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Dick Robinson
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audio: Dick Robinson's theme song When Nicholas "Dick" Robinson arrived in Hartford in March 1964 it was the beginning of a storybook love affair. He transferred to WDRC from the Buckley-Jaeger station in Providence. Sliding into the night shift to replace Jim Raynor, Dick joined one of America's most exciting pop radio stations at the beginning of the most exciting time in radio -the British Invasion. Young, hip and 6'3" tall, he became a friend to his teenage listeners (in the Dickie Robinson Underground) and embarked on a career path few in his industry have equaled.

The story began April 17, 1938 in the Boston suburb of Malden where Dick was born an only child. As a kid he worked to overcome a stutter. On his 12th birthday his Dad gave him a portable radio that became his constant companion. He decided then and there to become a radio announcer even though the elder Robinson, a wholesale florist, believed only "clowns got into broadcasting."

In high school Dick was heavily involved in drama. He entered debates and public speaking contests, and spent a summer in Maine with a stock theater company, appearing with Anne Baxter and Tyrone Power in John Brown's Body. While still in high school, Dick conducted many record hops which was good training for the succession of hops he later hosted at Big D.

WDRC's Dick Robinson
Dick Robinson
at WDRC

 
 

Two pivotal life events occurred in 1956. Dick's mother died. And months later he was attacked by a gang at a school dance. His nose was fractured and Dick nearly died during the surgical procedure to repair it. As surgeons performed a tracheotomy, the scalpel nicked his vocal cords. He spent five weeks in a hospital and was told he might never regain use of his voice.

 
 

That fall it was on to Boston University and a confidence-shattering job audition at WEEI Radio. He later told the Hartford Courant, "my breathing was erratic, my voice trembling and cracking. It was a mess." Dick switched to the Leland Powers School of Radio, Television and Theater in Boston.

Dick worked for a time as a theater usher, but eventually landed an audition at WARE in the central Massachusetts town of Ware. For the princely sum of $48.50 a week, Dick did what all announcers did; he learned the radio ropes. He read newscasts, played records, was promoted to program director and even tried his hand at selling commercials. It was that experience which sewed the seeds for opening a broadcast school someday to teach would-be broadcasters what it was really like in the trenches.


Dick Robinson
at WARE in 1957
 
  What's Doing 'Round Connecticut column - March 22, 1964
What's Doing 'Round Connecticut column - March 22, 1964

Dick's radio path took him to WREB in Holyoke, WSPR in Springfield, and a midnight to dawn stint on WPRO in Providence. Then, in 1963, it was across town to WHIM where Dick worked as program director under station manager Richard D. Buckley. The money was certainly better - $190 a week - but the charm faded abruptly nine weeks later when Buckley-Jaeger sold the station. Fortunately Buckley offered him a job in Hartford so Dick, and his wife Sally, uprooted once again.

audio: November 17, 1964 The 8PM-1AM shift on WDRC AM/FM (everything was simulcast in those days) became the Dick Robinson Company, or "DRC on DRC." Nighttime ratings were in double digits (average 60 shares) and Dick was embroiled in fierce competition with cross-town rival Ken Griffin at WPOP. The exciting sounds of British rock and roll were finding their way across the Atlantic Ocean. Dick recalled, "I was in the right place, on the right job, at the right time. We were in the break-out area for new record releases and we released them all, even if we had to pick them up at Kennedy International Airport when the latest Rolling Stones' and Beatles' hits arrived by overseas jet."

audio: Dick Robin's Late Show on WDRC - 1964 Each night he cooked up a Big D Late Late Show bit that involved puns on show biz celebrities appearing in mythical movies on Channel 1360; these were punctuated by whacky sound effects from engineer Bob Coe (who also appeared from time to time as man-on-the-street reporter Humble Harvey Humble). Among the tools of Dick's trade was a never-ending supply of Lone Ranger and Tonto jokes. Dick regularly greeted Funline request-makers with "Hey Keemosabee." In January 1965 Dick began hosting a weekly Saturday Night House Party and in April he instituted a nightly Big D Shindig every night from 8 till 9, keying on the popular ABC-TV show of the same name.

 
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