by Mark Scott
There’s a milestone in Western New York broadcasting this year that I can safely say will never be matched. It’s like Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak in baseball. And the thing is – in this case – the streak is still going. I’m talking about radio icon Jim Roselle, who is marking his 60th anniversary at WJTN 1240AM in Jamestown. 60 years! In this business? At one radio station? It’s an incredible milestone!
For 40 of these years, Jim has been hosting his daily show from the Chautauqua Institution each summer. That’s where I first met him when WBFO spent a week at Chautauqua doing live interviews back in 2003. Jim boasted he was a big fan of public radio and insisted that I join him on his radio show to talk about my career. I was honored! And I returned the favor by doing a WBFO feature on Jim that focused on his then 50 years at WJTN. His 50th anniversary coffee mug has an honored place in my family room.
Jim is truly unique. There is no other broadcaster in Western New York who even comes close to his longevity at one station. And I would argue that there’s not another broadcaster who has conducted more interesting interviews than Jim Roselle. Look at the list of speakers during any given summer at Chautauqua, and you’ll see the names of leaders in all fields – from the arts and sciences to politics and more. Jim has interviewed them all!
So, congratulations to my friend Jim Roselle. I wish him good health so that ten years from now we’re celebrating 70 years of Jim at WJTN. That’s hard to imagine. But I didn’t think we’d be talking about 60 years when I did that profile on him ten years ago. Keep going, Jim!
Speaking of broadcasting treasures, what about Ramblin’ Lou Shriver! I was so pleased to see the Buffalo News tribute to Lou last month. Here’s another guy running under the radar! He matches Jim Roselle’s 60 years in broadcasting. But his career spans three stations. Still, Lou stands alone among Buffalo broadcasters with 44 years (and counting) at one station. He bought WXRL 1400AM in 1970 and switched the format to country music. Yes, WYRK is the acknowledged country leader in our market with its powerful FM signal and great personalities like Clay Moden, Dale Mussen and Wendy Lynn. But Ramblin’ Lou and WXRL represent the heart and soul of country music here.
I was in the audience for one of Ramblin’ Lou’s concerts at the Erie County Fair last month. My wife and I planned to sit for a song or two. I’ll admit that I’m not a big country music fan. But we thoroughly enjoyed the entire set of the Ramblin’ Lou Family Band. His two daughters are wonderful singers. And can Joanie Marshall, his wife, play a guitar! I was so amused when one of his granddaughters singing “Johnny B. Goode” turned and said, “Take it, Grandma.” And Grandma began a guitar riff that was better than anything you’d hear from a 20-something long hair playing in a band. And I don’t think I’ll ever hear the words “Take it, Grandma” at any other concert ever again!
Lou, himself, is well into his 80s. He sat on a stool and thumped a tambourine for most of the set. Lou told corny jokes. Some in the audience had heard them all before but still laughed out loud. Then, for the last couple of songs, Lou grabbed his guitar and sang. It was a great way to spend a summer afternoon. The Ramblin’ Lou Family Band is all over Western New York during the summer. I wish good health to Lou as well so that he and his family can continue delighting crowds for years to come.
Speaking of radio guys who play in bands, how about a special shout out to WHTT’s Brian J. Walker and WECK’s Tom Schuh! I always enjoy catching The House Band, featuring Brian, at Music on Main in Williamsville on Thursday nights in the summer. A couple of weeks back, I was quite surprised to see Tom sitting in with The House Band. This is on top of appearing with his own band, the Soul Barons. It’s fun seeing the guys who bring us great tunes on the radio cranking out some of the big hits on their guitars.
Finally, since this is Hall of Fame week, I want to pay tribute to all of our inductees. It’s great to see Bill Lacy and Don Postles assume their rightful places in our Hall. It time that Susan King, who paved the way for current Hall of Famers Carol (Jasen) Nigrelli, Susan Banks and Jacquie Walker, is being recognized as Buffalo’s first female news anchor. Chris Musial had a stellar career at WIVB, Channel 4 and is deserving of our management honor.
But I do want to talk about the two other honorees – one of whom I now count as a good friend and the other as just a great voice on the radio. I had known of Tony Buttino and his distinguished career at WNED. But I didn’t meet him until after he retired. Back in 2010, I was retiring as news director of WBFO when I ran into Tony at the BBA’s Celebrity 5K Run. He asked what I was going to do and suggested I might want to join him on a special task that was looking to increase the visibility of the St. Vincent de Paul Summer Camp in Angola. We’ve had countless strategy sessions at the Gardenview Restaurant in West Seneca. It was quite satisfying to know our efforts led to an increase in campers in 2012 and 2013. So, I was especially happy when our members saw fit to honor Tony with this year’s Behind-the-Scenes Award. It’s a well-deserved honor for a broadcaster who has contributed so much to this community during his distinguished career and continues to do so as a volunteer for special causes.
Finally, Jack Armstrong! I met him only once at a WHTT re-union party in 2000. But I hold him in such high regard that, as I was writing his biography for the Hall of Fame, I reached out to Pat Feldballe to ask if I could be a part of Jack’s tribute video. I did so not as a broadcasting colleague. I just wanted to offer a testimonial about the impact of Jack Armstrong on this young 15-year-old back in 1970 and how he influenced me in my then growing desire to get into radio. His energy – screaming “YOUR LEEEEEEDAH” over a jingle while hitting the post of the next song without fail – was so inspiring! I soon realized I didn’t have the talent to be a DJ – radio news was where I was going to make my mark. But listening to Jack Armstrong on KB radio in the early 1970s? As the credit card commercial says, “Priceless!”