There Once Was A Radio Station Called FM 106.3 WHTG, Eatontown NJ
WHTG was always planned to be a main topic for this series since it was really the starting point for everything I have managed to do in my so-called career. WHTG changed to a "Rock" format in 1984 but was the culmination of conversations, friendships and projects that started in 1976 when I was managing a record store in the Monmouth Mall called Musicden. It was there I first encountered Rich Robinson, Bart Cross-Tierney and Chuck Michaels (Pierce), hiring them one by one to help out in the store, which was everything you could imagine a “hip” record store was in the mid-70s in a mall with a Sam Goody also down the hall and to the left. It was actually a real blast and I would not trade coming of age when I did with any other. Rich would go on to work with a variety of bands I was in, Chuck was involved with building DJ equipment and Bart would drift in and out of everyone’s lives, eventually getting back in touch when he heard me on the Overnight show and we brought him aboard the good ship HTG immediately as he was the only one of us who had a legitimate radio voice.
All of us were fanatical music fans, Bart an insane Beatles collector and me just a record collector, trying to hunt down and acquire all different kinds of music, especially new sounds. By the time I was turning 25 the realization that a career in drumming was not going to provide any sort of financial security so when offered a job at Jem Records, the major importer of all the music I loved, I jumped at the chance. Between years of playing in bands, running a record store and collecting records I had a sort of Rainman vibe in regard to rock and jazz knowledge. Useless stuff to normal people like knowing the catalog number, providence and members of pretty much every band and artist off the top of my head. I felt this was like going to College, and that being the case this job at Jem was akin to entering Graduate School.
This was a new level and there was so much I didn’t know, but these were my people. Records and Music were all we talked about. My knowledge and collection were a mere speck in a place where one dude actually owned every single that entered the Billboard chart from 1950-1980, and had them perfectly filed by Label and Catalog Number in matching green sleeves covering the originals. That is where I finally found the original “Valerie” single by Jackie & The Starlights, as he had an extra! This is also where I met Brian Eno and Richard Barone and The Bongos, as we were releasing their records here in the USA. We were also the company that first put out records by Killing Joke, Siouxsie & The Banshees and The Cure in America. Jem Records is celebrating their 50th Birthday this year, as Marty Scott the “M” in Jeff, Ed & Marty, had reactivated the label years back and continues to put out some very cool records today.
Eventually I found myself living in Arlington, Texas and opening Jem Records Texas in Grand Prairie. That put Cathy and I at the midpoint between Dallas and Fort Worth. Cathy got a job in Dallas and I tried to assimilate with my new co-workers, all native Texans. It just wasn’t a good fit, except for one, a guy named Terry. You see, Terry was a Black Man and I was a Yankee, in their eyes that made us the same. Both of us did the work of 5 of them and I made sure to wear a Yankee shirt of some sort every single day. I was nowhere near as mellow as I later became, nor one to hold either my contempt or temper. It wasn’t meant to last, but as always, one good thing came out of it. Thanks to Terry I got my first radio show at KNON in Dallas. It was “The Mr. Mike Show” every Friday night. Two hours of new music, imports and independent releases from around the world. I debuted The Smiths first singles on KNON, The Voice Of The People. I finally realized that this is what I needed to do and the sooner I could get out of Texas and back home to NJ the better. Jem would not pay to move me back, so I borrowed the money from my Father-In-Law, quit and moved home. I was sort of working for them again upon my return, but it wasn’t the same, so I started spinning records at bars, clubs and wherever I could. And we did pay my Father-In-Law back. Larry is a great man, still going at 92 years old. The last parent between us. That time arrives quicker than expected, occasionally all at once and drives home the fact that we are the older generation now. Maybe it’s time to just write this shit down while I still can.
As luck would have it, my old pal Rich was spending his time working at a Radio Station in a little house in the woods in Tinton Falls, with a mailing address in Asbury Park. You guessed it, WHTG. It was a Beautiful Music Station, playing album sides of Mantovani and Andre Kostelanetz, and was privately owned, literally broadcasting from the house where the owner lived. Started in the 50’s by Harold and Theo Gade (HTG) it was currently being run by their daughter Faye, after Harold went off to Hawaii with his new bride following the death of his wife. But Rich, that smooth son of a gun, had a plan. With his hair length almost reaching his waist, he was certainly not into playing that sort of music on the radio, so he set about conducting a survey in the very same Monmouth Mall where we first met. After gathering the results he suggested to Faye that she should really consider changing the station to Rock. Then he called me. Now this could get very interesting… (more to come)
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