Nestled between the pastrami and pickles, radio personalities met their fans at Ben’s Deli in Manhattan Saturday afternoon.
It was the 5th Annual Oldies Meet and Greet, celebrating the radio format, but not specifically endorsing any station.
Organizer Jeff Scheckner tells FishbowlNY, with 75 people crammed into the back of the kosher eatery, this was the best turnout yet.
He says the genesis for the event was Jack FM.
“Initially, when CBS-FM was hijacked we had a small gathering…really weeks after the format change,” Scheckner says.
Scheckner’s mantra for the annual lunchtime gathering is simple.
“It’s really people that are dedicated to the music of the 50s, 60s, and the 70s,” Scheckner says. “We all are advocates for making sure the music stays alive.”
CBS-FM, consistently number two in the ratings, is minus 1950s music, with the exception of specialty weekend programming.
No matter. The dozens of people weren’t there to be critical. They came to schmooze with each other and the special guests that Scheckner lined up.
Specifically, Jim Kerr. The legendary morning man, at WPLJ and now with Q 104.3/WAXQ, definitely had the “meet and greet” down. Kerr, who also hosts a 50s show on Sirius/XM, made a point to stop and talk with everyone, take pictures, and sign autographs. Kerr felt a bond to his admirers, thanks to social media sites like Facebook and message boards.
“This seemed like a good opportunity to meet some people whose words I’ve read and who I actually believe I know personally, even though I don’t,” Kerr says. “It’s just been great fun.”
Once it came time to break bread, Kerr sat with other notables, including Russ “Famous Amos” DiBello, Anita Bonita (an accomplished radio professional and former original Z100 Morning Zoo member), and “Big” Jay Sorensen.
One admirer asked DiBello for an autograph but didn’t have anything for him to sign. Or so he thought. Scrambling, he gave DiBello the paper placemat on his table (stain and all). He obliged, writing a personalized note for his new friend.
But for all the goodwill showcased for Oldies, DiBello, a fill-in jock at WCBS-FM, doesn’t see the format or the industry returning to the days of yesteryear.
“Radio is a function of the post-war era when they didn’t know what to do with all those transmitters that they used to do Jack Benny,” DiBello says. “Radio was one of the building blocks of that America. … You can’t recreate a moment or a time.”
Sorensen, like DiBello, has been in radio for four decades. He also is heard occasionally on CBS-FM. To a younger generation, though, Sorensen is more linked with 66 WNBC during the late 1980s.
“The word Oldies is a little confusing to some people now,” Sorensen admits. “Although I think it does describe what the older pop music is. … Unfortunately, the name is toxic.”
Toxic or not, the versatile jock says fans, like those surrounding him in the restaurant’s booths on this day, are some of the most passionate.
“They know the music, they know the artists, they know the disc jockeys,” Sorensen says. “Personalities are very important to them, because it all blends together.”
Photos: (top) Jim Kerr (left) and Russ “Famous Amos” DiBello
(bottom) Kerr working the room.