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WATERBURY RADIO HISTORY & MEMORIES, WITH VIEWS AND PROFILES OF SOME OF THE NETWORK AND LOCAL 1950s RADIO PERSONALITIES
1957 Waterbury radio stations
1955 LIFE Magazine article about Les Davis
WATR 1320 (ABC): Don McNeil (The Breakfast Club), Paul Harvey ("Stand by for news!"), Gene Valentino (read his life profile below), Al Vestro, Art Johnson, Wayne Hickox, Bob Terry, Sam Elman (Phone Your Answer), Victor & Sophie Zembruski (The Polish Eagle Show), "Rocky The Jockey" (Marvin Rothschild) & "Kwa The Earth Man" (John Kwasinskas)
Waterbury Mayor T. Frank Hayes (seated at left) is interviewed on WATR by Waterbury Democrat reporters Raymond Fitzpatrick and William "Billie" Fitzpatrick in 1937. Hayes was indicted by a grand jury for political corruption one year later.
The WATR studios were in this building on Meadow Street from 1948 to 1972.
1955 promotional photo for singer Tad Bruce (center)
Sam Elman (left) and Al Vestro (right) hosted the popular Phone Your Answer quiz show in the 1950s.
Victor Zembruski was actively involved in the music business in the 1940s & 1950s. He had a nationally famous orchestra that recorded many Polish melodies and also did other weekend radio shows on radio stations in Danbury and Ansonia.
Victor experienced legal problems with the IRS in 1967. He died in 1976 at the age of 64.
WBRY 1590 (CBS): Burns & Allen, Amos 'n' Andy, The Amos 'n' Andy Music Hall, Arthur Godfrey Time, E. Christy Erk, Ed Reilly, Bob Holczer, Lou Dennis, "Sweet Daddy" Joe Mulhall (read his memories of life and radio in Waterbury below)
WBRY began experimental high fidelity broadcasting as W1XBS at 1530 kc in 1934, and joined the CBS Radio Network on December 1, 1938. They changed the call letters to WBRY in 1939, and moved to 1590kc in 1941 in accordance with the North American Radio Broadcasting Agreement.
W1XBS news studio at the Republican-American newspaper
Original W1XBS transmitter
A photo of a 1935 W1XBS remote broadcast from the Loew's Poli or State Theater downtown where Ladies Crave Excitement was playing. E. Robert Stevenson, editor-in-chief of the Waterbury Republican-American newspapers, which owned the station, is on the left at the microphone. E. Christy Erk, newspaper columnist and station newsman, is next to him. The other people in the photo are unidentified.
The WBRY offices and studios were in the Waterbury Trust Co. building on Grand Street. They also had a business office in the YMCA buiding at 152 Temple St. in New Haven until the early 1950s because they were also the CBS radio affiliate for New Haven.
WBRY announcer Alan Dary (right), talking with swing legend Tommy Dorsey in 1950
WOWW in nearby Naugatuck started broadcasting as a daytime only station with an easy listening music format in the late 1950s.
