(above) WSAY's master control room board, in service from 195? through 1980? That's a "Back To the Bible" program box sticker, upper right.

THE STORY OF WSAY RADIO project is seeking stories and memories from former employees from 1936-1982 while the station was attached to the WSAY call letters. Transcripts of the interviews will be turned into an oral history-type format for a book, divided into decades/chapters. Among the first three local radio stations in Rochester (WHAM and WHEC the others) WSAY was originated and owned by Gordon P. Brown, who oversaw operations until his death in 1979. A new owner, Lew Dickey took over, later changing the call letters to WRTK in September of 1982. If you or someone you know worked at WSAY radio... or were a fan of the station and would like to tell of your memories.. please e-mail berflynn@yahoo.com for more information.


LATEST NEWS... JAN 26, 2019 - Finally updating the project... the recent holidays which included a nasty upper respiratory something-or-other illness (knocking me on my ass for nearly three weeks) resulted in limited progress. Doing something like this for the first time is making me believe that completion is going to be quite a while, as in years. I'm working on another book simultaneously (plus other projects!) and that all combined with a full-time job leaves just so many hours in the day. Still, trying to plod along. Have added three interviews recently, which brings the total number of folks interviewed to 25 (total interviews 30 what with multiple Sebaste recordings)... DAVE SLADE, who was a play-by-play man for the Rochester Red Wings baseball broadcasts in 1978 was one. Dave actually has done a lot of other sports play-by-play work besides the Wings. But he joined the '78 Wings team after a cold call to Pete Brown (chief announcer, who had a heart attack that Summer, pushing Slade to the top spot for a few months)... SAL PANZARELLA is a new addition as well. Following a year at WSAY from 1978-79, Sal later was the first News Director for Greater Rochester Cablevision via WGRC-TV5 in 1990... And MIKE FABER who did news for the New WSAY in the Summer of 1980 also was interviewed... I have a few irons in the fire coming up, starting with GARY HEMDALL who will hopefully be interviewed next week. Gary was among the team of country music announcers who took over after the end of WSAY's rock 'n roll format in 1979... A tremendous addition to the project occurred recently when LISA WHEELER sent me postcards sent to WSAY in the 1960s- requests for the station staple program: Melody Corner. She found them via an estate sale in Colorado of all places! HERE's ONE!. Lisa sent me three altogether- what an outstanding historical contribution!! To think that radio was at the stage once of getting requests on the air this way shows true fans in following up so personally! As late as 1972 in a Democrat and Chronicle story about local radio ratings Gordon Brown says that WSAY probably got more mail than all the other stations combined because of the incoming Melody Corner postcard requests. I recall when WBBF used to take phone requests in the 70s and my heart was beating like crazy waiting to hear if my request to a girl was broadcasted- and counting on the girl to hear it because that was a popular pastime then!.. As far as WSAY office contents surviving, I have identified a guy who secured much of Gordon Brown's residence contents. Hopefully, that will yield some fascinating stuff, trusting the gentleman will cooperate, at least for me to scan/photograph some artifacts. -BILL FLYNN

Have Been Interviewed or Written Submission Received


DAVE ALHART   Announcer 1956-61
I was the first guy who did Mike Melody. And I loved it- didn't have a great voice but I had a good personality. We were doing a lot of requests. I remember the first time I got to say: This is Mike Melody, come on in to Melody Corner! It was so much fun.

TOM BADGER   Sales 1980-81 The New WSAY
As a young man in the business I felt it was an opportunity in being named sales manager, as opposed to just a regular sales rep. So I think that’s what intrigued me and…as far as the others were concerned, they must have felt there was a decent opportunity to do something. [on making the jump to the New WSAY]

JOHN BROWN   Announcer 1966 Bob Bell
I started off introducing the Family Rosary for Peace. Only trouble was, in my log book of announcer copy, I wrongly introduced the sponsor of this program as the Rochester Council of Churches, not the Catholic Church. I didn’t realize my error until I went to East Avenue to pick up my $7.53 check. Belle Reber told me Father Joseph Cirrincione had some very un-Christian things to say about my mistake, and I ended up getting fired on the spot. An apology was totally inadequate.

