Reid flees for Sunshine State
By Scott Leffler
Lockport Journal

 

 

It was a cold day in — well, Buffalo actually — when J.R. Reid was born.

Dec. 22, 1944, the thermometer hovered at zero degrees, setting a record low temperature for the day. It makes it almost fitting that Reid would shuffle off to Cape Coral, Fla., for his retirement from a long and decorated career in broadcasting and beyond in Western New York."I'm not sure, at this point, what I'm going to be doing — if I'm going to be doing," he said, although he has had conversations with a radio station owner in Florida about a potential gig.

It would be just the latest of many radio gigs he's had, starting at a very young age. His first paid position at a radio station — WINE,1080 AM — was at the ripe young age of 14, albeit sweeping floors and answering phones. In 1961, J.R. was hired to do weekend news and weather. In 1962 he graduated from Kenmore East, going to work at WNIA. Station policy was to name their DJs by time slot, making it less noticeable when they switched DJs, Reid said. So J.R. — or Tommy Thomas, rather — was the new morning disc jockey until he switched time slots and names, instantly transforming
into Mike Melody.

In 1964, he came to Lockport to work at the then-WUSJ. "I had a request and dedication show which was very popular with the teenagers - it was called Reid Rocks - and we did." Finally, J.R. was free to be J.R. Officially, it's John Ratchford Reid III.

After a five-year stint at WUSJ, Reid went to work at the sheriff's department. Originally he was undercover in narcotics. Over a 20-year period, he worked in communications, community relations, and criminal investigation.

About five years ago, he came back to WLVL permanently as part sales and part broadcasting. He got himself a nice gig in the morning from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. with the wake-up show and from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on the listener call-in show "Let's Talk." Reid has frequent guests on his show. Some don't come around any more. Lockport Police Chief Neil Merritt is among them."I had somebody on the show that he didn't approve of," Reid said. "My boss doesn't tell me who I have on and who I don't have on, much less the chief of police.""And the sheriff doesn't come on because the listeners were laying it to him pretty good," Reid said. He doesn't protect guests or censor questions, he said."I said when I started my talk show ... that I was going to be an equal opportunity basher - and if someone deserves to be bashed, I'll be the first to swing the hammer," he said.

The vice president of the Buffalo Broadcast Hall of Fame has a good rapport with other area broadcasters."I listen to Sandy (Beach) and Sandy has admitted to other people that he listens to me," Reid said. "That's sort of a feather in my cap.""I'm a big fan of personalities and he's a great personality," Beach said."I'm just thinking. He picked the perfect state of Florida," Beach said. "He'll be the only one in the state who knows how to vote. He'll fit in very well, though, because he already eats dinner at 3:30 and wears his pants under his arms." Continuing to roast, Beach added, "When he gets down there, I hope he doesn't tell people that he's from Buffalo because we already have enough image problems."
Sandy Beach
Sandy Beach

Clip Smith called Reid a wealth of music knowledge. "He probably knows more about Rock and Roll music and probably has — I would say without a doubt — the largest collection of anyone I know." Reid admits to having one of Western New York's largest private music collection, measuring some 250,000 selections.

Mayor Thomas C. Sullivan, a frequent "Let's Talk" guest, calls J.R. a personal friend. "It's been a pleasure working with J.R. up there," Sullivan said. "He tries to bring the issues that are important at the time." Sullivan said sometimes the show presents unique situations. "When I go on as the mayor, you're not sure what's going to be presented with you," he said. Reid said it's all part of the show. "I'm not here to please either my guests — or my listeners necessarily," he said. "And I'm not going to soft-pedal my thoughts."

WLVL owner Richard Greene said he's not sure what to do once J.R. leaves in December. "We are still in search of the person to fill his very large shoes," Greene said. "It may take two people."

Contact Scott Leffler at 439-9222, Ext. 246, or
lefflers@gnnewspaper.com.