Craig Cohen is producer and local host of National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" on WILL-AM (580). He joined WILL four years ago after jobs with public and commercial radio stations in Missouri. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri at Columbia, and a devoted fan of the St. Louis Blues hockey team.
When does your day at WILL begin?
I wake up at 3 and try to get there by 4 a.m. The show is on until 10 a.m. each weekday morning. I am a morning person, so it helps. You have to be you really have to be. I told someone the other day -- 'I remember when 3 o'clock in the morning used to be the middle of the night.'
Have you always wanted to be in radio?
I started out thinking I was going to be an actor on Broadway and all that kind of stuff and then I thought, I can't dance, not many people like how I sing, and the acting's not too strong. So I decided that was not going to work.
I listened to St. Louis Blues hockey games when I was a kid. The play-by-play announcer for the Blues was Dan Kelly, who passed away some years back. He had a very identifiable voice and style. One night when I was 9 or 10 years old I remember lying in bed -- there wasn't a Blues game that night, but out of boredom, I guess, I just started to call a game like Dan Kelly. My brother knocked on the door, poked his head in, and asked if there was a Blues game on. 'No,' I said. He said 'I swear I heard a Blues game.' I said 'No, I don't know.' He just sort of scratched his head and left the room.
My first actual experience in radio was just after high school. I interned at a light rock station in St. Louis -- 'Joy 96-FM, Softer and Lighter.' It was my first job, and I was a lackey in every way, shape and form.
What kind of radio work had you done before you came to WILL?
I worked for four years at KBIA, the public radio station in Columbia, Missouri, doing on-air work in just about every shift, and then I worked at a rock station in Columbia, K102, 'with a 50-50 mix of the Greatest Hits and the Latest Hits.' [He sighed.] And I worked at a news-talk station in Columbia. I also interned at KMOX in St. Louis in the news and sports departments. That was a nice experience. KMOX is sort of the granddaddy station in St. Louis. And then I joined WILL in July 1995.
How did you get your radio voice?
I'm not sure what makes a radio voice. George Burns once said 'The secret to performing is honesty, and if you can fake that, you've got it made.' But in all seriousness, you have to be honest. If you genuinely don't care about what you're talking about, that will come through. And you should just try to be natural. I used to train announcers at KBIA and for some of them, it would be their first radio job and they sounded fake. They'd be completely natural off the air, but once the microphone was on they'd use some phony voice I guess they thought was a radio voice. I said just talk to me as if we were having a conversation.
What kind of things do you do for fun?
I'm captain of a roller hockey team. I play defense. I'm big and slow. People tend to skate around me a lot and I tend to fall over a lot. But it's fun. I really enjoy it. I've been rollerblading now for about six years.
And for a couple of years I managed the WILL softball team. We were brutally bad but we had a lot of fun. And once a week I volunteer at the Illinois Radio Reader, where I read newspaper articles for the blind or visually impaired.
Have you had a brush with fame?
When I was 17, I was in a show at the St. Louis MUNY -- the outdoor theater in Forest Park. It was the musical 'Little Shop of Horrors.' I was one of many, many high school students who were brought in -- and I was 'Left Tentacle, Bud No. 9.' Basically, at the end of the show these two giant tentacles came out and attacked the audience and I was a bud on the tentacle. Among the stars of the show was Eddie Bracken, who, I think, holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the most stage performances. Backstage one night he taught us all what was ostensibly a magic trick -- but actually he showed us how to lift watches!
What's the best part of your job at WILL?
I get a genuine kick out of being on the air every day. It's very rare that I wake up and think 'Oh ugh, I've got to go to work.' You'd think getting up at 3 in the morning that I'd roll out of bed in a bad mood or whatever, but it doesn't even enter into my mind. Every day is fun because this is what I want to do. I've got to go back to George Burns again who said the secret to life is to fall in love with what you do for a living. I genuinely love the job.