Connecticut AM Radio Stations - 1948
City Call Letters On Air Frequency Power Network Bridgeport WICC 1926 600 1000/500 Mutual ... WNAB 1941 1450 250 ABC Hartford WDRC 1922 1360 5000 CBS ... WONS 1935 1410 5000 Mutual ... WTHT 1936 1230 250 ABC ... WTIC 1925 1080 50,000 NBC New Haven WELI 1935 960 1000 ABC New London WNLC 1936 1490 250 ABC-Mutual Stamford WSTC 1941 1400 250 ABC Waterbury WATR 1934 1320 1000 ABC ... WBRY 1934 1590 5000 CBS ... WWCO 1946 1240 250 Mutual Afternoon and evening radio schedule, August 22, 1955. WNBC 660, WOR 710, WJZ 770 (which had become WABC in 1953), and WCBS 880 were the four network stations in New York City, WLCR (Litchfield County Radio) 990 was an independent daytime station in Torrington until 1964, and WTIC 1080 was the NBC station in Hartford. On WBRY Lou Dennis played "Top 40" records on the Waterbury Hit Parade from 3:30 to 5:55 pm, Waterbury American columnist E. Christy Erk reported the news at 4:00, 5:00, & 6:00 pm, and Russ Sumpf did the late news at 11:00 pm. Sam Ellman and Al Vestro hosted the Phone Your Answer quiz show sponsored by the Lincoln Store at 6:15 on WATR. "Wildman Steve" Gallon played R&B and Soul ("race music") records (sometimes broadcasting live from his Sportsmen's Club bar/nightclub in the North End) on WWCO at 7:05, 10:00 & 11:15. 1955 Sunday Herald article WBRY 1958 Weekday Schedule 5:30AM - News & Music 12:15PM - Backstage Wife 2:30PM - Couple Next Door 3:00PM - Art Linkletter House Party
10:00AM - Arthur Godfrey Time
11:00AM - Whispering Streets
11:30AM - Galen Drake
11:45AM - Howard Miller
12:00N - Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healy
12:30PM - Helen Trent
12:45PM - Our Gal Sunday
1:00PM - News
1:15PM - Ma Perkins
1:30PM - Young Dr. Malone
1:45PM - Road of Life
2:00PM - Right To Happiness
2:15PM - Second Mrs. Burton
2:45PM - Pat Buttram Show
3:30PM – Lou Dennis
4:00PM - Tennessee Ernie Ford
4:15PM – Lou Dennis
5:00PM - News
5:05PM – Lou Dennis
6:00PM – News - E. Christy Erk
6:30PM - Guy Lombardo
6:45PM - Lowell Thomas
7:00PM - Amos 'n' Andy Music Hall
7:30PM - Answer Please
7:45PM - Edward R. Murrow
8:00PM - Robert Q. Lewis
City Call Letters On Air Frequency Power Network
Afternoon and evening radio schedule, August 22, 1955. WNBC 660, WOR 710, WJZ 770 (which had become WABC in 1953), and WCBS 880 were the four network stations in New York City, WLCR (Litchfield County Radio) 990 was an independent daytime station in Torrington until 1964, and WTIC 1080 was the NBC station in Hartford.
On WBRY Lou Dennis played "Top 40" records on the Waterbury Hit Parade from 3:30 to 5:55 pm, Waterbury American columnist E. Christy Erk reported the news at 4:00, 5:00, & 6:00 pm, and Russ Sumpf did the late news at 11:00 pm. Sam Ellman and Al Vestro hosted the Phone Your Answer quiz show sponsored by the Lincoln Store at 6:15 on WATR. "Wildman Steve" Gallon played R&B and Soul ("race music") records (sometimes broadcasting live from his Sportsmen's Club bar/nightclub in the North End) on WWCO at 7:05, 10:00 & 11:15.
1955 Sunday Herald article
WBRY 1958 Weekday Schedule
5:30AM - News & Music
12:15PM - Backstage Wife
2:30PM - Couple Next Door
3:00PM - Art Linkletter House Party
1961 Waterbury radio stations
WATERBURY RADIO FROM THE '60s TO 2005
WWCO-AM 1240 became a Merv Griffin Hot 100 station in 1965 and is now owned by Buckley Broadcasting. It has the same mostly talk programming as WDRC-AM in Hartford.
WATR-AM 1320 is still on the air as Waterbury's only independent radio station, with studios at the transmitter site on Baldwin Ave. Sophie Zembruski is still playing polka records on Sunday morning, which she has been doing since 1934. Listen to WATR now.
WBRY-AM 1590 was owned by the Waterbury Republican-American newspapers for decades. When they sold it, it became WTBY, then WQQW. In September 1987, Richard D. Barbieri, Sr., John A. Corpaci, and Vinal Duncan purchased WQQW. They were interested in purchasing another Waterbury station, WWCO, but federal regulations precluded their direct ownership of WWCO. Accordingly, they helped form the Winthrop Broadcasting Corporation to purchase WWCO. Winthrop's six shareholders were all friends or relatives of Barbieri, Corpaci, and Duncan. Barbieri's son, Richard, a 20% shareholder, served as Winthrop's president, while Duncan's son, Douglas, also a 20% shareholder, served as a vice president.
In 1986, Duncan along with Barbieri and Corpaci formed the Taft Group. Duncan was the president, Barbieri, the vice-president, and Corpaci, the secretary-treasurer. The Taft Group was primarily involved in real estate development and investments.
