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ClayManiacs.com  |  Archive  |  Media & Appearance Archive  |  Writer's Corner - Fan Essays  |  7/18/04 Lynn Venhaus: An Open Letter to Radio PDs and DJs... (Read 10558 times)
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Author Topic: 7/18/04 Lynn Venhaus: An Open Letter to Radio PDs and DJs... (Read 10558 times)  (Read 5050 times)

Marilyn

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 Lynn Venhaus: An Open Letter to Radio PDs and DJs...
« on: July 18, 2004, 10:12:40 PM »   

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AN OPEN LETTER TO RADIO PDs and DJs ON PLAYING CLAY AIKEN
By Lynn Venhaus

Dear Program Directors and Disc Jockeys,

If you are adding Clay Aiken’s latest single, “I Will Carry You,” to your rotation, thank you. And if you have been supportive by playing his music and being nice to fans with requests, it is much appreciated.

If you have obstinately refused to play Clay because of personal bias, Get Over Yourselves!

I would like to address this obvious standoff situation. I don’t want to be confrontational, but it is frustrating to see what’s happening around the dial all over the country.

As a fan from Day One on “American Idol,” I have supported Clay’s career by buying his CDs, purchasing concert tickets and watching his TV appearances. Millions of his fans have: Best-selling single of 2003, “This Is the Night,” which holds the record for the second-highest sales week ever, behind Elton John’s remake of “Candle In the Wind” for Princess Diana. His album “Measure of a Man” went to no. 1 after its mid-October release and stayed there for weeks. He won the Fan’s Choice Award at the American Music Awards.

Last year, he was on the cover of Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly and Teen People magazines. EW called him “one of the most natural, confident and addictive voices in contemporary pop music.” He’s been the musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” and sang a duet with Heather Headley on Broadway for an Equity Cares benefit. He sells out arenas and has won over every talk show host in America.

I admire not only his remarkable singing voice, but also his efforts on behalf of the Bubel Aiken Foundation, to open minds about integrating special needs children into regular activities. His charitable works have been extraordinary as he starts his career in the music business. I also enjoy watching him evolve as a performer, from a geeky college kid to a polished entertainer.

Many fans would like to experience listening to his songs on the radio but apparently, in major markets and smaller areas, Clay’s music can’t be heard because the Radio Powers That Be have decided to ignore his success.

By stubbornly not playing an artist who has climbed the charts – despite lack of radio airplay – is certainly puzzling. By not taking requests from polite fans, who risk insults by calling your station, you are being ill-mannered and rude.

Decent guy+charm+talent, and yet, so many hurdles. Clay himself has alluded to the obstacle of little radio support as a “political” issue. What exactly is the problem here?

In St. Louis, two adult contemporary stations, KYKY (98.1 FM) and KEZK (102.5 FM) play him as well as the contemporary hit radio station KSLZ (107.7 FM). He’s not in heavy rotation, but the catchy uptempo “Invisible” was played. The five-minute “Solitaire” didn’t fare so well despite rave reviews and number one position on “SoundScan.” Yet, KEZK, God bless ‘em, continues to post “Solitaire” on their website with a link to buy it.

The flip side of “Solitaire,”  “The Way,” didn’t get near the radio play it should have, but I partially blame RCA for the marketing snafu. In its review of “The Way” on Feb. 28, 2004, Billboard said, “As always, Aiken is a pro, singing as if he has been in the biz for decades.” The writer also stated, “Radio is likely to resist play of Aiken, whose popularity is polarizing, but the young artist has certainly done his job. A total showstopper.”

I contacted one of the DJs who broadcast a remote from the concert venue March 21 where Clay appeared with Kelly Clarkson on the Independent Tour. I asked why Clay wasn’t played more. Here’s his reply. I have chosen not to disclose his name because this was a private e-mail.

“Very interesting you would bring this up. It baffles me as well. In fact, I’ve taken it upon myself to try to get programmers to play Clay,” he said. He included a letter he sent to his PD, who was later promoted and moved to another city.

“I saw something last night that is money. And by money, I mean passion-induced listening. What if that giant ugly bulldozer called ‘American Idol’ unknowingly uncovered a tiny piece of enormous radio gold? The true visionary changes his thinking with the times. The rub on Clay Aiken is that he sounds like a Broadway singer. And music directors have agreed, saying, ‘I hate it. That’s bad. We won’t play it.’ Decorated PDs have been claiming that all the way to unemployment. But what I saw last night kept me up all night. Obviously, the business is changing, with XM, Sirius, Ipod’s and mostly indecency. Educated music listeners aren’t listening to our music, why would they?