MIKE CASSELLA   Announcer 1953-55
He was convinced that his application would eventually be approved and Rochester would have a third channel. Other staffers at the station told of Brown often stating, “Television is looking better all the time," I guess meaning the application was gaining momentum, in his judgement. One of the announcers apparently believed this prediction to the extent that he bought a make-up kit, at least that was the scuttlebutt. [on Gordon Brown's futile pursuit of a TV station]

LEE DEFENDORF   Announcer 1968-71 Mac McGuire, Jerry Jack
When I eventually left and went to WGVA in Geneva, Gordon Brown contacted Tom Gallagher who was the program director. And with some letter (Gordon) said.. We paid thousands of dollars to train our announcers and not have them pirated away by other radio stations! And he (Gallagher) wrote back saying: Here’s a dollar, train me five more... Supposedly there was a non-compete (contract) but from what I heard, it wouldn’t hold water.
At WSAY, June 1968 through 1971
RALPH ERCOLANO   Announcer 1966-67 Bob Bell
I got to be a rock disc jockey for an hour- and I was terrible. And that’s one of the things that sent me into news with WNYR. I could tell at 18 years old, 19 years old that my career was not going to be as a rock deejay, ha ha.

MIKE FABER   News Summer 1980
I remembered Mike (Morgan) saying to Dean (Close): where do you get all these kids with great voices? And of course at the time I was 19 years old . That was like the best thing that happened to me that year.

ART GIBSON   Announcer 1964-65 Mac McGuire
I walked right into the place and I said: I would like to be on the air… my gut was churning. I’m a senior in high school, 6-foot-2, gangly , black horned-rim glasses- you gotta be kidding me- I’m gonna go walk into WSAY and their five thousand powerful watts serving Central and Western New York.. And they’re gonna let this pimple-faced kid on the air?

ROD GOODSPEED   Studio Engineer 1958-60
Across (French) Road, where the all those apartments are now, there was a field and we played ball over there. And (Transmitter Engineer) Art Phillips used to put out a speaker on the front porch so that I could hear (The Family Rosary for Peace). Well I was running second base at the time when I heard (from Father Cirrincione) “and thus we conclude”. I was supposed to play Ave Maria in the background. I ran toward the transmitter building, hit a chuck hole, sprained my ankle and I limped up the stairs. And so three or four minutes of dead air later I started Ave Maria. And I thought surely I'm going to get fired for this one but nothing ever happened.

BOB GREEN   Announcer 1958 Mac McGwire Tommy Thomas
On The Family Rosary For Peace.. one night, Father Cirrincione must have misplaced a bead on thw rosary when he exclaimed: Hail Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou among women and blessed is the Fruit of the Loom, Jesus.

MIKE HANNA   Announcer 1956-57
Radio.. whether it was short wave or AM or whatever was always like magic and I was fascinated with it. I was fascinated to hang out with the engineer downstairs and have him show me all those big tubes glowing and sparkling and everything. I just got a kick out of being able to make some sounds in say, downtown Rochester and people miles away could hear me and there are no wires attached. So it was was kind of a technical fascination more than anything to do with.. you know, getting my name on the air or anything like that.

GARY HEMDAL   Announcer 1979-81 Before and during The New WSAY
I keyed the mike and it kind of made a popping sound. And as I was talking I could smell something burning and then all of a sudden smoke started coming out of the the board. So I put a record on and ran downstairs and I said "Ron (Chief Engineer Ron Steve) there's smoke coming out of the board!" And Ron (got) knee-deep in the wires inside the board - something must have just shorted out. It wasn't like we had to call the fire department- it was just smoking... went right back to work. [Master control board mishap]

CHUCK INGERSOLL   Announcer - The New WSAY 1980-81
It seemed like things went from optimism to pessimism quickly. Apparently spot and ad sales weren’t good, there was very little advertising, and before too long Lew Dickey decided he wasn’t spending any more money. We brought in lawn chairs and used them in the on-air studio because Dickey refused to buy chairs. I recall Jack Slattery saying to me, “This isn’t a good sign, is it?”

