Monday, February 23, 2015

Thinking Back

I’ve been in this business that we call radio for almost all of my adult life. I have been one of the lucky ones. I have been able to make a living & raise a family doing what I love in a business that doesn’t allow that luxury to most. I say that from my perch here in an “unrated” Vermont radio market that some working in larger markets may scoff at but it is a place that I fell in love with many years ago and has become my home just as surely as the place that I was born and raised as a child was once the place I loved most. I never think much anymore about what got me to this place or the larger “rated” markets that I worked in years ago but this weekend I was reminded of one of the best “gigs” I ever had in this business. The reminder came however in the sad news that one of the best men I ever had the pleasure to work for passed away last week. His name is Joe Rizza. Joe was my boss for nearly all of the seven years I spent at WMAS-FM in Springfield, Massachusetts. Joe and I didn’t always see eye to eye on things but he was always fair and pleasant no matter what the issue. I certainly wasn’t always as accommodating in return. The last conversation we had ended badly; and I never spoke with him again. That was more than 20 years ago. It wasn’t because I was angry at him and I know it wasn’t in his make up to remain angry over an unpleasant exchange of words that took place two decades ago; of that I am sure. But life does have a way of putting you in the position of looking back and finding a regret here or there no matter how successful or happy you are. And for me, one of those regrets was never having the chance to finish that conversation. To tell him that he had a hand in allowing me the luxury to work at what I love so many years later. All I can do is hope that he knew that already.

Me, Bob O'Brien, Jack Kratoville, Joe Rizza & Chuck Herlihy- WMAS-FM, Springfield, Ma

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Time's Failure

I was born only a week after the calendar had turned from December to a new year in January. My first birthday gift was being born as the 7th of 11 children right on the heels of a brother who joined a chaotic but loving family just 15 months earlier. Some of my earliest childhood memories revolve around the seemingly endless hours I would spend side by side with my older brother. It seemed we shared everything; from the clothes on our backs to the bed where we slept.  As we grew older together we watched our family grow larger. My younger brother followed just a year and a half later. Then it was two more sisters (4 in all) and finally the last born….a brother that none of us ever knew, losing him just days after he came into this world.
Far more than half a century has now passed since that first January and in all that time so have so many family members. Grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, cousins….all lost to the ages. None ever forgotten or loved any less. But today marks the day that the brother who was born just 15 months earlier than me would have celebrated his 63rd birthday. For as long as I can remember Matt was fun, serious, cerebral & goofy all at the same time. And then, far too soon, he was gone; less than six months before his 22nd birthday. I was only 20 at the time and like my parents, brothers & sisters, that sudden loss in a traffic accident cut through me like a blade so sharp that the wound would never heal. But…time heals all wounds. Years go by and the pain will gradually disappear. The wound will one day stop causing the pain of sudden loss. 

So we were told.

But as time has ticked away and attempted to close that wound all it has been able to do is dull the pain.
Time has failed. The wounds that it has always been entrusted to healing never fully close. The pain from the loss of those you love never fully subsides. The comfort to soothe that enduring pain comes from those loved ones who remain; through the stories…through the shared sorrow...through the memories. Time has done its best….but the healing only comes from those you love.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Ob–La-Di, Ob-La-Da

To many Americans, some too young, some too old, the anniversary taking place this weekend may be lost amid more important things going on in their daily lives, but to me and millions of other Americans the event taking place this weekend is ingrained in our very psyche just as surely as those often discussed tragic “moments in time” that all of us young & old remember like it was yesterday. For it feels exactly like yesterday that on a night in February half a century ago school aged American kids everywhere sat in front of their television sets (almost all in black & white) to witness what years later would become “The Night That Changed America”. For my family, well most of us anyway, it was a major event. With the exception of my oldest brother who at 20 was committed to the still popular music that eight or so years earlier gave us Elvis, Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers and other early Rock & Roll greats like Chuck Berry and Little Richard, my other eight siblings and I were all as swept up in the hysteria of that night as much as any one of the 700 people in the studio audience to watch The Ed Sullivan Show live or the record breaking 73 million television viewers across the country. My mom & dad were even less impressed than my 20 year old brother but as long as we had our homework done & were ready for bed they allowed us an extra hour of TV time that Sunday night. It was a night none of us would ever forget….especially me. That night truly was magical for me in a way even all these years later I cannot completely explain. Yes, like so many other kids my age I bought every record and collected any Beatles related item I could get my hands on and now have quite an extensive collection of Beatles memorabilia, but it was something more. Something deeper; Something that not every youngster that night would come away with. Oh, we all were equally as excited and mesmerized by these four guys from England that looked and sounded unlike anything we had experienced before, but for me it became part of what I was all about from that day on. My musical tastes, my look and even the very fact that I began a career that I have had the good fortune to be part of for 40 years can all be traced back to that one night. Even on my wedding day the songs we chose were written by Lennon & McCartney. And now although it is hard to fathom, fifty years have gone by since that night in February. Many musical artists have come and gone, those school kids are all much older….and much grayer, but the music of those “four lads from Liverpool” continues to influence a whole new generation.
And now the same network that aired that original history making broadcast at 8pm on Sunday night February 9, 1964 will air a special program marking its 50th anniversary on February 9, 2014.
So Sunday night just before eight o’clock, get ready for bed….make sure your homework is done, and tune into CBS television. ….and through a combination of modern day artists and memories of a half century ago we’ll all be brought back to that age of innocence; To that night in New York City when Ed Sullivan walked out and said:
“Now yesterday and today, our theater’s been jammed with newspapermen and hundreds of photographers from all over the nation, and these veterans agreed with me that this city never has witnessed the excitement stirred by these youngsters from Liverpool who call themselves the Beatles.
“Now tonight, you’re gonna twice be entertained by them. Right now, and again in the second half of our show. Ladies and gentlemen, the Beatles!”
So enjoy the trip back because as the last 50 years have proven to so many of us it will only be a blip in time and soon we will all be back to the reality of our daily lives. Because after all, “Ob–La-Di, Ob-La-Da……life goes on”