Joseph Santopietro was elected Mayor of Waterbury in 1985. Shortly after taking office, he struck a deal with the Taft Group wherein he and his associates would profit from the Taft Group's real estate and investment opportunities in exchange for favorable treatment by the Administration and city agencies. Between 1986 and 1990, many payments and benefits were extended to Santopietro and his associates.
On October 1, 1992, Duncan was charged in a multi-count indictment with conspiracy, bank fraud, and making corrupt payments to public officials. On May 21, 1993, the district judge sentenced Duncan to 120 months incarceration, and WQQW went off the air. Their 1590 frequency license was sold to WWRL in New York City in 1995, and their twin broadcast towers on Boyden Street were taken down in 1997. An FCC construction permit was issued in 2003 for a new 500 watt station with the call letters WWWN (later WKKK) on 1590 to be located in Oakville, but the station was never built.
WOWW-AM changed their frequency to 1380 and became a 24 hour station in 1968. It became WNVR (Naugatuck Valley Radio) in the late 1970s, then WNAQ, and is now Spanish language WFNW.
(1973 Photo- Russ Offenbach, WOWW Radio, at right)
WATR and WWCO started FM broadcasting in the 1960s.
WATR-FM 92.5 went on the air in 1961 with a simulcast of their AM station programming. It became easy listening WWYZ "Natural 92" when it was sold in the '80s, and has had a country-western format since 1990.
WWCO-FM 104.1 started broadcasting in 1967 with a country-western format. It became WIOF "Magic 104", then WYSR "Star 104.1", then "Modern Rock" WMRQ, and is now urban/hip-hop format WPHH "Power 104.1". Both stations are now owned by Clear Channel Communications and are licensed in Waterbury, but the studios of both stations are located at the same address in Hartford.
More Waterbury radio stations history and photos:
WATERBURY 1950s RADIO MEMORIES
MEMORIES OF A 1950s BRASS CITY BROADCASTING BUFFOON
Excerpts from A Great Face For Radio by Ken Griffin (Joe Mulhall)
Radio is the only business where everybody loves you and nobody knows what you look like. You can be public and private at the same time. Radio was show business in the early 50s. We didn't have a TV set in 1951, and show business was everything. That and vaudeville. Downtown Waterbury had the Loew's Poli Palace Theater, which ran live stage shows on weekends following the movies. Eight Acts Daily: usually a musician, juggler, ventriloquist, comedian, singer, tap dancer, animal act, and magician. Sometimes even a band, like Horace Heidt and his Musical Knights. He actually had his own TV show, so I had to get his autograph. After that it became an obsession. Hartford's State Theater was the largest venue in the world to me, with over 2000 seats. I would beg and plead with my poor parents to drive every Sunday to Hartford for their Sunday super-show. They had real stars and we would see every one, and wait at the stage door with autograph book and pen in hand. I filled up two books with autographs of stars like Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, and Carol Burnett.
This was all very nice, but when I turned sixteen in 1953, Dad said, "It's time to go to work". He got me an after-school job that paid $35 a week at the Eastern Color Printing Company. I had heard that kids who worked at the Reymond Baking Company, which made Sunbeam Bread, were making twice as much as I was, so I asked Dad if it was OK to change jobs. He said "Sure, but remember, you're really going to work there". My first day there was the only day I ever really, really, worked for a living, sliding skids of dough into a walk-in, 450 degree oven, and scraping and cleaning huge tin mixing vats. I lasted four hours and quit. From that day on, I never had a "job". Sitting on one's ass in a comfortable radio station control room and playing records suddenly seemed to make sense no matter how much or how little one would get paid.
WBRY's Program Director Walter Howard, a former CBS Network announcer, had made me the unpaid host of Weekly High School Highlights, a chatty news and interview show with local school kids, when I joined the station in 1951at age fourteen. After I turned sixteen, I got paid $55 a week for hosting my own week-nightly Talk of the Town with Joe Mulhall from 9:00 to 11:00 PM. Our chief engineer John Tomasiewicz invented a tape delay system that actually recorded a telephone conversation live and played it back seven seconds later through another tape recorder underneath it. Radio historians have listed it as the first-ever, live-to-tape program in history, though John never patented the process and never collected a nickel for his ingenuity.
