Radio, Ch. 1
Prior to moving his family to Vermont in 2000, I worked in radio throughout the Boston market for many years. I ‘cut my teeth’ back at WJUL (91.5 Lowell) in college radio at then the University of Lowell in the wee-80s.
I began working in commercial radio during college, too. It all started on a walk up the staircase to the lobby of WCAP. One Saturday afternoon I got the urge to take the plunge. I leaned on the doorbell and was greeted by Joe Corcoran, the program director of WCAP. It so happens that Joe was covering ‘the board’ during the Red Sox broadcast. We quickly struck up a great conversation about, of all things, radio. Then, Joe asked me a question.
“Do you like swing music?” That was Joe’s opening, not an invitation to dance but to meet a man named Chuck Cecil, host of “The Swingin’ Years” that aired every Saturday night from 8 p.m. to midnight. The subtext here is that Joe was wisely suspicious of all things associated with college radio, including the people. I had a hurdle to pass. It was either that very night that I returned or the weekend later, but I came in around 7:30 p.m. and there was Joe, but no Chuck. Just a stack of reel-to-reel tapes and carts. As it turned out, “The Swingin’ Years” was a syndicated show, sent to each station in a box. Joe Corcoran, the creative one that he was, had Chuck record customized liners. Lots of them. Everything right down to temperatures from -12F to 112F (or close to that) in intervals of three. Here’s how it went: You’d fire up a cart with a rotation of Chuck’s saying something like, “Hope you like the music. Time now for a look at the forecast from the WCAP weather center.” Then hit the weather cart. Then a cart with the temp as close to the actual one, “Currently in Lowell, it’s 43 degrees at WCAP.” And there were dozens of liners with Chuck’s voice introducing songs and other segments.
I took the job. Who would have thought that tape-jockeying could be so much fun? Chuck’s in the bathroom, still. I knew I was doing my job well when the phones would ring with, “May I speak with Chuck Cecil?”
So, by then, I was program director at the college station across town at WJUL and now officially in commercial radio at the same time. The radioactive fever was growing.
The success of the Saturday night Chuck Cecil program was strong such that Joe came in one night and said that WCAP was going to expand “The Swingin’ Years” to Sunday mornings from 8 a.m. to noon, as well. I jumped at the opportunity to double my work hours. Joe also suggested that with the Red Sox playing most Sundays at 1:30, that he would consider putting me on the air for my own disc jockey slot from noon until Sox time. That was the break I was was looking for.
“I was pleasingly surprised.” While it took awhile to land that noon slot, I finally did get on mic. I was a nervous wreck but after the show ended, Joe gave me “the call” from his home and said the magic words, “I was pleasingly surprised.” That was about as strong a compliment that I needed!