooler’ place

“It’s kind of crazy, it’s scary, it’s kind of exciting, it’s also time,” Hill says of his upcoming retirement. “It’s been 26, 27 years on Rock 101.”

“I found out the other day by accident that I’ve been doing radio for 47 years.”

During those years, he was exposed to rock legends (“ACDC’s Malcolm Young smoked me a cigarette at the Coliseum”), saw the industry shift from vinyl to digital, and was sent to work at Disneyland several times (including a tour through the secret room in the theme park’s Matterhorn).

It’s one of the things Hill is grateful for throughout his career, the adventures he’s had, with highlights including MCing for the Who and two interviews with Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant.

“It was just fun,” he says.

Some of that fun has been lost in recent years as the pandemic turned Rock 101’s office (along with many, many others) into a lonely place. Only a handful of people work on the same floor as Hill these days.

At the same time, he struggles with life in the big city.

“I don’t enjoy Vancouver as much as I did in the late ’70s. It’s a different place. I’m moving to Nanaimo; it’s cooler, there are no bridges, traffic is better,” he says.

The slow pace fits in with his plans to throw himself headlong into “all the things you should be doing when you retire,” like traveling, meeting new people, and joining clubs.

Dean Hill’s tips for future radio DJs

With decades in the radio booth, Hill has collected a few tips and advice for those aspiring to go on the air themselves.

“You can’t graduate from radio school and expect to get a job at CFOX,” he says. “You have to start small and know everything: news, sports, being a DJ, getting to know the music well, pronouncing names correctly.”

That means leaving Vancouver for a smaller market.

“You have to get out of Vancouver, you have to go to a small town,” he says.

Another is to make sure you’re relevant to listeners when you’re speaking to them, and don’t shy away from talking about yourself.

“Give me something I can use; be relevant and local,” he says, noting that he’s a detail-oriented guy, which has helped him avoid some pitfalls.

Following that advice, he has been able to have a long career on the local airwaves, and he’s grateful for the people who spend time listening to him.

“It’s been a great career and I want to thank everyone for listening,” he says.

“If you’ve ever heard my show, I really appreciate it and I love you for it, no matter what station it was on,” he adds.

Hill’s final show will be on Friday July 15, 2022 at Rock 101 (101.1 FM) in Vancouver.

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