Jazz man

Lankston Carter, radio personality

Lankston Carter has a voice for radio and the height for basketball, which he played in college. <br>

Lankston Carter has a voice for radio and the height for basketball, which he played in college.

Photo by David Robert

I really set myself up for an adventure; actually, somebody else set me up. Lankston Carter, the midnight to 6 a.m. on-air personality at Smooth Jazz 92.1 KJZS, called several times and asked me in his deep, slightly-raspy voice if I wanted to see what it was like for a radio personality trying to make a name for himself.

I figured what-the-hey. How often do I get the opportunity to spend time with a guy whose voice sounds like that of a young Barry White?

I met Carter back in mid-April at his station on a hazy evening when the weather still had that bitter pinch to it. He is tall—6 feet 6 inches—and 48 years old. He wore an earring in his left ear, a mole above his upper right lip and greenish hazel eyes. A mustard yellow shirt and black slacks draped off his tall figure.

He gave me a brief grand tour of the studio. It was nothing fancy: just rooms here and there and everywhere with lots of control panels and buttons that Carter later demonstrated his proficiency at using. Then, we were off.

Our first destination was the grand opening of the Blue Lamp. Looking lavish in his sharp silver Mercedes with a charming young reporter sitting next to him, Carter filled me in on how and why he came to Reno. He had been working for Sprint in Las Vegas when he decided to apply for a public radio job at a local jazz station—"I thought I had the voice for it.” It didn’t take long before he realized radio was the career for him.

“I’ve never had a job that I appreciate as much as radio,” he said. “To know you’re hitting thousands of people with your voice is always exciting.”

Public radio doesn’t earn a guy money, though, so Carter started sending his voice tracks to stations around the country. KJZS heard something in him. He came to Smooth Jazz in January and has been on the air since the end of March. During his off-air time he volunteers at Easter Seals.

“What I’m doing right now is pounding the concrete,” Carter said. “I’m getting myself known. It’s like crawling before you walk.”

Once we were at the Blue Lamp, Carter set to hobnobbing. He already seemed acquainted with half the people there and was unabashed about making himself familiar with the rest. He flirted with the women. He talked friendly but business-like with the men, and he never forgot to remind people to listen to Smooth Jazz 92.1. We made the rounds for about two hours before making our way to the next social foray—Carter planned to schmooze it up some more at The Landrus Project show at The Garage. When we were there, he would introduce the band’s second set after mentioning his own name and plugging the radio station.

But first, we made a stop back at the station. Carter organized his radio stuff, in case we returned back from elbow-rubbing later than expected. He arranged some syndicated programs for the next day and said that syndicated radio is where he someday hopes to be. That’s where the money is.

After everything was in place, we hightailed it out of there to make sure we got to The Garage in time. Carter valet-parked his Mercedes, and then we proceeded to go backstage where he met saxophone player Brian Landrus before promoting the band and his show for a split second and a half.

“A lot of people don’t do it like this," Carter said. "I’ve got to get known. When you start out, you get the midnight shift, and you’ve got to build an audience. It wears me out sometimes, but that’s what I’m doing."