Sunday, February 17, 2008

"Look, up in the sky, it's a ....Byrd?"

“This is Allison Steele, the Nightbird….come fly with me.” And fly I did. Those opening words from the late, WNEW, NY dj sent me off to sleep on a thousand nights in the late 60’s and early 70’s. She’d start with a poem, delivered in a low, whispered voice. The words poured out of my radio and I swear I could smell her perfume. Then wonderful music would follow. Songs that would end, well, when they were over. I’d become so used to the AM version of “Light my fire” that I was stunned to hear Ray Manzarek’s extended keyboard break come out of my radio’s three inch speaker. So, that’s how it was supposed to sound. Thanks, Allison.
Radio has been there for everything, hasn’t it? It was the soundtrack for your first kiss, trips to the beach, cars, bars, guitars and…… heartache. Remember the first time you heard “Walk away Renee” after someone broke your heart? Ouch!
In earlier years I’d overhear the voice of Jean Shepherd drifting out of my parent’s bedroom as he’d weave intricate tales of picnics, family outings, the Fourth of July, Aunt Edna or his third grade teacher. I’d laugh along even though I was a hallway and five stairs away. The next morning John Gambling and “Pack up your troubles” would waft in from the kitchen signaling the start of another nightmarish day with the Sister’s of (No) Mercy. That song still makes me cringe. The two mile ride to St Mary’s made Fred Feldman’s traffic reports moot, but it was still nice to know he and the WOR helicopter were up there.
When I finally got my own radio, I jumped ship to WABC, just like you did. Cousin Brucie, Dan Ingram, Harry Harrison and Scott Muni were never far away. Neither were The Beach Boys, The Ronettes, The Temptations and, finally, all those weird looking groups from across the pond. I could never explain to my grandmother’s satisfaction exactly what a “Byrd”, let alone a “Yardbird”, was. But it didn’t really matter. The times indeed were “a changin’, and, along with some of our favorite dj’s, my friends and I left the familiar, rapid fire patter of the AM band and moved over to FM. Goodbye Cousin. Hello Nightbird.
For the last decade and a half, Thursday mornings have been very special to me. The familiar smells of old records, tapes and turntables that hit me in the face as I open up the “HonkyTonk Roadhouse” have become like old friends. And I hardly ever trip on that third step leading up to the on air studio anymore. A lot of people have come through. Some stayed. WDVR is FM the way FM used to be. It’s
the kind of radio that Allison Steele and Scott Muni would be proud of; a forgotten taste of freedom; for all of us. Slick?. Nah. Fast paced? Hardly. It is, I hope, a small comfort zone in your car, office, garage, kitchen or bathroom; a feeling. It’s the feeling you get when you spot your old baseball glove on the shelf in the garage each spring. And instead of walking by, you try it on for a few smacks? Y’know what I mean? Well, if you don’t, I‘m afraid I could never explain it. But if you do……. I’ll never have to. Thanks for stopping by. Peace.

(The"Honky Tonk Roadhouse" can be heard Thurs morns, 6am - 9 on WDVR fm, 89.7 and 91.9 FM, Nj and PA. Streams online at at