Disc jockey shows followed throughout my high school years on each of Waterbury's three stations: WBRY, WATR, and WWCO. My greatest feat during that time was to arrange for actor Sal Mineo to come to Waterbury in 1955 to promote his movie Somebody up There Likes Me at the State Theater. Press and radio interviews were scheduled, and Julia Smith, the manager of the State Theater, bought a big ad in the Waterbury Republican & American newspapers in conjunction with the "premiere". MEET SAL MINEO IN PERSON! Sal and his family drove up from the Bronx on the day of the big event, and had a home-cooked meal at our house. Then we went to the radio stations, the newspaper office, and the movie house on East Main Street. Traffic was backed up for blocks as hundreds of folks, mostly teens, came to see the film and meet Sal in the lobby. The event was a huge success.
I left Waterbury after graduating from Sacred Heart High School, attended the School of Public Relations and Communications at Boston University, and returned in 1959. Little old WBRY had decided to cut back on CBS network programming and jump on the "personality disc jockeys" bandwagon. I became "Sweet Daddy" for a Saturday afternoon requests and dedications show with call-in LP record prize contests. I got the name from the song by The Storey Sisters that was on the flip side of their hit record "Bad Motorcycle". Lou Dennis, who had been the popular afternoon drive-time jock on WBRY in the mid-50s and was now program director, said to me, "Have a good time, develop your air legs and pretend you’re talking to only one person out there". Lou was making all of $115 a week as PD and got an offer in record promotion in Hartford for a $10 weekly raise, plus expenses, so he left the station.
Item in 11/16/59 Billboard Magazine
My return to Waterbury radio was short lived, and I left WBRY for WHYN in Springfield MA in June 1960. WHYN general manager Zack Land, a real promoter, changed my on-air name to Ken Griffin, and Joe Mulhall / "Sweet Daddy" became part of 1950s Waterbury radio history. I "came home again" to Waterbury radio in 1988 with a daily air-shift on WIOF-FM, Magic 104, which had started its life as WWCO-FM in the '60s. In 1989 I moved to WWYZ-FM (which had originally been WATR-FM) to do the morning show for a year or so until the new program director changed the format to country-western and cleaned house, canning all of the on-air people.
GENE VALENTINO'S WATERBURY RADIO MEMORIES
Sam Ellman hired Marvin Rothschild as a disk jockey at WATR in 1956 while I was Asst. Manager. By more recent standards, he was "good' - or sensational - billed himself as "Rocky the Jockey, from outer space". Sam (more conservative) wanted him to call his program the "House of Rothschild"...but Rocky wouldn't have it. He was out to do the outlandish - a forerunner to Howard Stern. He shook up the town for the short time he was there. Back-biting and petty jealousies among the staff drove him out. Some on the staff were infamous for that.
WATERBURY RADIO MEMORIES FROM "ROCKY THE JOCKEY"
BILL FLOWER'S WATERBURY RADIO MEMORIES
I joined WWCO as a summer-staff member in June, 1959. I had been one of those kids who hung around the station since 1955 or '56 when some of the night staff would keep the back door over the fire escape open on hot summer nights and I could get a look at how a radio station operated and talk with the DJ when he was on break. I was later allowed into the studio to watch control room operations. Dick Woodward and Alex Mitchell were the first of my DJ heros who I later got a chance to emulate during my Freshman year of college radio. After two semesters at WMCO, Marietta College, Ohio I returned to Waterbury looking for a real summer job with a real radio station.
That was about a year after Herb Bloomberg had bought WWCO and there had been a major staff shake-up. Bob Crager was gone, the night staff had changed, and nobody remembered me. I brought a tape and resume to the Program Director and was given an on-the-spot audition. I was offered a chance to work weekends during that summer of 1959 for $1.25 an hour. I accepted and began the next Saturday morning. The first hour was spent with a staffer/time salesman whose name I no longer remember. After he taught me how to run the board and made sure I knew what I was doing, he went down one flight of stairs to the 5th floor offices to work on sales accounts. I did the record show alone for the next five hours. On Sunday he was in the building, but not over my shoulder, and I think he left before the end of my shift. On Monday morning I received a phone call from Mr. Bloomberg's secretary. He wanted to see me in his office as soon as possible. I was hired as full time summer help, working vacation relief on most shifts (except morning) plus a weekend night-shift of my own. What a way to break-in! Forty dollars a week for 35 hours!