It is her. The kind of lady I saw last night showed up at 4. She had a personalized Clay shirt. She has two kids and problems. Problems just like Clay. She also is nowhere close to slick and neither is he and he doesn’t apologize for it. In fact, she doesn’t get slick. All she gets is an incredible voice that makes her feel like music has never made her feel, never ever. In fact, she admits not being into music before Clay. I am telling you, I talked to hundreds of these women last night and they are dedicated, more dedicated than Latin Folks. Oh, also she cherishes him for one more thing, too. His Values….

What more could you ask for: passionate, dedicated radio listeners. If they want it and there’s enough of them, why not give it to them. Give them every Clay release there is. Tell me why not.”

Smart man. Too bad he’s not a program director.

"Regarding Clay Aiken, I think there is a general prejudice against  playing "white pop" on radio today. Whether it's Top 40 or adult contemporary stations favoring rock bands or soul divas or oldies stations playing more  Beatles and Barry White and less of the Association and Carpenters, programmers  seem geared to thinks more uptempo and energetic," another disc jockey who now works in New York told me.

I have also talked to two radio personalities who work at a highly rated classic rock station. They like Clay. One described him as “terrific.” But he doesn’t fit their format. They did, when voting controversy surfaced during the third season of “American Idol,” play both Clay and Ruben’s finale songs to gauge the applause as part of their morning show. “That scrawny SOB can sure sing!” one exclaimed.

These are veterans of radio. They “get it” – realizing Clay’s talent is for real. But they have no power to get him played.

So, I repeat, what is the problem here?

I can understand if you personally don’t care for him. Music is subjective. No matter how many Christina Aguilera songs you spin, I’m not buying. Ditto gangsta rappers. But your personal tastes should not influence your professional work. I don’t care if you think he is an alien life form bent on world domination, if he’s selling millions of records, he should be coming out the antenna.

Are we only playing songs by “cool” people now? And who is the arbitrator of “cool,” by the way.  You?

Are you afraid to lose your hipster status if you admit to liking such a squeaky-clean guy? Are you worried about how playing a ballad by fresh-scrubbed Clay Aiken would look to your important demographic fan base, whatever that is?

Is it because he’s not a thug with a prior conviction or partying the night away with the “in-crowd,” making tabloid headlines for his excessive lifestyle? Or hasn’t done a stint in drug rehab or had a quickie marriage in Vegas annulled? Or dates a bevy of bimbos and had a sex tape surface?

And don’t even go all homophobic on me. Clay says he’s not gay, and even if he was, so what? If you are not going to play someone because of their sexuality, then tell that to openly gay singers. Call me when the swelling of your face goes down.

In a music world of edgy extreme behavior, Clay simply stands there, all boy-next-door, and enthralls with his unique wide-ranging voice. And despite every attempt to dig up dirt about him, scandals haven’t been revealed. He admits to a temper and being bossy. Geez, he’s human. So he goes to church and loves his mama. What is wrong with that? Are we living in the Superman Bizarro World where being a nice guy is a liability?

Go ahead, make fun of Clay’s looks, his wholesome values, his songs, his rise to fame based on a TV talent show, “American Idol.” He’s been an easy target for late-night talk show hosts. He can take it. He’s heard it all. His fans have endured the litany of criticisms and become even more defensive. It’s become a Catch-22.

The anti-Clay backlash is accepted, but still not understood. Have you heard him sing? How can you not think he has a good voice? That’s what’s so mystifying to fans such as myself.

Is it because he has a majority of female fans ranging from little kids to senior citizens? Is it because your mom or wife or grandma has become all fan-girly over a skinny spiked-hair redhead with freckles that you would have probably beat up in school?

Have you seen the thousands of screaming fans at such recent venues as the outdoor summer concert series on “Good Morning, America” July 2, drawing the biggest crowd ever, and headlining “A Capitol Fourth” on PBS Independence Day? Good-looking girls with “Clay Nation” painted on their bellies and Clay Aiken photos on their tiny cropped T-shirts mingled with families, gray-haired grannies and military officers. NASCAR race car drivers gave him a standing ovation after a benefit in Dover, Delaware, a few weeks ago. Tell all these people he doesn’t matter.

Is there a jealousy factor going on because this self-proclaimed “Mayor of Nerdville” is an unlikely chick magnet?

