Sunday, November 16, 2008

Why am I excited about a radio geek?

Yes, I'm happy to have Wease back on the air. Why? Because he is the iconic voice of Rochester for me. There are many other voices that could fit that bill, and I am sure that other people have this feeling about Dave Kane, or Dino, or Tom George, or Terri Clifford, or any hundred other radio personalities that we have come to know and love.

The truth is that unless we actually spend time with them, we really don't know these voices by anything else than what they say to us on any given day. If we listen long enough we have the chance to put together a cohesive memory of them as we imagine them, which depending upon how they do their job could be very close to correct, or simply a manifestation of their on-air persona. As listeners, we have no idea which is which. Sadly some people go for the persona, rather than actually finding out about the person. The truth is that I only know Wease anecdotally. I have listened to him on the radio for nearly 20 years, and I have seen him at various functions, and even spoken with him on the air on occasion, but I know that I don't know him. What I do know though, is this, he seems to live his life on the air, we the listeners, have listened as he has raised his children, fought with his various wives, courted and married the lovely and emotional Doreen. We have heard him argue politics, religion, and education. He has related in graphic detail his military history, as well as his half-dozen other occupations. We know how he used to moon his mother and wrap paper reams for his father the printer (and bookie!). We know about his RV experience, and his Harley years. We know about his cancer and all the treatments that he dealt with to get him past it. We listened as he has mentored and sent on to glory and fame, Stephanie Miller and Opie ( of Opie and Anthony), and lord knows how many others, BJ Shay, Rich Genzler, (sp?) there was a chick between The One Whose Name We May Not Mention, and Stephanie, but I can't for the life of me remember her name. He brought us Tom Mule, and Lumpy, and Billy D'Torre. He has hooked us on different music, like Lucinda Williams, Kelly Hunt, Cross Canadian Ragweed, and countless other bands and performers. Comedians of every flavor come to Rochester and sit in with Wease. Other stations are left hanging while they sit in the studio and shuck & jive with our Brother Wease. Bobby Slayton, Thea Vidal, the late Sam Kinison. If you can name the comedian you can just about guarantee that they have sat in with Wease. He dissed Pauly Shore!! How sweet was that!!

I discovered Wease by accident in the late 80's. I live in the gray area centered between 2 amazingly diverse cities,Buffalo and Rochester, NY, and within radio reach of Toronto, Canada. I have choices when it comes to radio listening, and as a kid I was good at exercising that choice. There was never any guessing what I would be listening to from one day to the next. French- Canadian Pop? yup. AM country station? yup. Rock-n-Roll? yup. Top 40 pop? yup. I listened to it all, from the sappy ballads to heavy metal, I just enjoyed the music. Sometime in the mid 80's my favorite Buffalo rock radio station went off the air and I was searching for a new favorite. I tried a couple stations but didn't care for their particular mix, which sounds odd since I listened to such a wide variety, but the truth is that I know what I want when I am looking for it! So anyway I found WCMF. They were great and I loved 'em, but in the mornings it seemed that the DJ talked a lot more than he played the music, and truthfully I always enjoyed what he was saying. I was still in high school at this time so I didn't have the opportunity to listen for hours at a time, but I began to tune it each day on my way to school. Then when I finally graduated I had a commute to work each day and in that hour I listened. I began to like the talk and not like the wait when the music was playing, I wanted to hear more of the stories and life of this raspy voice that filled my car every morning. Then I moved.

I moved to South Florida and was surround by a whole different radio environment, now I had salsa stations side by side with redneck country stations, and rock stations, and dance stations, and Spanish language stations and Cubano stations. Musically, I was in heaven, but as for a personality that really hooked me? Nope, the best I could do was Herman and McBean in the Morning. HACKS!! Third rate compared to my hometown hero, Wease! Fortunately my sojourn in S. Florida was short lived as I was hard pressed to find employment that would allow me to have both an apartment and food.

