Derek Sivers

Entrepreneur, programmer, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

How Hog Whitman got heard by 15 million people

I love collecting and sharing success stories from independent musicians, telling how they achieved some success, with details that other musicians can use.

Here's a success story from musician Hog Whitman. In his own words...


How I got instant airplay on 100 radio stations and MSNBC with one phone call and some frequent flyer miles.

Imus In The Morning” is a nationally syndicated radio talk and entertainment show broadcast on about a hundred stations around the country, to about 15 million listeners.

Imus decided to do a live show from The St. James Theater. It seems that he is friends with the Tony Award-winning director Jerry Zachs. His play, “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum,” was enjoying a good run there. Since the radio show plays in the morning and it wouldn't get in the way of the play, Mr. Zachs was happy to provide the venue.

The basic idea was to get some listeners who had always wanted to be on Broadway to call in to the Imus Show. They'd audition to be at the studio that Friday for the pre-audition to the 'real' audition. This was to be held at the St. James Theater the following week with Jerry Zachs playing “The Director”.

My friend Mike called me and said I should try-out for this. “But I don't even have a phone on my boat,” I replied. “I'd have to get up at three in the morning, drive down to the phone booth at the marina, and stand in the cold and rain. I'd probably freeze to death just trying to get through. Even if I did, I can't afford to fly to New York right now, anyway!

“Gee,” Mike kept at it. “Its too bad you can't stay with somebody in town.”

“Well, now that you mention it, my brother is in Portland this week. I could stay with him, but I still can't afford a tick...hmmm. You know, he flies a lot. I wonder if he has any frequent flier miles saved up?”

“Why don't you call him and find out? I really think you should try out for this.” Mike had a gentle but relentless way about him.

“OK, I'll give him a call.” I knew he had me. Shamed me into it. If I didn't at least try it would disappoint him.

I called my brother Jesse. He had a ticket! Now all I had to do was win the phone-line lottery. If only one out of a thousand people listening to the show tried to call in, it would mean that I would be one of about 10-15 thousand vying for a slot.

Even if I did get through I would have to be good enough to make the cut. In the three days of calls so far, only one caller had made it.

I woke up at 2:00AM, drank a pot of coffee, went to pee three or four times, and started dialing the show at 2:45, standing on the balcony chain-smoking menthols.

I made another pot of coffee, drank it, ran back and forth to the bathroom a dozen more times, hitting re-dial hundreds of times.

I developed a massive case of double phone-ear, chain-smoked more menthols for another three and a half hours in the chill night air, hitting re-dial again and again.

Long story short: I got through, did a quick Joe Cocker impression over the phone, and made the cut!

Fifteen minutes later I was on my way to the airport. Made it with two minutes to spare. I had the only copy of my just-recorded CD with me.

First thing I did at the WFAN studio was find the engineer, and have him make a “radio cart” of my song, Leather Whips and Rubber Underwear.

I then took the cart, tackled the show's producer during a break and practically begged him to PLEASE give it a listen. He did.

Imus played it, and everybody fell down laughing. I was in!

A week later I was onstage in front of a packed Broadway theater.

This is what it sounded like...


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