How else to explain the intense hatred for a singer who’s making the most of the professional opportunities being offered because of his talent?

Is it because he doesn’t need you to be successful?

He’s managed to sell nearly 3 million CDs despite lack of radio play. He didn’t need the title of “American Idol” and succeeded in spite of judge Simon Cowell, so he just might have a long career without your help.

There are countless acts still thriving that never were radio darlings or considered commercially viable. But Clay’s already proven he can sell records, and it’s doubtful he’s a flash-in-the-pan. Nevertheless, even if he was, radio is littered with one-hit wonders.

Do not dismiss me because of your preconceived labels. Do you think because I listen to Clay Aiken that I don’t enjoy songs by Puddle of Mudd or Incubus? Wrong. I don’t own any music by Donny Osmond or Air Supply, thank you very much. You’ll find everything from Aaron Copland  to Warren Zevon in my CD collection.

Do not assume you know anything about the individuals who make up Clay Nation. We come from all walks of life: doctors and nurses, college professors and kindergarten teachers, retired guys and students, soccer moms and hockey dads. We are professional people with busy lives who enjoy Clay’s music.

Unfortunately, some overzealous fans have given the wrong impression. There are hundreds of thousands of us who do not worship him, who do not think he’s perfect and the music industry savior.  Many of us are active people who also listen to other music, spend money on CDs, and purchase products advertised on your radio. We are not obsessed, just determined and enthusiastic. We want him to do well because we think he deserves it.

Would your advertisers like to know that you are turning off a segment of the listening audience because you’re inflexible?

Let’s face it. Radio is in trouble. For the past few years, corporate conglomerates have all but ruined radio because of narrow playlists featuring cookie-cutter artists. No, Clay does not fit the mold of the traditional pop star. That’s why millions have embraced him. Is that why you are being so stubborn? Because you didn’t make him successful?

With voice-tracking and downsizing occurring at many music stations, employment opportunities are rocky. And now the FCC is even more vigilant after the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” Super Bowl Sunday. If you cross over the line, you’re outtathere. The pressure to not make a false move weighs heavy around the radio dial.

Large radio conglomerates have taken over the business. Most radio stations in major markets are owned by Viacom, Disney, Clear Channel or Infinity, thus consolidating most of the nation’s 10,000 stations in just a few hands. Clear Channel alone owns 1,200 stations, making it the largest owner in the U.S. In St. Louis, Emmis Broadcasting out of Indiana and Bonneville out of Utah are major players as well.

Radio regulations pretty much went out the window with the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Previously, companies could only own one AM and one FM station in each market, no more than seven stations throughout the country.

Since then, corporate owners have standardized programming so that instead of unique local elements, most stations sound the same. Drive through any city in the country, and rarely will you be able to distinguish where you are. The number of commercials airing during an hour has increased sharply, too – even up to 20, 25 minutes in some instances! It’s no wonder people are turning off the radio in favor of their own music favorites.

As a journalist who covered major market radio for several years, I interviewed many outstanding on-air personalities shoved out the door as formats and the business changed. I’ve seen people ousted for ridiculous crass stunts that backfired and public outrage over what was unfortunately said over the public airwaves. Who knows? Your job may be on the line next. That’s why I would think you’d want to please listeners, not alienate them.

I briefly worked full-time in radio news, and for years was a correspondent and occasional on-air personality for a small-market operation. I’ve seen the changes in the business, and it’s not been pretty.

As one who has primarily worked in newspapers for three decades, I realize I am a dime a dozen. That’s the way it is when supply exceeds the demand in very competitive fields. But unlike you, I have no pretense about my importance.

I passed the same FCC test that you did for an operator’s license.
With its niche markets, radio is in disarray. Let’s see, you will play Enrique Iglesias, but you won’t play Clay Aiken singing “The Way,” a song co-written by Enrique Iglesias. Huh?

Now, of course, DJs usually don’t have the luxury of playing what they want. FM Radio is no longer some groovy guys playing long tracks from their scratchy record collections. So it’s really up to the Program Director to play Clay.

Or do you think his meteoric rise was too fast, that he didn’t earn it by playing in smoky clubs and touring on the road for years? Gone are the days when REO Speedwagon and Styx were signed to record deals after playing the college bar circuit.

Radio no longer dictates to me what I should listen to, period. During my Beatlemaniac youth, I would fall asleep each night with the earphone of my transister radio in place, listening to KXOK (630 AM), one of the country’s legendary Top 40 stations in the ‘60s and ‘70s. I would collect the weekly playlists.

