Most nights when Bon Jovi performs the band’s first single, “Runaway,” on tour, Jon Bon Jovi tells the story of a young kid who walks into a radio station with a cassette and a dream — to get airplay and a chance to find an audience.
That radio station was New York’s WAPP, which only lasted for less than one year, but left an indelible impact on the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, who referenced the story in his induction speech on Saturday night at Cleveland’s Public Hall at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
“After sending that cassette to every label and manager I could think of, I thought, ‘Who is the loneliest person in the music business? … the DJ. There was a new station in NYC called WAPP. It was so new, that there wasn’t even a receptionist, so I was able to walk in and get the attention of John Lassman and the DJ Chip Hobart,” he said. “I told them about the songs on the cassette and the frustration of not getting any label to listen to it. Chip did listen to it, and he told me he thought it should be included on their ‘Homegrown’ record of local original music.”
Afterward in the press room, Bon Jovi got a big surprise when Lassman — now a morning show producer at KQRS in Minnesota, and Hobart, now in Vermont — thanked him for mentioning them at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony.
“Dude!” yelled Bon Jovi. “John Lassman, is my story not true?”
“WAPP, God bless you,” he said, inviting Lassman and Hobart — who wore leather jackets with WAPP on the back — to the stage.
“That’s the kind of kid I was. I thought differently, and I knew the loneliest man in the world was the DJ, and he was the one that loved music more than anyone, because he had to determine what people cared to listen to, and a DJ could educate the public as to what to listen to,” he said. “It was a different era, and it goes back to this kid’s story.”
“That’s a great way to end my night,” he said.
Speaking to Variety, Lassman said he was honored that Bon Jovi still remembers.
“That was very humbling,” Lassman said. “I’m pretty jaded at this point, but that was really something when he threw our names out after all these years. To do it for the Hall of Fame was pretty insane.”
Bon Jovi wasn’t the only one thanking radio. Justin Hayward and John Lodge of the Moody Blues both thanked New York air personalities, including Howard Stern, who was there to induct Bon Jovi.
“I’d like to thank American radio for supporting us for five decades. And the belief in us has just been tremendous and has given us encouragement to keep going, and doing everything we love to do, and that’s make music,” Lodge said. “We’d like to thank also some of our friends at radio, Howard Stern. And the great Scott Muni (of WNEW and later, Q104.3) in New York. “
Added Hayward: “I would also just mention, like John and some of the radio personalities, Scott Muni and Howard, and Alison Steele (WNEW FM). She was a wonderful, wonderful DJ.”
The Moodies also thanked their loyal fan base, who lobbied for years to get the group inducted into the Hall.
“I think that it validated the music that they love,” said Hayward in the press room. “They have given us a wonderful 50 years. We knew as soon as they opened the door to our fans, that it was going to be a steamroller, and that they were going to take that opportunity. They have been so loyal to us all these years, in the ‘60s of course, and then the new music that we made together in the ‘80s. Younger fans came to us, and now we see very young people really loving this music as well, and that is very gratifying.”