Not long before the 1959 Christmas vacation, Mr. Bloomberg (I never called him Herb) phoned me in Ohio and asked when I would be home for the Holiday and would I be interested in working "a few shifts." I was. I worked several night shifts that holiday season. Best of all, every summer thereafter he had a job for me. Not always full-time and never for more than $1.50 an hour. But what a chance to break into the business. As a result of that experience, I landed part time radio jobs at WMOA in Marietta, Ohio and WTAP, Parkersburg, WV until college graduation in 1962.
In February, 1962 I received a call in Ohio from Mr. Bloomberg. It was only a few months before graduation and I didn't have an offer of a full time radio news job. I had decided (with my college professor's coaching) that DJs were "a dime a dozen" and I was aiming my career toward broadcast news. Mr. Bloomberg knew that and told me that he was planning to begin WWCO's first news department and would hold the job for me if I was willing to accept it then. It took only a moment to agree. In June, 1962 I graduated from college and a week later began my Broadcast Journalism career as News Director (read "one-man-band") of WWCO, Waterbury.
Part of that job was to get taped reports of news stories from other Connecticut markets by trading tape over the phone with news people at other stations. For New Haven stories, WAVZ usually accepted my feeds and had a trade available. News Director Stelio Salmona and Reporter Walt Dibble were my main contacts. In a few weeks I had an offer of a weekend job at WAVZ and by October that turned into a full time offer.
Leaving WWCO and Herb Bloomberg was easier than it should have been. Mr. Bloomberg had given me my start. But a pay jump of nearly 70% after only three months was too good to turn down and he knew it. Other than showing me the New Haven ratings book and pointing out that WAVZ was in third place at that time, he congratulated me and wished me luck. During that period he had moved WWCO from third place to a very strong number two, not far below WATR. Bob Ruge was strongly seated in the afternoon time slot and morning ratings were getting much better with Alan Field in the chair. Ken Gaughran soon moved into mid-day as Program Director and 'CO was on the move.
I was with WAVZ only about 18 months before entering the USAF. But those were the years with Tiny Markle, TJ Martin, Tracy, Ed Flynn, Bob Jones, "Johnny Midnight" Grimes, and newsmen Stelio Salmona and Walt Dibble. What a crew! Four years later I'd get to work with a few of them again, this time in Hartford at WTIC. But thats another story.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Ken Griffin / Joe Mulhall was semi-retired in Florida, where he hosted Auction Radio Sunday mornings on WKII 1070AM in Punta Gorda. He died on September 28, 2010.
Lou Dennis (real name Lou Petroni) joined Warner Bros. Records in 1967 and retired as Senior Vice-President of Sales in 1996. He lives in Encino CA, and has not replied to my written requests for his Waterbury radio memories.
From Gene Valentino: I left WATR to manage WWCO - then Sales Mgr of WNHC in New Haven- then formed a 'sound production company' which produced spots for in-store sales and radio. Concurrent with the foregoing, I was PR/Adv. Director of the Colonial Plaza. During that time, from 1964 to 1972, I did a Carson-type show on Hartford Channel 18; then the state's first radio telephone talk show from 10 to noon on WBRY, topped all the ratings - all this 'on the side' while I ran a successful business producing tapes for as many as 80 department stores from So. Carolina to Plattsburg, NY. I also voiced their radio & TV spots. The talk show moved to WWCO when WBRY was sold in the late 60s. I abandoned the show when my business took off and required more of my time. The hectic pace adversely affected my marriage.
