Man From Mars Productions
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
Doing 'Round Connecticut column - March 22, 1964
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.
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."
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.