Brother Vin... Radio King
I have never hidden my unbridled fandom for the work of Vin Scelsa. It was his radio shows in the late 60's and 70's that initially inspired this music obsessed Jersey boy to follow the radio muse. I never liked everything he played or even everything he said, but I loved that he was always Vin... not Vince. His show wasn't an act, it was a real human sharing his love of music, art, literature and film. His ability to keep several plates spinning in the air for hours, while carefully stitching together thought provoking musical segues intent on enlightening as much as entertaining his audience. This wasn't just a radio show, it was truly "Art." Vin was the big brother I never had and in many ways he still is.
Vin Scelsa and I first met at a radio convention in 1995. As the Program Director of Coyote Radio in New Mexico I was the recipient of "The Least Tactful Programmer" award, mainly for refusing to play Hootie & The Blowfish on the radio station and remarks made to the endless stream of promotion people attempting to change my mind. Stepping down from the podium I could see him coming toward me and I clearly remember thinking, "Oh shit, I hope Vin doesn't like that record. Nah... no way he would play that shit, he's probably just going to the bathroom he's not coming over to me. Oh shit... he is heading straight at me... what do I say... it's VIN FUCKING SCELSA!" With a huge grin and an outstretched hand, I grabbed it and said, "It is an honor to meet you, Mr. Scelsa." Vin laughed, got real close to my ear and said, "I covet that award." I quickly said "If it wasn't for you I never would have got it!" and offered to give it him. He politely declined but wanted to know what it was I had said to the promoters. I told him some of the disgusting things I said to them, many of which centered around sneezing with your eyes open and chugging a gallon of my own bath water. Instantly we bonded over the mediocrity infecting the radio industry. We became fast friends.
In the years since that encounter I had the opportunity to spend a fair amount of time with Vin, often bringing artists from Rykodisc (my employer at time) to visit with and play music live on his show. A personal highlight was setting up a visit with Golden Smog. Vin told me that Rosanne Cash was also going to be there and I told him that the favorite song of Smog/Jayhawk member Gary Louris was Rosanne's "Seven Year Ache." He immediately said, "I'll call Rosanne and see if she'll sing it with him, do you think he'll do that?" I said I would check right away and get back to him. After convincing Gary that I wasn't making it up, he agreed to do it but still didn't believe it would happen. Sure enough Rosanne was there and after a quick introduction, Gary and Rosanne decided on the proper key for their voices and boom, live on the radio it happened. One time, no rehearsal and it was magic. Gary was so over the moon about it he taped a picture of Rosanne on his amplifier for the remainder of tour. We included it on a promotional sampler for radio and I still play it to this day.
Vin and I were also both involved in the embryonic days of Internet Radio, me with Radio Ryko and Vin with his Live At Lunch show. But at the dawn of Satellite Radio we were on different sides. I was at XM and Vin's "Idiot's Delight" was on Sirius. That didn't stop Vin from being one of the first people to call and congratulate me for a very flattering Stephen Holden piece in The New York Times. "Marrone... congrats! I hope you realize that now that you have been in the "paper of record" when you die, they will run your obit." I bust out laughing and said something along the lines of "Only you, Scelsa.... only you would think of that!"
When the dust settled after the merger of Sirius and XM, I could not believe that Vin Scelsa's Idiot's Delight would be airing on the station I had created and would finally get to work with my initial inspiration, who had by now become a dear and trusted friend.
I have cherished these years with Vin, on the radio and off. He is a wonderful man and in my mind a true broadcasting legend. There simply is no replacement. We have had a great many discussions about this for a few years and I am happy that he is going into retirement on his terms. He deserves it. He also deserves my endless gratitude for his friendship, his passion and for channeling and riding that mysterious radio muse for all these years.
I love you, Brother Vin. But don't think for a second I won't be trying to coax you into Studio V for a special show or two on a regular basis.
3/28/2015 08:16:41 pm
3/29/2015 12:01:49 am
Well done, Mike! You do know that the two of you were destined to work together and become friends, don't you!?! In reality, you are two peas in a pod/brothers in arms!
3/29/2015 02:05:49 am
What a great tribute to a friend and mentor!
3/29/2015 02:06:15 am
When AT&T dragged me to GA from NY Vin was one of the things I missed the most, Then I found ways to keep in touch, even before streaming radio.
3/29/2015 02:19:19 am
Well done Mike! As you know Vin has a fervent following and this phase of his career is so important. You give recognition to him and this time that is so important. Excellently done!
3/29/2015 02:44:45 am
Mike, Nice tribute... Vin is a bright spot in an otherwise dark, dark world.
3/29/2015 02:51:20 am
Vin was always a joy to listen to and I'll miss him even if I do occasionally grumble. As someone who has had the privilege of playing what I want for the last 11 years, I have come to appreciate Vin's skills so much more. Nice article, Mike.
3/29/2015 02:57:18 am
i found you, Mike just about 2 years ago when we moved out of NYC and we needed a car for the first time in 25 years. I loved what you played and the long, interesting sets of new and old. One day at the end of a Wednesdsy show I heard your words that made my heart sing when you set up Vin Scelsa's Idiot's Delight, your favorite show. Did I hear that right? Vin, my Vin from WNEW was on the radio? I was ecstatic. My all-time favorite was back in my life. I was over the moon. I made it a point to do all my errand on Wednesdays and Thursdays just to listen to Vin. Life was good.