In 1972, I joined Mutual News in D.C. where I was anchor and substitute commentator for Fulton Lewis. Went to NYC in 1979 where I covered the United Nations as a news-stringer, then for NBC radio. My mother's declining health took me back to Waterbury till she passed-on in 1988, after which I moved back to the Washington area settling in the Maryland-suburbs where I did quite well in the commercial field and even produced documentaries. Moved to California two years ago - wish I had 20 years ago. Doing quite well for a guy who started in the business in 1944. I'm certainly NOT on-camera material, but the pipes apparently are as good as they were years ago. I'm (semi) computer literate and am now rigged with MP3 & WAV capabilities. Ironically, I'm now doing more work for 'back East' accounts than I did while I was there. I was hired to do all English spots for the NAB-League of Women Voters during the 2004 presidential campaign. Still do work for the NAB in Washington. (Guess I was born too soon, but no complaints). Now living midway between LA and Santa Barbara and manage to involve myself in community affairs in various capacities. And, still chasing work - doing OK ! email@example.com From Barbara Laier: I grew up in the 50s listening to WWCO. Bob Crager is my father. After moving from Waterbury in 59 he remained in broadcasting. He was the gen. mgr. of WWBZ in Vineland, NJ. He served as a commissioner of New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority and he served a few years as the president of the NJ Broadcasters Assn. He passed away in 1991.
In 1972, I joined Mutual News in D.C. where I was anchor and substitute commentator for Fulton Lewis. Went to NYC in 1979 where I covered the United Nations as a news-stringer, then for NBC radio. My mother's declining health took me back to Waterbury till she passed-on in 1988, after which I moved back to the Washington area settling in the Maryland-suburbs where I did quite well in the commercial field and even produced documentaries. Moved to California two years ago - wish I had 20 years ago. Doing quite well for a guy who started in the business in 1944. I'm certainly NOT on-camera material, but the pipes apparently are as good as they were years ago. I'm (semi) computer literate and am now rigged with MP3 & WAV capabilities. Ironically, I'm now doing more work for 'back East' accounts than I did while I was there. I was hired to do all English spots for the NAB-League of Women Voters during the 2004 presidential campaign. Still do work for the NAB in Washington. (Guess I was born too soon, but no complaints). Now living midway between LA and Santa Barbara and manage to involve myself in community affairs in various capacities. And, still chasing work - doing OK ! firstname.lastname@example.org
From Barbara Laier: I grew up in the 50s listening to WWCO. Bob Crager is my father. After moving from Waterbury in 59 he remained in broadcasting. He was the gen. mgr. of WWBZ in Vineland, NJ. He served as a commissioner of New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority and he served a few years as the president of the NJ Broadcasters Assn. He passed away in 1991.
From Marv Rothschild ("Rocky The Jockey"): When I left Waterbury I arrived in Orlando, Fl. at WLOF and later at 50,000 watt WHOO until I bought WKKO in Cocoa Fl in November of 1959. Most of my radio career from that point forward was in Sales management and general management. I did go back on the air for a brief spell at "Big" WAYS in Charlotte NC doing news with Jack Gale in A.M. drive but drifted back into management as V.P. of SIS radio with Stan Kaplan as GM of WAPE in Jacksonville. From there it was Cable TV and Publishing until I retired in 1993. I live in Boynton Beach FL and still see Jack Gale and speak to him often. email@example.com
Bill Flower was the spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Corrections. He is now retired and lives in Arizona. firstname.lastname@example.org
From Chuck Lund: Bob Ruge, former DJ at WWCO & WATR, passed away a few years ago. Bob was my best friend, and my Best Man at my wedding on Jan. 8, 1972.
Listening to Bob, “Wildman” Steve, and "Hound Dog" Lorenz as a teen ager led me into Waterbury radio in 1956. I created the "NiteOwl Show" on WATR in 1967. Most of what I played were the great hits of the time, and I continued playing them as they became "Great Oldies". I did 30 years in radio, and loved every minute of it. I retired my show on NewYears Eve 1997. email@example.com
From Russ Offenbach: I was born in New Haven, Connecticut, graduated from the University of New Haven, enlisted in the USAF when Uncle Sam came to call and began my radio career in 1969 on WOWW in the tiny town of Naugatuck, the home of Naugahide and UniRoyal Tires. I was the morning DJ and then added program manager to my title.
About 5 years later I was “discovered” on the air by Dave Klemm of Blair Broadcasting when Dave was driving back from WDRC in Hartford to his office in New York City. The phone call requesting an air-check was in March of 1974. Nothing happened until July that year when the Program Director of WFLA-AM, Rod Weller needed to replace Jack Harris when Jack got an offer to move to WRC in Washington, D.C. and work with Willard Scott. The station flew me down to Tampa for the interview. I liked what I saw, and apparently the station did as well. I moved from a station in the perhaps 140th market up to the 16th radio market for a whopping raise in pay of $15 dollars a week.