Back home I was happy to find the familiar voice ringing in my radio. I spent a few years working different jobs but the one constant was that I could count on being able to hear Wease while I worked, Painting houses, fixing RVs, delivering parts, or anything else that I did. Then I moved again. This time it was still in NY but way up north on the St. Regis Reservation. I was working in an Indian Casino. It was a fun job, but it didn't last, that was the year that Northern NY Blew up! I never met so many State Police in my life, and they are all pretty good guys over all. The chicks in uniform are HOT!! I don't know what it is about them broads with guns but man they trip my trigger! (intended!) SO I was in a Radio Wasteland, I was lucky to get a few local AM stations and one or two Canadian stations that reached us from Montreal. No contest, I missed Wease! Finally the time came when I headed south again and got back into the proper radio range!

Then I got the job at the bar. I worked until 2 am. Getting up early wasn't easy, but I did it. Not to listen to the radio, but because I was only working 2 nights a week at the bar so I still needed a day job to pay the bills, but while I was twisting a wrench on washing machines I could listen to Wease. Then I got to be full time at the bar. and I was happy to sleep every day until 11 am. You think that getting out of work every day, all wound up at 2 am, you could go right to sleep? Not likely. I was Happy if I was in bed by 4 am. So there was a 2 year stretch when I almost never got to hear Wease. Then I switched to the day shift at the bar, which meant that I didn't have to be at work until Noon! Yeah! Now I was up by 7 am everyday and listening until the end of the show. I was back! I was happy for a while until a certain argumentative know-it-all female sidekick started to get on my nerves. Had to turn off Wease. It was a few years until SHE was gone, then I came back.

The Sally Carpenter years had begun! YES!! I was happy because she was cool, and not judgmental, and SMART. I like smart, and the show was better than ever. The ratings were soaring and the show was smart, funny, topical, and relevant more than ever before. CBS owned the station and things were good. For the listeners at least.

Entercom ruined Rochester Radio. They bought the fastest car in town and slashed the tires and yanked the motor out. They took a station that was as close to perfect as modern radio can be and ruined it. Fired the midday guy, the evening guy, and the fill-in guy. Then they tossed their option on the morning guy. The new show lacked the edge of the original. Tommy and Bill tried to fill those huge shoes, but the corporate brass didn't give them the tools to do the job. Sally is in Philly doing the show by phone. No good. I tried, I really did, but I knew it wasn't what I wanted. Then the word came out that it would be back.

A new station, a new crew, and Wease is back on the air. Monday morning he returns for real. With a video feed, and a chat room. Truly, an interactive radio experience. There was a short run through on Saturday night, for two hours the world returned to almost normal. Of course the new crew was mostly quiet because the phones were nuts with everyone calling in good wishes for Wease. But they will come out of their shells soon. Lilly, and Jamie and the rest of the crew. Ditullio is back , Marshall Fine, Doug Emblege on the radio. Rochester will once again feel like home. or at least sound like it, when I can tune in that raspy, liberal, bastard, the world sounds just a little bit Righter.

1 comment:

Half Fast Bob said...

I am going to get a little long winded but /me thinks it's justified.

I was night manager at a local gas station when Wease first hit the air. Conveniently, I quit the job almost simultaneously when Wease came over to days doing the Morning Circus. My new job was driving truck around the city of Rochester. As I've said a few times, I've been a listener since day 1.

I was loyal too. Every morning, I'd have to get my Wease fix. I was there through the Sister Sleaze years, The BJ Shay days, The Earl David Reed swing, and then to the Tommy years. I laughed like hell with Sam. I was mad as hell when Stern dissed Wease. I was happy when you know who left the show. And I was livid when the powers that be executed their own family one by one at CMF.

Unless you've listened as long as I have, it's hard understand why I took this personally. And when Wease left for good, so did I. I tried listening to Kimberly and Beck. I tried listening to Tony and Dee. I tried listening to Steve Houseman and Terry Clifford. Sorry... there's only one Wease and a complete way of life in the mornings was gone.

Now for the kicker. I have never called the show, I have never gone to a remote broadcast, and I have never sent the station an email. But when Wease returned to the air, it was like a relative returning home from the armed services. I was there waiting when he finally hit the air again.

When I signed up for the chatroom, I almost picked Anonymous Bob as my screen name. I may never hit any of the Chindo Nation get togethers. I may never meet Wease. I may never call the show. But rest assured, I'll continue to listen, and I'll be sure to keep on cracking one liners. In the mean time...

It's nice to be important, but it's more important to wear a Chindo.