When I was young, all I wanted to do was be a disc jockey on the radio. I can remember listening to “Million-Dollar Weekends” on WISL 1480 AM, Shamokin, Pennsylvania. I could never figure out why they called the weekends “Million-Dollar.” No one ever won more than a free Big Mac on WISL… Tom Kutza hosted the morning show as he had almost since the station went on the air in 1948, Bernie Flynn was the evening shift guy, but my favorite was the deep bass voice of the weekend nights: Kris Roberts (or as I called him, “Super-Cool” Kris Roberts).
While in high school I made my radio debut on WISL during Tom Kutza’s morning radio show. I read the weekly Shamokin Area High School News with my pal Rich Bitting. The five-minute show was pre-recorded on tape the Saturday night before the Monday morning broadcast. That meant Rich and I could hang out with the one and only Super Cool Kris Roberts. The first thing I will say about this small-town part time DJ is that his “announcer voice” intonations were that same on-air and off. A simple phrase like “Hello there, guys” made you feel like you were being welcomed to a TV game show.
Kris was cool. If we were there near the “top of the hour,” Rich and I would watch him check the time as the Steely Dan tune ended, “pot up the mic” and “front-sell” the next record. Inevitably, he’d run to the AP teletype down that hallway and rip off about three feet of copy. A few pencil marks and Super Cool Kris Roberts was ready to read the hourly newscast. If he came to a word that he didn’t know, it didn’t matter to him. You say “Yucatan Peninsula”, he says “You-CAUNT-a.” Yep, he was so cool he could stress the wrong syllable and add letters when they didn’t exist.
There is nothing like hometown radio. I miss that station. Eventually it became all syndicated programming and had no local jocks. It’s off the air now. Unfortunately that’s what has happened all across the United States. Many local radio stations no longer exist as they once did. “Voice tracking” now allows a disc jockey to simulcast to many stations at the same time. You know when you hear one of these stations because when they tell you the time they never say what “hour” it is. It’s always “half-past the hour” or “sixteen minutes after the hour.” Yes, but WHICH hour?! Yup, I miss local radio.
Ten years after our high school radio days, Rich and I were living those adolescent dreams. I was working at a classic rock
station as a part time weekend jock at WQWK-FM in State College, PA, and Rich was on the air every fall broadcasting the local high school footballs game on WISL.
And what of Super Cool Kris Roberts? Well, imagine my surprise to learn that his real name was Blaine and he was a police officer when not on the air! Well, Blaine must’ve been one cool cop. I can imagine him reading me my rights with that rich bass announcer voice… “You have the RIIIGHT to remain SIIILENNNT….”
I’m just saying…