I decided to leave WFLA to pursue free lance voice work in 1982, first as the national voice of Winn Dixie television commercials, then as the voice of “Inside The PGA Tour” and the monorail at Walt Disney World around the time EPCOT opened. A few years ago I added a studio in my home (called “in-house productions”) and lend my voice to commercials, programs, corporate narrations and all sorts of stuff for clients all over the US, and a few international clients in Japan and Mexico.
Les Davis, a leading jazz authority whose name was synonymous with jazz in New York City for decades, is the former host of the legendary “Make Believe Ballroom” program on WNEW-AM / New York. He is also known from his WNEW live broadcasts from the legendary Greenwich Village jazz music venues The Blue Note, Village Vanguard and The Village Gate, and his work for former New York jazz radio stations WRVR-FM and WYNY-FM. Les joined the SIRIUS Satellite Radio on-air staff on the jazz music stream Pure Jazz in 2004. firstname.lastname@example.org
“Wildman Steve” Gallon forged a 40-year career as a DJ, media personality, comedian, recording artist and movie actor, releasing over a dozen recordings in the 1970s and 1980s, and starring in several movies. He was the first black comedian to chart on Cash Box and the first to sell a million records. Steve died of natural causes at North Shore Hospital in Miami, Florida on Wednesday, September 1, 2004. He was 78 years old.
MEMORIES OF WILDMAN STEVE
From Eric "Fats" Gallon: As a young kid, I can remember going to a show that my dad, “Wild Man Steve” Gallon, was promoting at the Carroll Theater in Waterbury to see the Isley Brothers. They had this drummer called Chocolate, he had his name written on his bass drum, and I just loved the way he played. I knew that I should have been at home, doing my homework, but, like a lot of the other young cats back then, I wanted to see this drummer. And when I saw him that night, it was more than worth it. I dug that cat more and more with every beat. He was bad!
My father promoted all kinds of shows back then, and I enjoyed hanging around him and the entertainers who he hired to perform. Sometimes I would go to my father’s nightclub, the Sportsmen’s Club, because that’s where I’d get to see a lot of the entertainers. As a matter of fact, I still have some of the sheet music that belonged to a female vocalist who performed at my dad’s club, named Ann Cole. The sheet music has to be about 40 or 50 years old now, but I still have it. I feel that God has had me to keep everything, over the years, for a good reason.
I always admired my father, how he appealed to the crowd, everybody loved him! They would scream his name, “Wild Man Steve!” I loved him too, but how does a kid handle it when their own father never says “I love you,” then says “don’t you call me dad, you call me Steve?!”
MEMORIES OF "THE MAD HATTER"
When I heard that Ed Maglio, Jr., "The Mad Hatter," had died April 18, 2004, I couldn't help but remember all the good things he did for the people of Waterbury. The Hatter was a real character. He'd wear a tall leather top hat, smoke a cigar, smile broadly and fill the WWCO-AM airwaves at night with his bold baritone voice back in the 1970s.
Passing up the traditional "pop" hits that dominated "Super Music C-O" during other times of the day, the Hatter had his own tradition of playing anthem rock songs that his listeners loved. Every Friday night at 9, he'd play "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin. Then at 9:30, he would shift gears and play Harry Chapin's song "Circle" from the "Greatest Stories Live" album. And he'd sing along through the microphone during the audience participation parts of the song and prod his listeners to do the same. "OK, here comes the cellist Michael, and then its our turn to sing," he'd say. As a 10-year-old who knew nothing about Harry or his music, I thought the Mad Hatter was nuts. But I kept listening.
He frequently would take his show on the road and create "theater of the mind" events that would compel his listeners to join him at live broadcasts to help worthy local or national causes. Whether he was broadcasting from atop a giant block of ice in a crowded shopping plaza, or from the rooftop of the McDonald's restaurant on Thomaston Avenue to raise thousands of dollars to fight Muscular Dystrophy every Labor Day weekend, you just had to go and see him.