But now, I punch all over the dial to find music to listen to in my car. I’ve often given up after hearing the same-sounding songs by Nickelback, Three Doors Down and Creed, and just put in a CD. I discovered Gavin DeGraw, The Corrs and Coldplay without your help, long before one of their songs ever made it to radio. And both founders of  Wilco and Son Volt, previously from Uncle Tupelo, are from my hometown. They are critics’ darlings who rarely saw mainstream radio play, if ever, and continue to sell out shows.

My teenage sons rarely listen to radio, and use a considerable portion of their part-time job earnings on CDs. They play CDs all the time in their cars. I asked one son, who watches the Fuse network and reads Alternative Press magazine to find out about bands, why he didn’t listen to radio.

“They don’t play what I want to hear,” he said. Bingo.

That’s a common complaint, that today’s best new bands aren’t played on the radio. That content is extremely limited in diversity.

So, do us consumers a favor. Knock off the smug attitude and give Clay Aiken a spin. Really listen, please? And then make up your mind. I’m asking you to give him a chance. OK, so you don’t like “Invisible.”  Listen to “A Perfect Day” or “I Survived You.” Try the title track, “Measure of a Man.” Hear the 16-second glory note of the single “Solitaire” and tell me you’re not moved.

They are decent songs, but even better live. I also encourage you to attend one of his shows. After all, you can’t really talk about an experience until you have it. I guarantee you it is eye-opening. In person, he is Mr. Personality who does a variety of music with a terrific group of back-up singers and an excellent band. He has converted thousands of people through his showmanship. With an incredible amount of energy and passion, the man comes alive on stage.

So many critics wanted to trash him during the Independent Tour, you could tell in their reviews. They wanted to write clever paragraphs how he was this pre-fab manufactured pop product from reality TV. But then he won people over with his down-home charm and powerful pipes. Check out the reviews – they’re not all positive, but most of them were impressed.

Hey, this is music, after all. Music is supposed to lift us up, make us happy, elevate our mood during a bad day, make us think and feel.

I don’t expect you to become a Claymate, or even add “Measure of a Man” to your CD library. But some tolerance would be nice.

Hey, if macho man Jimmy Kimmel can be a good sport and have Clay come on his late night ABC talk show and not only sing, but even joke about the mocking jokes, can’t you?

Can’t we all get along? Thank you for listening,

Lynn Venhaus
Proud Claymaniac
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Lynn Venhaus is currently managing editor of two weekly newspapers in southwestern Illinois. She has worked both on-air and behind the scenes in radio, at WILY/WRXX in Centralia, Ill., and briefly as an entertainment trivia show co-host on KMOX in St. Louis. She passed the FCC license test in 1976 as a radio-TV major graduation requirement at Illinois State University. She wrote a weekly column on St. Louis radio, the 19th-20th major market, for the now defunct website, www.RadioDigest.com, and a monthly column, “AM/FM,” in the St. Louis Journalism Review for nearly three years. One of her most prized possessions is a “Holy Cow” thank-you card from legendary broadcaster Harry Caray. She continues to listen to music radio this summer, hoping to hear Clay Aiken after the gazillionth spin of Hoobastank’s “The Reason” and Maroon 5. She can be reached at: lzvenhaus@aol.com

Copyright 2004 Lynn Venhaus. Printed with the permission of the writer. 
 
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Marilyn

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CT loves Clay
 LYNN VENHAUS: AN OPEN LETTER TO RADIO PDs AND DJs...
« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2004, 11:02:18 PM »   

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Wow, is all I can say.  I just sent Lynn an email telling her how wonderful I thought she was to support Clay in a way that I hope will truly help us get some radioplay.  I pray it works.


Lind
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houstonclayfan
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  LYNN VENHAUS: AN OPEN LETTER TO RADIO PDs AND DJs...
« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2004, 11:16:24 PM »   

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Wow, great job !  Did you send this to DJs all over the US ?   :
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  LYNN VENHAUS: AN OPEN LETTER TO RADIO PDs AND DJs...
« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2004, 11:22:46 PM »   

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This was written by our very own Wordsmith, in case you didnt know  :   She posted in another thread that she wrote it so I know that she doesnt mind being discovered  8)

Thanks, Lynn !
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  LYNN VENHAUS: AN OPEN LETTER TO RADIO PDs AND DJs...
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2004, 12:55:02 AM »   

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Lynn,

That was very well written!!  Great job!  I want to know as well if this was sent out to radio stations??

