Al Perry

Al Perry

Al Perry first appeared on the air during the nightly Peter Wolf broadcasts, working the controls for “the Woofa Goofa” during WBCN’s formative months in 1968. But he’d actually been at the station for a full six months by that point, having been hired when ‘BCN still aired a classical-music format.

“I swept floors, then I got my FCC license and did a little news and weather at the top of the hour,” he recalls. “When Ray Riepen became general manager [in March 1968], I started selling commercial time.” That means that Perry was working the streets for the sales department by day and jamming on the air most of the night. “I’d get off at six in the morning, sleep for a while, shower and shave, go to a sales meeting at 8:30, then hit the road. So, yeah, I was pretty tired. Wolf would yell at me because I’d fall asleep and the record would be spinning around.” The Master Blaster started calling him “Crazy Al,” Wolf says, “because he was always doing something at the station. He never got to go home!”


Known as “Alfredo” to his friends, Perry was born in 1942 and grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts, the eldest of seven children. His father was a three-time decorated World War II veteran and Perry served in the military during the Vietnam war. In the mid-1960s, he worked at The Jazz Workshop for Fred Taylor, establishing a close friendship with the legendary local impresario, and he joined WBCN in 1967, hired by program director Ron Della Chiesa.

When the station switched from a classical format to rock one in March 1968, Perry worked the nightshift on the air and sold ads by day. He was a fixture at ‘BCN for nearly a decade during its golden “freeform” era, eventually rising to the position of general manager, which was not necessarily an enviable task considering all the difficulties of working with owner T. Mitchell Hastings, a true eccentric.


By 1976, with the advent of major competition from streamlined rocker WCOZ, Perry was on the ropes at ‘BCN. As general manager, he was constantly under pressure from Hastings who, despite his frail appearance and absent-minded behavior, often became irritated and stubborn. “Mitch kept saying, ‘There’s something wrong,’” Perry says. “I said, ‘We just have to stay the course’ but he didn’t want to stay the course. He kept the pressure up until finally I said, ‘I can’t do this. It’s too much.’”

Perry’s departure marked a sea change for ‘BCN, and the station had to face the grim reality that format restrictions and closer attention to the competition would be necessary for the station to survive. Perry’s Camelot, it seemed, had passed. After leaving WBCN in 1976, he manned the airwaves at stations in New Hampshire and Maine and worked in the recording industry.


Perry passed away on November 6, 2021 at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge. “Al moved mountains and still found time to play in the sandboxes of so many people’s lives – college kids who took a lifetime detour to radio stardom, record moguls, media tycoons, concert producers, the French fryer who flipped burgers at Flash’s and performers who enchanted him, from Peter Wolf to Neil Young, and, of course, Mr. Muddy Waters,”  wrote former WBCN staffer David Bieber in a tribute posted on Facebook.

(by Carter Alan)

Carter Alan is a former WBCN deejay who’s now heard on WZLX-FM in Boston. He is the author of five books including Radio Free Boston: The Rise and Fall of WBCN (University Press of New England, 2013).

Published On: April 20, 2014