David Himmel Reflects on Radio Past and Present in “The Last DJ”
Written by Eileen O'Gorman on April 8, 2019
David Himmel used to go by Dr. Dave. Nowadays though, it’s just Dave. He didn’t get his medical license revoked but rather stepped away from his gig as an oldies radio disc jockey. As a former radio DJ at a commercial station in Las Vegas, Himmel was on the front lines of the war against automation. Despite being in a strange situation as a 20-something playing Oldies music, he felt at home in front of a soundboard. A feeling that would later evolve into his memoir “The Last DJ: The Life and Times of a 20-Something Oldies Disc Jockey”.
Himmel came to Las Vegas originally for hotel restaurant management school, a path that he later discovered was not for him. He later got an internship at an Oldies station through a friend and once he started he couldn’t seem to stop.
“My first job as an intern was looking up which Oldies stars were dead or alive,” said Himmel, “and the internet wasn’t as full as it is now … and it was awful.”
Despite the grunt work Himmel went through in the beginning of his career, he stuck with it until he had the chance to be on air as a young man spinning music made before he was even born.
“I think part of the reason that I was able to make it as an Oldies DJ was that I sounded older than I did and I studied hard,” said Himmel.
The power of the voice is something Himmel touches on in his memoir as it dictated how his listeners percieved him, often surprised that he wasn’t older, bigger and less attractive. His youth was always an asset until automation began to take over the Las Vegas commercial radio scene, where age didn’t matter as much as sponsorship.
“The first thing that happened was they started to automate everything,” said Himmel, who helped with the station’s transition. “What I didn’t know at the time is that I was helping to design my own demise or the demise of the disc jockey.”
Himmel and Jill Hopkins agreed that radio isn’t the industry it once was, a time neither are optimistic we’ll be returning to. While the disc jockey is somewhat of a lost art, Himmel still believes strongly in all forms of audio connection.
“There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with what you do being the disc jockey, the radio host wether it’s educating [listeners] on music or the news or traffic thats important stuff. I think thats part of the cool thing about the job is that there’s influence and you learn and theyre learning and its this community between the microphone and the headphones or the stereo or podcast or whatever.”
Listen to the full interview below and check out Himmel’s book and other work here.
<iframe width=”100%” height=”166″ scrolling=”no” frameborder=”no” allow=”autoplay” src=”https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/602834736&color=%23ff5500&auto_play=true&hide_related=true&show_comments=false&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=false”></iframe>