A FAN LETTER TO ROBBY RUSSELL-AN APPRECIATION

 

Robby Russell changed my life forever. Although Robby Russell never made radio’s bigtime and was overshadowed by the big DJ’s of his day like Joey Reynolds (WKBW), Terry Knight(CKLW)Gary Stevens (WMCA) , Tommy Shannon(WKBW) just to name a few, I will never forget Robby Russell.  In many ways Robby represented the spirit of 60’s Rock n roll radio more than any jock of his time. Robby Russell’s shows were a combination of comedy and some of the best rock n roll heard on the radio, with his screaming machine gun delivery, his thick New York accent and his unique sense of humor, he became a legend in a very small radio market.

  I remember laughing out loud at the antics of his characters, Count 12, the neck biting vampire, weather girl Fats Fatoni with her hilarious editorials and Mr. Everything. Robby always has his G05-1260 phone line open to his audience and took live calls. Sometimes he would have Count 12 or Fats on the phone and almost anything could or did happen. It was truly theater of the mind.  Russell’s comedy was sometimes strange or dumb, insane or ingenious buy his shows were always entertaining.

  One thing that stands out in my mind about Robby Russell shows was the music.

He played a lot of groups and records no other DJ’s or stations would play. It seemed that he tossed away the WMDR Boss 60 Survey and he just played what we wanted. He delved into psychedelic rock , British Invasion, R & B, Motown, and was one of the first AM DJ’S to play album cuts. Musically, he was ahead of his time.  His shows would feature scores of hardcore R & B artists such as Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding plus groups such as The Rascals, Music Explosion, Bob Seeger, Sir Douglas Quintet, The Hombres, Mitch Ryder,  ? & The    Mysterians, Jimi Hendrix, Steppenwolf, The Doors, The Illusion, and The Who.

     OK, I must admit I was a Robby Russell addict. I listened to his show nearly every night. Russell, who billed himself as “Your Psychic Surgeon Among  Men” even had a fan club called ROPS (Royal Order of Psychic Surgeon”). I had a purple vibrating candle and was a member of his club. Another thing I remember was Russell’s on the air rivalry with fellow WMDR DJ Johnny Rabbitt. Boy, those two were always going after each other.

Robby Russell held the 9 to midnight time slot on WMDR from 1967 to 1969.

He was only 17 years old when he got the job when working as an intern and did a show when another DJ called in sick. There was rumors that his mom would drive him to the station every night. In 1970 he became one of the first FM underground DJ’s when he joined WIXM 98 FM. As “Your Magic Bus Driver “ his shows on FM 98 were just as zany and imaginative as there were on WMDR1260.

Robby doubled the ratings on WIXM-FM and turned down a big gig at WHCN-FM Hartford, Conn because his mom said he was too young to have a job like that.

He called his show “The Liberated Rock Program” and when he left he was replaced by former WMDR DJ King Zhobnick who became a local legend. Sadly

WMDR-1260 changed from its top 40 format to C & W –WCWR in August 1971.

 He experimented with lots of progressive rock instead of Top 40 and was on WIXM for about a year and then just disappeared. Dutch Holland former program director of WMDR comments: ‘’Rockin’ Robby was one of a kind. He had the talent. No doubt about it, he picked the right music. He could have been one of the biggest in the business. BUT I think what Happened was no big station would take him on, he was too controversial. He was ahead of his time, it sad Robby Russell never got his just due.”

Robby Russell, I just wanted to thank you for turning me on such great music and such fun radio. Robby always lived up his signature phrase “Lets sock it in the pocket on twelve sixty radio”.

   Written by Michael Rubin, a fan, 1972.