In early 1990 I was, in a radio sense, homeless. My first full-time gig at KRVR flamed out very quickly. (Lesson learned: sometimes you’re hired to be fired. The PD was planning to bring in his friends and fire the rest of the staff. I quit before he got the chance.) Being largely unwilling to admit defeat, I packed my things and headed for Macomb, Illinois. My childhood friend John was finishing up at WIU, and the guys in the apartment next door needed another roommate to split the rent. I enrolled in a course to gain access to the student radio station, WIUS. It was there that I got to raid a really cool record library.
The station placed a handwritten playlist in the studio each day. I volunteered to do mornings on the station, and many mornings the playlist wasn’t ready yet. It was then up to me to see what I could find and throw on the air. One of the cool things about a radio station record library is that the records are often marked up by previous DJs. If you don’t know a group, look for the song that has the most X’s or stars next to it on the back.
I was unfamiliar with The Producers, a group that only made the Billboard Hot 100 once in 1981 with “What She Does To Me (The Diana Song).” The LP “You Make the Heat” was in the WIUS collection, and a song called “She Sheila” had the most stars next to it. So, I took it out and cued it up.
This song should have been a hit. (It made #48 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart, but despite the name the chart has little to do with mainstream success.)
Over the next few weeks I snuck it into the rotation on my show whenever I could, as I did with a lot of other early-80s songs that I missed in my pre-teen radio listening.It was as if a whole new world of music – new to me, anyway – was opened. Today, I wonder if it’s the same when I see students in our radio station: the record libraries are gone (heck, the CD libraries are endangered), but deep in the automation system there’s some song that someone’s discovering for the first time, and the newness is exciting.
But something else happened at that time as well: I apparently found myself as an air personality. The shows I did at KRVR sounded very stilted, like a kid trying to fit into a grown-up world. At WIUS I got my swagger back, in a sense, so much so that Tom Phillips, the program director at WJEQ in town heard the show one morning and offered me a job. Even 26 years later, there’s a clear difference in the airchecks from before WIUS and after it. (See? College radio can make a difference.)
Fast-forward to late 1991: I was hired to do the morning show at WLLI in Joliet. I often used the 5:30-6:00 segment of the show, when very few people were tuned in and the ratings, had we had any, would not have been affected, to drastically alter the station’s playlist. It was not uncommon to hear “She Sheila” on the station at that time. I’m guessing it hasn’t been heard much since, which is too bad.
You can see the video for this song, in all its glorious early-80s style, here.