- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Joe Deane is a local golfer, 83 years young, who works each Saturday at Brunswick Plantation as a starter.
Last week, Joe and I sat and talked in the clubhouse at Brunswick Plantation. He brought pictures and clippings and autograph books and other memorabilia, and in the next hour I heard an amazing story.
Joe is a fascinating, articulate man with a past filled with people most of us only dream of meeting. People like Perry Como, The Beatles, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Patty Sheehan, Rosie Jones, Bob Hope, Robert Goulet, Jeff Sluman, Joe Garagiola, Pat Boone and Peggy Lee, to name only a few.
From 1947-95, Joe was one of the top disc jockeys in the country, mostly in Rochester, N.Y., and for a few years, in Pittsburgh.
Joe’s was a recognized voice in the days when radio was king, when folks listened in cars on the way to and from work, when they turned on the radio each night to listen to their favorite shows and ballgames.
In those early days, television was a mere curiosity; computers and cell phones had not been invented. The only way to hear the news and the latest in songs was through the radio, which often occupied a central spot in the living room with chairs and couches grouped around it.
Radio announcers were celebrities in their own right, with thousands of loyal followers. They were invited to speak at awards ceremonies, to host golf tournaments and other special events. Joe was in the middle of it all.
“It was a great period in radio,” Joe said. “I met a lot of recording artists, rock groups, movies stars and other celebrities. They came on my show to talk about their latest record, concert tour or the movie they starred in that just opened in town.”
Joe was born and raised in the Bronx but left home at the age of 17 to pursue a career in radio. His first job was at WGNY in Newburg, N.Y., where he met his wife, Virginia. During a stint in the Air Force, he worked for American Air Force Radio.
“After the Air Force, I did radio shows in various parts of the country; KLZ in Denver, Colorado; WDFT in Wichita, Texas, but then I landed in Rochester, New York, and spent most of my career there.
“I got an opportunity to work in Pittsburgh in 1953. It was a larger market than Rochester with major league ball teams. I took it, despite the tough competition I would face from all the other stations. On our way into the city that first day, I saw a big billboard with my picture on it and thought, ‘What have I done?’ ”
While in Pittsburgh, Joe hosted a show called “The Bandwagon” (billed as Pittsburgh’s favorite musical show). In the announcements for the show, Joe is listed as “Pittsburgh’s top disc jockey.”
“That show was on before “American Bandstand” out of Philadelphia,” Joe said. “We were the first to do that kind of thing.”
Doing both a morning show and an afternoon show finally took its toll and Joe decided to go back to Rochester.
“I worked and worked and never saw my family,” he said. “We had three kids then and they needed me to be around more, so we went back to Rochester and I spent the rest of my radio career there.”
Golf was big part of Joe’s and Virginia’s lives.
“I joined Oak Hill in Rochester when I was in my 20s at a cost of $50 per year. After my stint in Pittsburgh, I resumed my membership there,” Joe explained. “When major tournaments came to Oak Hill, I was often asked to be a host or announcer. In those events, I met a lot of golf professionals and celebrities. I often played in the pro-ams.”
Oak Hill hosted the U.S. Open in 1956, 1968 and 1989. It was the site for the PGA Championship in 1980 and 2003 and the home course for the 1995 Ryder Cup.
Today, Joe is happily retired in Brunswick County, where he plays golf and works one day a week at Brunswick Plantation. He has lots of great photos and a huge autograph book with many signatures of famous people.
“When they came on my show,” he said, “I asked them to sign my book and they were always happy to do it.”
I thumbed through the autograph book and saw the names of Louis Prima, Tommy Dorsey, Patti Page (dated 12-1-48), Gene Autry, the Inkspots, Robert Merrill, Gale Storm, Veronica Lake, Basil Rathbone, Sterling Hayden, Tony Bennett, Mitch Miller, Harry Belafonte and Nat King Cole. I envisioned these stars sitting across the microphone from Joe as thousands of people listened eagerly next to their radios.
“I loved every minute of my career,” Joe said. “I liked the music of that period. First it was the big bands, Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Vic Damone, Stan Kenton and Patti Page. Then it was the beginning of rock ’n’ roll with the Beatles and the Beach Boys and The Four Seasons. I enjoyed the music and the people who made it happen.”
Today, Joe still has a strong, melodious voice and a quick twinkle in his eye.
“I like being around people and now that I’m retired, working at Brunswick Plantation gives me the opportunity to do that. Shawn Hicken, the pro, is good to all of us. The golfers talk to me and the ladies all give me hugs. I love my job.”
Today Joe and Virginia enjoy their six grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
I asked him whether he ever thought of writing a book about his years on the radio.
“Sure,” he said, “I’ve thought about it, but I’d need a writer to help me with it. You interested?”
No can do, Joe. I’m up to my eyeballs with my own writing projects right now.
But let me tell you this: If Joe ever puts a book together, it will be a best-selling adventure in nostalgia and the great days of American radio.
GOLF GAB GROANER:
One day a family, from a rural area, drove into Raleigh and became amazed at everything they saw. They walked into a hotel and stood in front of two shiny silver walls that could move apart and slide back together again.
The son turned to his dad and asked, “What is this, Father?”
“Son, I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. I don’t know what it is.”
As they watched, a fat old woman walked up and the silver doors slid open. The woman entered and the doors silently closed behind her. The boy and his father watched as the numbers above lit up sequentially to higher and higher numbers. Then the numbers came down again, the silver doors opened, and a beautiful voluptuous 24-year old blonde woman stepped out.
The father, not taking his eyes off the young woman, whispered to his son, “Go get your mother.”
Elsa Bonstein is a golf columnist for the Beacon. Reach her at email@example.com.