Frank M. Roberts
I recently interviewed Bob Carpenter, keyboard guy for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - asking him the obvious -- what kind of music do you like? "Everything," he said, rattling off the names of justabout every genre. Then, a pause - then there was telephonic thumbs down on rap which, he admits, he just does not understand.
It's an answer I would have offered. For nearly 60 years I have interviewed and reviewed singers and musicians representing all kinds of music. I am - damn! - 86 years old and I've been around music just about all my life.
My name is Frank Roberts. In '98 I retired as a reporter-reviewer from the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot,then continued on those jobs, free lance, for another decade. Due to a bone problem (putting it politely) I had to give up reviewing. The good (?) doc said no more driving. Well, I'm still driving - driving myself crazy not being allowed to drive. Anyway, it cuts down on accidents.
Before joining The Pilot, I was a reporter for the Jacksonville, N.C. Daily News - an ex-Army guy trying to keep up with the Marines at Camp Lejeune. I joined the Army about a month after graduating from the Bentley (High) School on West 86th Street in NYC in '46. Graduation Day - the day the principal, Mrs. Kaufman, uttered these immortal words: "Mrs. Roberts - Frank just made it by the skin of his teeth."
Before I gradded I worked in radio in a small- very small- station on Long Island. That did it- the radio bug had bitten me. Like my bone degenaration, there is no cure.
During a couple summers I was a mailboy for the Mutual Broadcasting System in NYC, a job that was a boost for Roberts in Radioland.
Here's what I mean: When I signed with Uncle Sam I went into the Signal Corps - basic training at Fort Dix- and a career in the Army I still can't believe. 'Unc' Sammy sent me north -- faaar north or, as the song put it - "North To Alaska."
Nome, that is. The Army maintained an AFRS station there, and the announcer on hand was about to don civvies so I asked if they could use semi-talented moi.
I wrote to eminent newscaster, Gabriel Heatter and eminent sportscaster, Bill Stern, asking for recommendations. All they knew about me was that I was talkative, friendly, and an expert mail 'deliverer'. Still, both wrote glowing letters of recommendation. Soon, it was Signal Corps by day, AFRS by night.
When I re-entered civilian life I grabbed a small chunk of the GI Bill and attended the School Of Radio Technique in NYC, where they taught a whole bunch of good stuff, very little of which has to do with radio today.
The school got me my first commercial radio job. It was a small station in New Joisey run by Simon Legree's twin brother.
After that, I went to stations in Havre de Grace, and Hagerstown, MD. Havre, etc. was sandwiched between the military bases of Aberdeen and Bainbridge, so USO shows showed up. My first experience em-ceeing such a show was with Buddy Morrow's Orchestra. Fun? Damn right, especially because Morrow was like a mushroom - a fun guy. His vocalist, Frankie Lester, got nowhere in the biz, mainly because he sounded so much like the 'other' Frankie.
Working Hagerstown was the only time I did a p.m. show. Over the years, I worked at stations in Fort Madison, IA. The call letters were KXGI. They only hired - right, ex-GIs. Eventually, I was like a small child - heard, but not seen as a background announcer on a Virginia teevee station.
One of my fave places was KWBU in beautiful Corpus Christi. At the time they advertised themselves as the most powerful AM radio station in the U. S. of A. Later, I got into teevee in Waterloo, IA.
'Twas there I did interviews with Ben Alexander, Jack Webb's first "Dragnet" partner, and Fred Waring, a nice guy who preferred talking about his blenders. I also assisted on a game show, did a lot of commercials, and emceed late nite grade-B movies, several of which you can catch on this here now 'fab' web site.
Eventually, I wound up doing an ayem sho on WCDJ in Edenton, N.C., and operating as station manager, managing to meet wife #2 - wife of 65 years, the start of a dynasty - three kids, five grandkids, two great-granddaughters.
After that, I accepted an offer from WITN-TV in Washington, N. C. In those days the anchors were also the field reporters. Next - 20 years with the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot.
After retiring, I worked at WGAI in Elizabeth City, N. C. Currently, I am writing weekly columns for newspapers in Suffolk, VA. and Ahoskie, N. C., and playing music on the web. Now, I got together with Jimbo, and I'm loving it.
I will write about people I know, past experiences, etc. which I hope you will enjoy.
A final note: My folks were raised in a Baltimore orphanage. Most of my family has gone - hopefully to the great beyond.
Anything on your mind? Anything you'd like to share - feel free. I am a city boy whose second, third, and fourth homes were the Paramount, Strand, and Capitol theaters in NYC.
I got into country music thanks to meeting a gem of a lady, Rosalie Allen. I had guested with a WOV deejay who invited listeners to bring their rare recording for airplay. When he exited, she came on - and - what a doll. I sat in on several of her broadcasts, the only country radio show in the Big Apple 30 minutes a night. Different story today, but the music then was REALLY country, aimed at 'refugees' from the South who thought there was more $ to be made travelling back and forth on the subway. (In my case, it was the IRT). Thanks for your patience and I will be with you again, covering a variety of showbizy topics.