As soon as the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame has a place to call home, the paper plate will be afforded a position of honor, perhaps preserved in a glass case.
When the board of directors of the new radio hall of fame sat down at lunch recently, their job was to finally decide who should be in the first induction class of Rhode Island radio stars.
Everyone voted, and board member John Colletto began compiling the tallies. He reached for a sheet of paper, but came up with an empty paper plate, in the center of which he scribbled the names of the top eight vote-getters:
Walter “Salty” Brine, Sherm Strickhauser, Charlie Jefferds, Paul Fuller & Al Matthews, Chris Clark, Arlene Violet, Gene DeGraide and Chuck Stevens.
They are the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame Class of 2008, the inaugural group that will be formally inducted into the state’s first hall of fame for radio at a gala banquet May 22 at Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet in Cranston.
Dave Richards, owner of radio station WOON in Woonsocket and a member of the hall of fame board of directors, remembers when the plate scrawled with names was passed around the luncheon table for everyone to see.
“When we saw the actual class, we all said that this is fantastic,” Richards related. “The class is very representative of the different variety, the different ages, of the radio media in this state. There is not one person on that plate who doesn’t deserve the honor.”
The idea to establish the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame was the brainchild of John Rooke, a Texas native and longtime television and radio sportscaster in Rhode Island, currently the voice of the Providence College Friars. Rooke also is development director for A Wish Come True Inc. in Warwick, a 25-year-old nonprofit that works to fulfill the wishes of seriously ill children in Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts.
Rooke hit on the ideal “win-win” plan: establish a radio hall of fame and have a banquet for the inductees, their families and friends, with proceeds going to support A Wish Come True.
Rooke could not be reached for comment last week.
Colletto and Deborah St. Peter, executive director of A Wish Come True, hope to make the hall of fame inductions an annual event. St. Peter has preserved the paper plate, saving it for the day when an actual physical location is found for the hall of fame.
For the first class of inductees, there was one obvious choice: Walter “Salty” Brine.
“He was a given,” Colletto said. Brine was the morning man on WPRO radio for 51 years, from 1942 to 1993. For the final 12 of those years, Colletto was on the air with him as his sportscaster, “Coach Colletto,” and took over as co-host of the morning show when Brine retired. Brine died in November of 2004.
Other deceased members of the inaugural class are:
• Strickhauser, a disc jockey and booth announcer in the 1950s and 1960s who would become the dean of Rhode Island talk radio and whose career included stints at WBRU, WJAR, WICE, WHJJ and WPRO;
• Clark, the original voice of the PC Friars, and a sportscaster whose career spanned four decades at WPRO and WJAR;
• Stevens, pioneer disc jockey and radio personality during the 1950s and 1960s on WRIB, WICE, WPAW, WXTR and WGNG during a 40-year career.
Still on the air are:
• Jefferds, now in the sixth decade of his radio career, has been the afternoon-drive personality on Lite Rock 105 (WWLI-FM) for 16 years and has worked at WHIM, WICE, WPRO, WJAR;
• Fuller and Matthews, the outrageous morning-drive duo at 94 WHJY-FM for the past 18 years, who top the ratings among adult listeners.
No longer on the radio are the final two inductees:
• Violet, Rhode Island’s former attorney general, with 17 years as afternoon-drive talk show host on WHJJ and named “best talk show host” by readers of The Rhode Island Monthly for 16 years in a row.
• DeGraide, “Gentlemen Gene,” who recently retired after a career in Rhode Island radio that spanned five decades as a disc jockey and talk show host at WWON, WJAR and WKRI.
Tickets for the awards dinner are $50 per person, with a table for 10 available at $450. After expenses, proceeds will go to A Wish Come True and all funds will be used in Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts. •
Tickets may be purchased by calling A Wish Come True at (401) 781-9199, and additional information can be found on the hall of fame’s Web site, www.rhodeislandradiohalloffame.org.