I'll never forget the day in 1977 when the Hatter was broadcasting live from a Winnebago motor home on the Waterbury Green. He was collecting non-perishable food items to help fight local hunger. I cleaned out my mother's cupboard, filled a big paper grocery bag with cans of food, and persuaded my Aunt Doris to drive me to see the Hatter. As I proudly presented my donation, he interviewed me live on the radio and praised my support for the cause.
Years later, when I moved to New York, I helped to organize a tribute concert to remember Harry Chapin, who was also very involved in community causes until he died in a car accident in 1981. The event was a benefit for Long Island Cares, the regional food bank Harry founded. Remembering the example the Mad Hatter had set, I called all the local radio stations and asked them to support the event with on-air promotions and live station appearances at the park. Six local radio stations jumped at the opportunity and encouraged their listeners to bring non-perishable food items. Thousands of listeners responded and we raised more than two tons of food. At the end of the concert Tom Chapin called me onto the stage to sing a chorus of "Circle," just like the Mad Hatter used to do with his listeners all those years ago on the radio.
I hadn't heard anything about the Mad Hatter for about 20 years, but somehow I knew he was still back in Waterbury doing good things. I found out later that he moved to WATR in the late 1990s when WWCO was bought by Buckley Broadcasting. Whenever I see a local radio station doing good things in the community, I'll smile and remember the Mad Hatter's broadcast from that Winnebago in downtown Waterbury. And whenever I sing along with the live version of Harry Chapin's "Circle," I'll remember the Mad Hatter's booming baritone voice, his larger-than-life personality, and all the good things he did to make a difference.
MEMORIES OF WATERBURY RADIO
From David Millson: Very much enjoyed your history of Waterbury radio. I used to hang around the control room at WBRY in the late 50s... learned that the big Studio A, with its separate, silenced audience chamber, was used for many live radio productions by CBS. They were sent down the wire to NYC and distributed nationwide. In later times, "Uncle Louie" hosted a kids' talent show there. I remember getting a quartet from Crosby High to record a parody of "Eddie My Love" as a comical tribute to then-Top 40 jock Lou Dennis: "Lou Our Love." Tacky!! Same guy predicted that Paul Anka's "Diana" would flop. All I needed to hear were those saxes!!
"COL. HOGAN" WAS A WATERBURIAN
Crane began his career in radio at WLEA in Hornell, New York, WBIS in Bristol, Connecticut, WICC in Bridgeport, and Boston's WEEI. His success in the east led to an offer for him to move in 1956 to Los Angeles and host the morning show at KNX. There he became known as "The King of the Los Angeles Airwaves." His show filled the broadcast booth with sly wit, drums, and often, movie stars. His show was the number-one rated morning show in LA and stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, were guests.
But Crane had a higher ambition, and pursued acting opportunities. In 1965, Crane was offered the starring role in a television comedy pilot about Allied prisoners in a German P.O.W. camp, "Hogan's Heroes." The character of the wisecracking Colonel Robert Hogan fit Crane like a glove, and the show, which had the rebellious spirit of "Stalag 17" and "The Great Escape," became a hit, finishing in the top ten during the 1965-66 season. "Hogan's Heroes" went on for six seasons, and Crane was nominated for an Emmy twice, in 1966 and 1967.
WATERBURY "ON RECORD" IN THE 1950s
The Playmates pop trio comprised Donny Conn (Donald Claps), Morey Carr, and Carl Cicchetti, all from Waterbury. They formed the comedy and music trio The Nitwits while studying at the University of Connecticut and started touring in 1952 with an act that relied more on humor than singing ability. Renamed The Playmates, they made their first record, "I Only Have Myself To Blame", on Rainbow in 1956. They moved to Roulette Records in 1957 and their third single on that label, "Jo-Ann”, a cover version of the Twin Tones record, hit the US Top 20 in 1958. Over the next four years the clean-cut vocal group chalked up another nine US chart entries including the Top 20 hits "What Is Love?" and "Beep Beep", which reached number 4 in the USA.
Carl Cicchetti's brother "Chic" Cicchetti was also famous for many years. He had a very popular big band and also conducted for Sergio Franchi for years. "Chic" passed away in 2000, but Carl is still "alive and kicking" in Florida. (Thanks to "Chic's" daughter Lynn for that info).