I’m taking my series of videos of music alluded to in the novel The Ten Weeks in a different direction this week with Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown,” a television performance that is very much from the time the song was released (and the setting for the novel too.)
But it brings up something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: a tribute to radio personality Paul Roberts.
I’ve lived in South-east Tennessee for over thirty years now, but as regulars to this site know I was raised mostly in South Florida. One day I was driving around these hills listening to WGOW, our premier talk radio station in the area, and I heard a very mellifluous announcer named Paul Roberts reading the news. I got one of those “déja-vu all over again” moments: where have I heard this guy before? I racked my brain: maybe on another station here, or even maybe when my family first moved to Chattanooga in the early 1960’s. Media personalities in this area tend to have longevity, so I thought I had heard him on another station here.
But not so: one day Roberts and some of his colleagues at the station were talking about the “old days,” which for Roberts went back further than others at the station. Roberts was talking about his days in Miami, and then it hit me: I had heard him on the radio back home, and specifically on WQAM, which was one of America’s great “Top 40″ stations in the 1960’s and 1970’s. (I know that a “great Top 40 station” is an oxymoron for many of us, but WQAM fit the bill. That’s Paul at the left from his WQAM days, when he didn’t have to be the “old guy” at the station.)
It’s not very often that a living reminder of the “old country” comes my way, and a good one at that. Paul Roberts was one of the most professional newscasters out there in any market, and Chattanooga was privileged to have him.
For those of us who heard him–either in the land “where the animals are tame and the people run wild” or here in the hills–it’s easy to say that now. I was blessed to have the chance to meet him and to tell him that personally. Roberts continued to be on the radio almost up to the time of his death in April 2006, and this posting and the next few video postings that follow are in his memory.