A recent Fanfare cover, the one displaying an old, black WGBB radio microphone, made me feel like a kid again. This kid listened to WGBB during the 1960s and ’70s, and I couldn’t wait to read the article. WGBB had a small-town appeal with a big-city sound. I still remember the "slapback echo sound" each time I listened to the disc jockeys.
Two station promotions I recall specifically. One was a remote broadcast where disc jockey Dave Vieser was to appear at a beach in a dune buggy. Another advertised "Andy is coming to WGBB." I wondered, "Who’s Andy?" After two weeks of suspense, the AM station finally revealed it was singer Andy Kim — a big deal for a local station.
I did newscasts at my college radio stations — WHPC at Nassau Community College and WCWP on the Post campus of Long Island University — and often interviewed Gary Lewi, a Town of Hempstead spokesman and onetime WGBB personality. The Fanfare article mentioned many other WGBB personalities, too, but missed one — John Cummins, a class act I worked with after his WGBB days.
In 1976, as a Nassau Community College freshman and working at WHPC, I made an audition tape for WGBB. I still remember parking my parents’ 1965 white Plymouth Fury across the street from WGBB, at 1240 Broadcast Plaza in Merrick. I got the attention of a young woman at the door. Although I didn’t get the job I hoped for, I handed my audition tape and said hello to Carol Silva, who went on to greater fame as a News 12 Long Island TV anchor.
Listening to WGBB inspired me. When I was 11, my brother, Tom, and I created an imaginary radio station in the basement of our sprawling ranch home that my parents bought in 1949 after moving from Brooklyn. It was just off the Southern State Parkway in North Massapequa. Tom and I talked into a cassette tape recorder on our station, "WQLI 102.4" — similar to WBAB’s 102.3. The fun we had made my career decision simple.
Arriving at Nassau Community College’s radio station for the first time, I met program director Jim Green, an intense guy and good listener. He mentored me, and we’re still friends to this day.
In 1978, I moved on to WCWP, where I encountered a new mentor, station manager Bill Mozer, an analytical pro. The alluring hook was that Bill worked at "77 WABC" as a radio engineer. He had industry contacts, an attractive quality for a newcomer like me.
It’s said that it’s not what you know but who you know. If true, I was off to a good start. Both mentors helped me begin an 11-year radio career. I started at WALK-FM in 1980, sitting across the radio console, engineering for Joe Rotollo, host of the original "Italian Hour" on Sundays, and Teddy Savalas — brother of actor Telly Savalas — who hosted Sunday’s Greek show. Teddy let me read a commercial selling a Greek language newspaper.
Shortly before I began my main radio career as an RKO network engineer in the city in 1980, after I had graduated, WALK briefly let me host my own show on Sundays 5:30-6 p.m., playing middle of the road music. It was my 15 minutes — or rather 30 minutes — of weekly fame on Long Island radio.
Reader Larry Lamendola lives in Wantagh.