Thanks for sharing it with us!
 
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Marilyn
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 LYNN VENHAUS: AN OPEN LETTER TO RADIO PDs AND DJs...
« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2004, 12:55:14 AM »     

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EXCELLENT LYNN-YOU PUT ALL OUR FEELINGS TOGETHER FOR US. THANK YOU!!! 
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  LYNN VENHAUS: AN OPEN LETTER TO RADIO PDs AND DJs...
« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2004, 01:35:18 AM »   

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Hello
It hasn't been sent yet to radio stations, but I plan to send it to some people.
However, anyone has my permission to send it to their local DJs that they're having problems with.
Cheers,
Lynn
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BOZENA
 LYNN VENHAUS: AN OPEN LETTER TO RADIO PDs AND DJs...
« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2004, 01:35:38 AM »   

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VERY WELL EXPRESSED LYNN
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« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2004, 02:14:50 AM »   

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Lynn,

Wow....very powerful piece.  You put so much thought into it...I'm impressed.

Sharon
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ACcountryFan
 LYNN VENHAUS: AN OPEN LETTER TO RADIO PDs AND DJs...
« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2004, 02:24:49 AM »   

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You expressed everything all ClayFans feel. i especially loved the part where you were talking about us fans and how we're the ones who get the criticisms and get insults thrown at us. These critics know their words don't hurt Clay too much...so they take it out on us because we're keeping him successful...this is why i get so upset at a bad review because the critics are making fun of who WE ALL support and as a result they're making fun of us simply because, as Lynn pointed out, Clay may not be "cool" or he's squeaky-clean or he doesn't fit the "rock and roll" mold.
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LYNN VENHAUS: AN OPEN LETTER TO RADIO PDs AND DJs...
« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2004, 07:32:03 AM »   

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FYI - Per Lynn, I have edited in paragraph eighteen.  She had contacted several people in radio in order to get quotes for her article, and just heard back from one of them after it was printed.  Per her request, I added the DJs comments. 
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 LYNN VENHAUS: AN OPEN LETTER TO RADIO PD's AND DJ's
« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2004, 12:25:53 PM »   

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LYNN, What a wonderful letter. I am going to send it to one of my radio stations. Not that it will probably do any good because they have never played any of Clay's music except for "Invisible" a few times. I hope maybe some of the DJ's and PD's will read it and listen.
Janet
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LYNN VENHAUS: AN OPEN LETTER TO RADIO PDs AND DJs...
« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2004, 12:35:50 PM »   

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Lynn,
Great job, as always!
I just beg to differ on one point.  We are TOO obsessed!
Woodstock :D  :D  :D
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  Lynn's DJ article
« Reply #13 on: July 19, 2004, 01:54:39 PM »   

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 from: wordsmith1223
Quote
Hello
It hasn't been sent yet to radio stations, but I plan to send it to some people.
However, anyone has my permission to send it to their local DJs that they're having problems with.
Cheers,
Lynn


I had to let you know how impressed I was with your article about the hypocrisy of "DJ's on Clay". I am Dianne Austin's mom (she's writes quite a few articles about Clay) and I felt you covered some very pertinent points on the psychology of the present day DJ's. I'm afraid we are fighting "a greater power" here that will inevitably have to be addressed in the open press. But had to tell you, I think you have created a wedge.
Bravo!    My post name is Superable Shirley
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CLAY'SJULIE
LYNN VENHAUS: AN OPEN LETTER TO RADIO PDs AND DJs...
« Reply #14 on: July 19, 2004, 03:17:57 PM »   

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LYNNE, I AM SO PROUD OF YOU FOR COMPOSING THIS LETTER. YOU HAVE SAID IT  FOR ALL OF US, IN WAYS WHICH WEWERE NOT   ABLE TO EXPRESS AS WELL AND INTELLIGENTLY. THANK YOU FROM ALL OF US.I HOPE THE POWERS THAT BE TAKE IT SERIOUSLY;THEY HAVE NEEDED TO HEAR THIS FOR SUCH A LONG TIME. GOD BLESS YOU FOR YOUR EFFORTS.                                          JULIE
ALWAYS AND FOREVER-UNCONDITIONALLY!!!

ClayManiacs.com  |  Archive  |  Media & Appearance Archive  |  Writer's Corner - Fan Essays  |  7/18/04 Lynn Venhaus: An Open Letter to Radio PDs and DJs... (Read 10558 times)
 

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