ED MUSICUS   Announcer 1961-62 Mike Melody
My first day on the air was a very hot August afternoon. The screen window on my left was open but gave me no comfort. Half dead flies were coming from nowhere, it seemed, and crash landed on my chest without a shirt. It was just too hot. What an inaugural first day as Mike Melody! Fighting off flies and trying to read requests. [With an engineer firing the records in the main studio, Ed announced from the dreaded "kitchen" studio, a pane of glass between the rooms.]

TOMMY NAST   Announcer 1973-74 Tommy Thomas
I walked in and looked at the equipment. And I said to John (Sebaste), "Where’s the cart machines?" And he said, "There are no cart machines." I go: "Are you shitting me?!".. In 1973, every radio station in the country- maybe with the exception of WSAY and WNIA in Buffalo- had cart machines. I said: "How do you not have cart machines?" And he looked at me and rolled his eyes and said: "Mr.Brown.. um.. doesn’t believe they’re proven yet."

MIKE O'BRIAN   Announcer 1973-74 Jerry Jack
My sister turned me on to a school called the Columbia School of Broadcasting, and I was accepted as a student on the third-floor of East Avenue. A phone call came to the school, and it was John Sebaste from radio station WSAY wondering if there was anyone there that wanted to come over and audition for the noon-to-6:30 slot. And I was in the right place at the right time and said, “Yes! I’ll go over!”

SAMME PALERMO   Contributor 1973-75
The guys were not afraid to play those deeper cuts and take those requests and play different songs. It was great. It was not unusual to hear someone play something out of the 60s and then out of the 70s. And now and then you might hear Johnny Cash and then Kiss. It was like putting your I-pod on shuffle right now. [Samme produced funny bits and drops from home or over the telephone]

JACK PALVINO   Announcer 1957-58 Jerry Jack
I have nothing but total gratitude for WSAY. They took a 22-year old kid off the street and let him try his luck on the radio. And it turned into a 40-year career. So, despite all of the physical shortcomings and some of the petty little problems, I am eternally grateful to WSAY. It was a door-opener for so many of us in broadcasting, that frankly I don’t know if we would have ended up in broadcasting if it weren’t for WSAY.

SAL PANZARELLA   Announcer June 1978 - June 1979
It was a great start and taught me lessons of resourcefulness, initiative that I still carry with me today.

DAVE ROSATI   Announcer 1966-67 Mac McGuire
When somebody would drive by the station and honk.. we would look out the window and if it looked like a fairly decent girl, we had a copy of a Johnny Matthis song called Come Back. And it didn’t matter what was on the air, we’d throw that thing on.. hoping they would come back. Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn’t.

JOHN SEBASTE   Announcer, Management 1963-82 Bob Bell, Jerry Jack,
Mac McGuire, Mike Melody, Tommy Thomas, Glenn Gordon

At one point Lew Dickey made a remark to me: "How the hell could Gordon sell me this goddamn toothache?"... Karma’s a bitch. [Dickey purchased WSAY from SAY owner Gordon Brown]

DAVE SLADE   Red Wings Play-by-Play, Color 1978 Season
And so home games started back then at 7:30. Normally the pre-game show would have been from 7:15 to 7:30. But the pre-game show aired from 6:45 until seven. Then they broke for the Rosary and then we came on at 7:30. That was fairly unique because you hoped the audience was there for your pre-game interview but then also would find you again it 7:30.

