In praise of DJs, and of the music that makes them
I tuned into Sirius/XM satellite radio's "60s on 6" channel on Wednesday evening for Cousin Brucie's tribute to the late Dick Clark. For those not in the know, Cousin Brucie is Bruce Morrow, the radio legend who found fame as the ebullient evening host on New York's WABC-AM during its amazing peak in the 1960s. Approaching his 75th birthday, Brucie still spins the hits and schmoozes with his fans Wednesday and weekend evenings on Sirius/XM. And Dick Clark, who died earlier on Wednesday, was, well, Dick Clark. One after another on Wednesday's show, venerable stars of rock 'n' roll's pre-psychedelic years phoned in tributes to Clark. We heard from Peter Asher (of Peter & Gordon), Ron Dante (The Archies, The Cuff Links), Bob Cowsill (The Cowsills), Tony Orlando, Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon and Leslie Gore. For each, there was a keen sense of loss, as well as extreme gratitude for the man who had provided career-sparking early TV exposure. Lots of that love and gratitude was also shared with Brucie, who had done much the same for each on the radio side.
For me, Dick Clark (who plied the trade in Philly before moving to TV) and Cousin Brucie represent the golden age of the disc jockey. The DJ. No, not the modern variety of DJs, who mix the music for dance clubs and parties. That's a whole other art form. I'm referring to the folks who play records on the radio, while adding their own patter to the platters. You know, like we do on WFCR. And while some folks have used the term with trepidation around me, they needn't fear. I say it loud, I say it proud: I'm a DJ too.
Like the waiter (my father's profession for many years), the doorman and the shop clerk, the DJ was once a highly respected figure in society, instead of, like now, someone usually holding down a job while waiting for a better gig to come along. Back in the day, disc jockeying was not just a job. It was a calling. And DJs could become celebrities, if they hitched their wagon to the right sound at the right time. But now as then, the DJ must never get in front of the music. No matter how many nice things listeners might say, or how appreciative the musicians may be, we're only as good at the music we play. Dick and Brucie may have helped make rock 'n' roll, but they would have been among the first to admit that to a much greater degree, rock 'n' roll made them. So, here are my effusive thanks for such great role models, and for the great musicians who've given this proud DJ a darned good life.