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Unextinguishable Light

It’s been a year. How could that be at all possible? How could days quickly turn into months and then remind you of all the time that has passed? Wasn’t it just yesterday that a visit with my dad ended with a wonderful evening with the two of us sharing a few quiet minutes together? I think my dad knew then that it would be our last visit; although the conversation never alluded to that.  I certainly didn’t allow myself to think anything other than that we would talk again at Thanksgiving….. & Christmas too. But that yesterday was our last together. Just two days later he would be gone. And now 365 other yesterdays have come & gone since that night. Even so, I sometimes still catch myself reaching for the phone to just say hello. Then I remember…..his phone no longer rings. The lamp by his chair no longer gives off light.  But through that silence and that darkness a light does shine. A light that can’t be dimmed by a thousand yesterdays. The light that I will always carry in my heart…illuminated by the memories I will never forget ..

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Happy Trails

He was "The King Of The Cowboys" & she was "The Queen Of The West". Together they made my  Saturday mornings and the Saturdays of countless other youngsters a very special time. In the area where I lived as a boy it was 11:30 until noon that took me to a place that kids don't have a chance--or maybe don't even want to go anymore. But I would be in front of the TV in plenty of time to hear the announcer introduce my favorite 30 minutes of the week:

"The Roy Rogers Show," starring Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys; Trigger, his golden palomino; and Dale Evans, Queen of the West; with Pat Brady, his comical sidekick; and Roy's wonder dog, Bullet.

Each week Roy & Dale would fight the "bad guys" with the help of the bumbling Pat Brady driving around in his jeep named "Nellybelle". Roy's transportation was always more reliable in the saddle of the most famous palomino in TV history, Trigger.

And so when I read today that The Roy Rogers Museum in Branson, MO. sold off all of its contents at auction & was closing its doors for good I couldn't help but feel a sense of loss. I had never been to the museum & only saw Roy & Dale "in person" years ago when they performed at The Big E in Springfield, Massachusetts ...but still, there it was, this sense of losing something from your youth that you can never get back. The reports of the closing & auction stated that Roy told his son (who was in charge of the museum) that if it ever stopped turning a profit to sell everything off. I guess in the age of DVD's & video games a place like Roy's museum wasn't very high on the list of places that today's kids want to go. But me, I took a minute to go to You Tube just to hear that introduction one more time and spend a few minutes at the "Double R Bar Ranch"......and didn't leave until Roy & Dale sang "Happy Trails" to me one more time.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Time To Act

We need to step back & THINK for a moment about the legislation in front of our lawmakers in Washington right now. I don’t know if any of you caught the Newtown, CT segment of 60 minutes last night, but if you didn’t you should search it out on line and view it because it goes to the very heart of why this legislation was put forth in the first place. Full disclosure: I am not a gun owner. Not a hunter. I have never been to a shooting range. I have only pulled the trigger of a rifle once in my life. That was in my youth as a Boy Scout. Despite all of that I, like most Americans, feel the time has come for a common sense approach to gun ownership in this country. Reasonable arguments are valid on both sides. The problem is some of the discussion on the side of gun owners is not reasonable. Why anyone would argue against background checks before a gun can be purchased is beyond me. Simply put: we have to start somewhere. I don’t understand the need for assault weapons outside of the military & police force but that should be a separate discussion at a later time. Let’s get a handle on those who own, buy & sell weapons first. Law abiding gun owners should be backing this provision! It may not be the perfect answer but what’s wrong with making it more difficult for those who should not have a weapon in their possession to get one in the first place?  Pass the check, have the freedom to buy. Fail & we close off ownership to someone who we all should be happy, gun owner or not, was refused the right to buy a gun. It won’t completely stop the wrong people from having a weapon but even if it has the smallest effect on keeping guns out of the wrong hands, in my mind it is worth it. If you don’t think so…’s time for you to look into the eyes of those parents who lost their children in Newtown and tell them why.