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I’m not naturally talented. If you ask me why I had a somewhat successful career, I would have to say it’s because I went out of my way to surround myself with people who were better than me. I got lucky, in that a higher power or dumb luck kept sending them my way.

And I kept working hard, mostly because I was sure I would get fired at any time, as soon as it was discovered that I wasn’t that good. I worked hard to compensate. I had a crazy amount of energy, driven by insecurity.

One other thing. I was a thief. In the 1980’s when I was an interim morning show host, I watched Johnny Carson every day on a VHS recorder. I stole his style, his mannerisms, his self deprecating wisecracks, and his respect for his guests. None of those skills were mine. Eventually I would add a sidekick, a band, sketches, guests… you get the idea.

Johnny was just the first in a long line of huge stars I ripped off. Some big, some small, some national, some local. It didn’t matter. If I thought they were better than me, I stole every trick I could.

A strange thing happened after putting in the proverbial 10,000 hours. Everything started to click. I would hop into the car and hear a rerun of the show by accident while on vacation. I’d think, hmmm. That’s pretty good.

But while in it, I was always walking a tightrope. I had to project confidence, all the while still feeling like the impotent man behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz. Almost like I’m separate from the human being I’m trying to manage.

Isn’t that how we all feel inside?

All you can do is give it all you’ve got, and do everything you can to surround yourself with people way better than you.

Legendary guitarist Bo Diddley once told me that The Rolling Stones owed him millions of dollars, because they stole all his licks. It was near the end of his life. He was broke, and it did seem that he had a point. Other artists who hijacked his style also included Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and the Clash.

That’s the thing about being an artist. There’s no guarantee you won’t starve. Even if you are great.

Bob

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Bob Rivers

Bob Rivers

Radio Host from age 14 to Present. Currently blogging, planning to launch a new radio show later this year.

Listen to 30 years worth of Twisted Tunes at bobrivers.com

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