Hot on the heels of his big announcement that he is leaving SiriusXM satellite radio, Cousin Brucie Morrow revealed Tuesday that he will return to his roots hosting “Cousin Brucie’s Saturday Night Rock & Roll Party” on 770 WABC in New York.
“It’s part of one of the most amazing moves I’ve ever made in my life,” Morrow tells Variety. “I was with SiriusXM for 15 years, and they were good years, but I was getting the feeling that I should make a move. I should do something to finish my career circle. Not that I’m finishing — I’ve got plenty to go.”
The Brooklyn-born Morrow, 84, will launch the next phase of his radio career with his first show on Sept. 5, with a special repeat broadcast two days later on Labor Day, he shared. The show will be heard on 77WABC and sister station WLIR-FM 107.1 in Hampton Bays, New York. Both stations are operated by John Catsimatidis’ Red Apple Media, which will also make the show available to fans through its digital media platforms for streaming on phones, smart speakers and computers.
Until recently, Cousin Brucie was heard by paid subscribers tuning in to his Wednesday and Saturday night programs. Prior to that, he held stints at 1010 WINS, 660 WNBC, and 101.1 WCBS-FM. Many of his listeners go back with him to the 1960s, when he introduced the Beatles at Shea Stadium — “probably one of the most amazing moments in my life,” he says. “I can still feel the electricity in my body.”
In an interview with Variety shortly after the news hit, Morrow shared his thoughts on the move, what fans can expect, and how much he’s actually missed commercials.
VARIETY: Making this move from SiriusXM back to 770 WABC where it all began is major… the biggest radio personality news of the summer, for many people.
MORROW: I felt that I should get back into (terrestrial) radio. I missed the audience — the people who couldn’t pay the subscription. If you looked at my Facebook page, you’ll see. I think every other mention was WABC radio. Rock ‘n’ roll music in my career really started at WABC.
How did John Catsimatidis orchestrate your return to AM?
John is the gentleman who purchased WABC. He always listened to me on Saturday nights. He would drive in the car with his wife and listen to me. He used to request songs. So he and I became very friendly on the phone. A very major part of live radio is telephone… that is my connection to the audience. One thing led to the other, and eventually the son of a gun bought the station. And we started talking about “what if?” And then sure enough, one day we signed on the dotted line. So I’m very about this change. I’m going to rebuild my audience, and they’re very excited. It also has a national footprint; the radio station streams all over. So that’ll be a very important part of retaining what I’ve built over 50 years, and this audience in the tri-state area is going to be treated to radio on WABC, which has been all-talk. Now on Saturday night, it becomes music radio.
Tell us about the format.
The format will be the ’50s, ’60, ’70s and ’80s, and anything else that anybody wants to hear, I can play. I have complete free reign. I program my own shows and the shows will be really a variety of a lot of great music, a lot of great talk and guests. You’re going to be surprised about what I am about to say now: I can’t wait to do my commercials again. I missed my commercials. I do a lot of live reads, and I make these commercials very much a part of what I do, and what I do is get very involved with my audience. I learned a long time ago that I become a part of my audience’s family, part of their lives. They’re in the shower with me, in the car with me, they shop with me, and I can feel it. And I’m very excited about getting it back again.
If this goes well, could that open it up to other music in dayparts on the weekend?
Absolutely. It would be an important decision for them to make, and they are doing pretty well with their talk format. But the music format will bring them a whole new audience. They will keep a lot of their audience, but there could be a crossover, and the idea of opening up the weekend to music would be a brilliant idea.
Do you have a jingles package?
Let me tell you about the jingles. One of the very first things I said to the vice president of programming, David LaBrozzi, when we signed the deal was, “David, I gotta have my old jingles back,” and he said to me, “I have them.” I got my old jingles back. So you’re going to hear all those things. It’s going to be warm and fuzzy. It’s going to be memorabilia, and it’s going to be today — a wonderful mixture of what radio was and is. This audience that grew up with Cousin Brucie will feel very much at home. And I’m going to throw every bell and whistle that I can find into the show as we go along.
Is there going to be somebody back at the studio running your board so that you could take requests from the audience? Are you going to be home or at the station?
First of all, they have brand new, state-of-the-art studios that they just moved into last week, and I am going to be one of the first using it. I will have a board op, and I will have an associate producer working with me, because I have to keep my mind on what I am doing. I am very audience-prone. I pay attention to my audience. I don’t want to get involved too much in the technical part, because that really takes away from my watching the road, so to speak. I want to be able to think about what they want to hear, where they’re going, what they’ve done. You know, people get so involved in their lives with me. They tell me about the good times. They tell me about the bad times, or if they have a serious situation in the family. I talk to them about it and I try to get them to just take a deep breath, and kind of talk to them about golden moments. I try to relax them, and I ask, what music would make you happy? Music is so medicinal. I want to give you these three to four hours that I am on the air, and I want you to feel relaxed and feel the magic and feel the love. That’s how the show works.
How do you stay young at heart?
I stay young because I feel young. I love this music. I program my own shows. I don’t let anybody near my shows. I program my music and let the audience program with me. I ask them what they want to hear, and the music becomes this magical story that keeps me young. It sounds corny, sounds a little silly, but it is the music. And then when I talk to people and I get their enthusiasm and get that trust and feel their affection and love for me, well, this brings me back to a very young man again. God has given me a gift. I have this huge energy. My poor wife, Jodie, has to calm me down at times. I love what I do, and the way you hear me on the air, that’s the way I am everywhere. It’s very rare that you catch me in a down moment.