3/29/2015 03:27:52 am
Very nice tribute, Mike. Exactly what I would have expected for "your favorite radio show". Vin will be missed, but so deserves a great break. I have no doubt you will coax him back on the air - he has too much to say to stay quiet for long.
3/29/2015 03:58:14 am
From this NJ boy who also grew up with Vin, very nicely said Mike. Vin is a craftsman who also happened to have an insane and insatiable ear and perspective. Things won't be the same around these parts but feeling so very lucky to have been part of it for so much of the ride. Also, thrilled to know that the good stuff is in such good hands. Keep it up!
3/29/2015 04:02:38 am
Well said, Mike. Vin, all the best in your retirement. We will miss your musical taste and warm voice on the radio.
3/29/2015 04:29:55 am
Beautifully said. Thanks, Mike and Thanks, Vin. It's been a privilege to be a listener. It is a special magic that happens when a voice and personality on the radio penetrates the life of a stranger and takes on the characteristics and meaning of a good true friend. Very best wishes.
3/29/2015 04:45:04 am
Well said, Mike.
3/29/2015 05:08:19 am
Thanks for these words, Mike. I have so much respect and affection for Vin and will miss the sound of his voice and his passion for the music. I am so grateful to have heard his shows since he came to the LOFT. I, too, feel like I am losing a friend, but I wish him the best in the next chapter of his life.
3/29/2015 05:57:16 am
Thanks Mike. If you can, give Vin a hug from all of us. It just feels like family here.
3/29/2015 07:00:35 am
Nice piece, Mike. Your respect and affection for Vin shine through. Vin's unique stylings and voice are irreplaceable. Though I came late to the party, I'll always appreciate being entertained and enlightened by Idiot's Delight. Time spent listening to Vin was always time well spent on my part.
3/29/2015 01:04:18 pm
Ah man, you made me cry. Thank you for these kind words. This has been an incredible 24 hours - reading this stuff all over the internet from listeners about me and the show. I am literally breathless ... and this one, coming from dear Mike Marrone, is the icing on my cake. Thank you my brother ...
4/1/2015 06:49:01 am
Vin, I am a huge fan of yours. Your artfully woven unpretentious stories are as educational as they are mesmerizing. Thank you for sharing your life's stories over the air. The music world needs more of your stories to show that we all do really have a common denominator in our lives; music. Please, Please, Keep it up!
Bill and Roberta Derbyshire
3/29/2015 02:17:49 pm
A great tribute Mike. I cant remember the first time I heard Vin, lost somewhere in the haze of the early 70s, I do know that he has been a constant inspiration, a true friend, a voice out of the darkness at night saying "its OK, there are others like you out here". Vin has been a steady and sure companion in life for many years, the most memorable being the night we lost John Lennon. It will be a much quieter and less interesting world without his so familiar voice. So If you can't get him into studio V, he could always call on the phone! I love when the two of you get together on the phone!
4/15/2015 12:30:44 pm
I bought a Sirius radio for my house back around 2003 for no particular reason other than to see what it was all about. One fateful Sunday night while channel surfing, I stopped on a station that was playing some very intriguing song. Then another, then another, in a mesmerizing set of music that had me glued to the radio. Then the host came on, Vin Scelsa's Sunday Night Idiot's Delight. I had never heard radio like it before, and it's not hyperbole to say that my life wasn't the same after that. Virtually all the music I've purchased since then has been music I heard on Vin's show. His warmth and humanity and humor, rambling stories, and "wayward digressions" have become real pleasures in my life. Thank you for everything brother Vin!
4/15/2015 01:54:18 pm
What a great, heartfelt tribute. I am so going to miss him. I hope they rebroadcast his old shows at night or offer them on demand.
4/15/2015 01:54:32 pm
Thanks for the tribute, Mike. I feel much the same as you did. Vin was my inspiration when I was doing radio in high school and college. When he had a schedule of hopscotching across the WNEW-FM schedule, I'd be close behind (I'm sure he doesn't miss doing Sunday mornings and then coming back to do the Sunday overnight with Andy Fisher as his news anchor). What an amazing run for someone who was lucky to do it his way for an entire career. Thanks, Vin. You deserve all the hosannas and more.
Mike, your tribute to Vin was so well done. Thanks. It feels like a loss, but he deserves to be able to retire when he wants and the way he wants. Vin Scelza has been like a friend every week – a friend I've never met, but feel as if I've known for all these years. Recently my real life friend, Margery, who works as a knife sharpener in Chelsea Market in New York City recognized Vin stranding in front of her "Samuari Sharpening Service" work table in front the kitchen supply store. She's never met him, but grew upon the 70s in New Jersey listening to him. She said, "Hi, Vin I heard you're retiring." He smiled and was about to reply, but had to keep moving on. It must be kind of amazing to hear something like that from a complete stranger. But, being on the radio all these years, he has countless friends he'll never meet in person. Radio is such a personal medium, you can listen while at work, riding or driving, or waiting, walking, jogging, running, or just hanging out. Vin's been there through it all for thousands of listeners. He has many in the WFUV listening area who know him, but also many scattered all over the country who listen to him on XMSirius or live streaming on the internet. Like a Johnny Appleseed of good radio, this guy's spread much good all over – thnasnk God he didn't join the seminary!
4/26/2015 09:34:46 am
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