10 Questions with ... Ray Rossi
August 6, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Started out at WFPM in Ft. Valley, Ga, and spent two years there as though I was the "My Cousin Vinnie" character to the locals. But I learned to love the area and the environment.
Next stop was in Harrisburg, Pa. working at WFEC, Disco 14, which was located in a condemned building on Market St, a block away from the rat-infested Susquehanna River.
After that, it was on to Tampa working at WCKX, 96 KX with Ops Mgr. Scott Robbins, and PD Rob Walker doing production and swing.
After a managerial change, I came back home to Brooklyn and worked for a family business. One day, while reading Billboard Magazine, I find out that WVNJ is being sold to Malrite Communications; and is naming Scott Shannon as their PD. I send him a tape, he remembers me from having worked across the bay from Q-105; and hires me as his first swing guy and renames me Danny Hernandez.
From there it was on to WPLJ Power 95, where Larry Berger christens me as Bobby Valentine; then Hot 97 as Ray Rossi, WYNY, again as Ray Rossi, fill in at CBS-FM, traffic for Shadow, midday and production at Y-107; and finally here at New Jersey 101.5
1. Why did you go into radio? How did you get your start?
Radio was always in my blood; especially having grown up with WABC and listening to Dan Ingram, Ron Lundy and Bob a Lou. It was either that or bake bread in the family business. Obviously I chose the former.
I sent out a bunch of tapes. Was told to send them to places I never heard of, chose Ft. Valley, Ga. and it just so happened they had an opening for someone who would wanted to o whatever was needed. Production, which I love t this day; an airshift which ended at local sunset by playing "Dixie"; and taking out the garbage!
2. Your background before New Jersey 101.5 was in music radio - how hard was the transition from music to talk?
Not easy. In music radio, you're everybody's friend. In talk, you're either loved or hated; plus you put yourself out there totally. There's no "fakin' the funk!" You got to be yourself, and your opinion is what matters.
3. Similarly, in talk, you were a co-host for years in afternoons at 101.5 before going solo- what have been the difficulties or the pleasures of being a solo talker after having another guy in the studio for so long?
Having the other guy allows you to create a dynamic as a team. It was easy with both Craig and Casey... and while they are 2 very different personalities, I felt "fluid" enough to understand where both were coming from and develop the necessary dynamic needed to make each show work.
Plus, once you do, to lean on the other guy when you need to...and I've needed to quite a bit. Craig and Casey were good "drivers" of the show, so my role was pretty defined from "jump street"... sort of like a back up singer.
Conversely, as a solo, you open up even more, and especially doing the overnight show, when calls are sparse. I've had to, and still rely on my talent to tell stories; even if, after a while, it sounds like a reading of "War and Peace."
4. You're from Brooklyn, but you've achieved official Jersey Guy status by now (both as a resident and as part of the former Jersey Guys team). How would you define a real Jersey guy? What's different about people in New Jersey as opposed to, say, New Yorkers or Philadelphians?
Jerseyans have their own vibe. You develop a tough skin being from either Brooklyn or Philly...in Jersey it's even tougher, because there's a "chip on my shoulder" thing working. Sort of like, "you guys may be from the big city, but we're from Jersey! So see where you gotta go!"
Plus Jersey is more "medigone" ("generic American," as my grandmother used to say) so you have that dynamic between the natives and those of us that crossed over from the other side to work through
5. Who have been your mentors, influences, and/or heroes in the radio business (music or talk)?
I've always loved Ingram, Ron Lundy, Bob a Lou, Jim Kerr, Frankie Crocker, Dan Daniel in the music realm... and Bob Grant in talk. Bob was always able to work in the "Italianisms" into his show that I've grown up with. I can't say enough about him. And Larry Berger, former WPLJ PD, for always encouraging me to be myself on the air.
6. Of what are you most proud?
My daughter, who eventually followed me into the adjunct of radio: record promotion; and the beautiful grandson she gave me.
7. What's your process -- how do you prepare for the show? What resources do you use?
Well, let's see. Besides having to peruse all the websites of the Jersey papers, there's your site, plus a number of others. I like to think of the show like top 40 radio. There are hits, lifestyle stories, and politics.
Politics in overnight can be a very tough sell. I'm dealing with an audience that both wants to be stimulated and at times, just wants company.
So with that in mind, I have to put myself in their place, and think of what they want to hear at that hour, plus what I feel I can sell. If I can't own the story, I'll pass on it.
Once I get there, I rely on Jason Ruvolo, my producer, to run ideas by him; debate him on stories, and while the show is on, occasionally bring him in to get his point of view.
8. What role do social media like Facebook and/or Twitter play in your show? Do you use them to interact with listeners, do show prep, or just for yourself?
Facebook and Twitter allow me to showcase what' I'll be talking about, plus give friends a forum to debate among themselves. They've been a great tool to help me "take their temperature!" And yes, I do keep in touch with listeners through the both of them. It gives both them and me greater access to each other.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _______________.
...a good cup of coffee; and thanking God for having had the opportunity to do another show, even when they don't turn out the way I'd like them to.
10. What's the most important lesson you've learned in your career?
Big one....be willing to step out of your comfort zone.
I've done everything imaginable while in this business (36 years in September), like having done Country, which I'd grown to love. Running the board at WABC during those times of underemployment, doing traffic for Shadow, Writing blogs, which puts me in touch with my love of writing...and having to do whatever you have to do to keep your hands in the business.
Oh, and one more, most importantly, be nice to people...treat them the way you want to be treated!