Who brought you to WBZ?

Cohasset / Hippisley cohasset@frontiernet.net
Sun Jan 8 08:48:07 EST 2012

When I first started listening to the radio regularly as a teenager in the mid-50s, in Auburn in central NY, my favorite announcer was someone named Roger who did the morning show on Canandaigua's lone AM station.  He played a nice mix of pop music, and combined it with just enough patter and an "adult" delivery that teens and parents alike could enjoy his show.

Not long after, I thought the "Big 6" that came together at WFBL 1390 in Syracuse were outstanding.  Their format was tight and their speaking voices superb.  All could have been network-quality newscasters.  Some of them, especially Ron Curtis, went on to far greater fame in Syracuse television, and it was my privilege (and pleasure!) to be his record-spinner one summer shortly after he moved over to MOR WHEN 620 to do the 3-6 p.m. drivetime show.

In Auburn it was virtually impossible to get the Syracuse stations after sunset.  It was then that the top end of the AM band came alive, with WMEX on 1510, WKBW on 1520, I forget what was on 1530 (Cincinnati?), and WPTR 1540 — all bringing Top 40, Rock & Roll, and Country Rock  to my little RCA clock radio.  How many times did I wait anxiously for The Hound's signature intro on "KB", hoping to hear the latest release by Elvis?  The magic of George Lorenz's unique style, his "disrespect" for the usual rules of PD play lists (who else dared play a new release two or three times in an hour?), and the distinctive modulation added by ionospheric selective fade made those nights magical.

Somewhere in the late 50s and early 60s there was a Syracuse DJ by the name of Russ Syracuse; I first heard him on 1260 WNDR, and I thought he was one of the best.  Unfortunately, he had some very publicized personal problems and the last I knew he had moved on to Buffalo.  Of course, I occasionally listened to Dick Biondi and Tom Shannon and Joey Reynolds (sometimes following one or the other to WLS or other stations), but I thought Russ Syracuse was better than any of them — perhaps because he wasn't so "off the wall".

At college I often listened to Lenny Silver — not because I cared for his music, but for his between-platters subject matter and his delivery.  There was someone on WBOS, I believe, who similarly kept me spellbound one night a week, but I don't remember his name.  Of course, for Top Pop and Rock it was mostly WCOP but -- when the wind was blowing from the right direction — WMEX and Arnie might grace my trusty old clock radio in my East Campus dorm room.

When WBZ went Top 40 in the 60s I was delighted — I could actually receive them reliably — not only throughout the greater Boston suburbs where I lived and worked, but even on the car radio back in Syracuse when my family and I went "home" for the holidays.  

In the 80s, when I lived outside Buffalo for a few years, my favorite radio program was an oldies show originating on a Rochester FM station; it was called "The Glory that was Grease", and I believe it ran on Sunday evenings.  Later, in the Utica-Rome area in the 90s, I always made a special effort to catch a Friday night oldies request show by Jim Leno on whatever local FM station he happened to be tight with.  And one of the best announcing voices I've ever had the pleasure of listening to (every Sunday for years) belonged to Bob Kingsley.  To my mind, no one ever did a better job of integrating his/her skills as a DJ with the music as he did, especially in the early years of "American Country Countdown".

But of all the DJs I've ever listened to, in my opinion the absolute best was Jefferson Kaye.  I loved the timber of his voice, his diction and his delivery, and he had (for me, at least) the unique ability to make me feel like I was an "insider" and part of his family.  Along with WBZ AM's commanding signal, Jeff was a major part of what "brought me to WBZ".  While I would have preferred working on the radio side of the house, I was happy to be part of the TV side (engineering), just to be part of the "brand".  Unfortunately, I never met Jeff in person; he was leaving just as I was arriving.  But for me he was the epitome of all that was good about popular music — not just at WBZ but for the industry as a whole in that era. 

Bud Hippisley

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