GARY SMITH   Announcer 1956-57
They said we’re changing all the names on the station and the morning man is going to be Tommy Thomas, so tomorrow morning that’s your name on the air. Well, I was young and dumb and I said in essence “That’s a lot of BS. For the last six months I've been on the air with my own name- Gary Smith. I live here, and then, tomorrow I’m gonna be a different name?” So I said, “No, that’s not a good idea.” So they said: “Well, we’ll get back to you.” [Gary kept his real name and was maintained at WSAY]

GUY SMITH   Announcer Traffic 1980-1982
Where I would do the traffic, you could look out the window across French Road (and the condominiums). And literally every morning there was a woman– she never closed her window- and you could see her getting out of her shadow… getting out of the shower. And we’d (all) laugh in the newsroom!

TOM SPERRY   Announcer 1968 Mike Melody
The first time I saw him, I was up at the East Avenue. And I saw this disheveled looking guy who kind of had janitor clothes on and I just assumed he was the janitor. So I’m nice to everybody and I said hello.. and later I found out that that was Gordon Brown.

CHET WALKER   Announcer 1980-81
You can buy all the Yankee players but you can’t buy the Yankee heritage and you can’t buy the power of Yankee Stadium. And that’s one of the things we ran up against, both from the inside and the outside, that WHAM had a long heritage and it had a tremendous signal. [on the New WSAY challenging WHAM]

CHUCK WILSON   Sports 1980 & 1981
I’m always reminded by Hyman Roth and The Godfather Part II...he said: This is the business we’ve chosen... Well, you’re gonna lose your job at some point in radio-television. It just happens.. format or ownership change. Very often it’s gonna be out of your hands and you just have to accept it going in. [on being fired from the New WSAY after eight months. Note: He was re-hired later.]

On Board...Interview Pending

KEVIN DeHOND   Announcer
JENNY DELL   Announcer
ERIC FLORACK   Announcer
BILL FLYNN   Transmitter Operator
RENIE HALE   Announcer, Transmitter Operator
JIM KELLY   Announcer
BOB LUTHER   Management
JOHN MAYER   Announcer
TOM PROIETTI   Announcer
TODD SMITH   Engineer

Know About or Attempt Made or Waiting For Reply

TODD SMITH   Announcer
RICK WETZEL   Announcer

Could Use Help in Finding

DAVE ARMON   Traffic
PAT BARRETT   Announcer
LEN BERMAN   Engineer
PAT BREEN   Announcer
family of GORDON P. BROWN   Owner
family of ANN CAPITANO   Office
LEE CARTER   Receptionist
family of LEN CUMBO   Transmitter Engineer
DICK DANIEL   Announcer
family of LEW DICKEY   Owner
PETER GRUBE   Announcer
family of NELSON GUYETTE   Announcer, Management
TERRY HAIGHT   Announcer
JOHN HILL   Program Director, Announcer
JAY LEVINE   Announcer
CAROLE KING   Announcer
JOHN KNACK   Announcer
TONY NATALE   Announcer
DAVE ORLANDO   Studio Engineer
JIM PIZZI   Announcer
TONI RAMOS   Receptionist
MARILYN ROGERS (sp?)   Announcer
JIM SHIELDS   Transmitter Engineer
CAROL SIJ   Programming, Sales?
DAVE SLADE   Announcer, Red Wings
family of SYBILLA REBER   Management
family of RONNIE STEVE   Chief Engineer
JACK TURNER   Announcer
BEATRICE... UGGAMS?   Receptionist
MIKE VERNO   Announcer

Help with the lists... Please send contact info help to berflynn@yahoo.com


scottfybush.com   History
Democrat and Chronicle   Whatever Happened To...
WXXI-AM radio   Long Live Rock 'n Roll features
Facebook   I Remember WSAY
Youtube   1970s Radio spots, photos
Youtube   Staffer Bob Green reminisces
WSAY website   Promos, Commercials, memorabilia, 1970s