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Al Perry appeared on the air during the nightly Peter Wolf broadcasts, working the controls for ‘Wooa-Goofa’ during ‘BCN’s formative months in 1968. But he’d actually been at the station for six months by that point, hired when WBCN still featured classical music. “I swept floors; then I got my FCC license and did a little news and weather at the top of the hour. When Ray Riepen came in I started selling [commercial time].” This meant 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,’: “because he was always doing something at the station; he never got to go home!”
Perry was a fixture at WBCN for nearly a decade during its golden ‘free-form” period, eventually rising to become the station’s General Manager, not necessarily an enviable task considering the difficulty of working with owner Mitch Hastings, a true eccentric. By 1977, with the advent of competition from streamlined rocker WCOZ coming on strong, Perry was on the ropes. The General Manager was constantly kept under pressure by Hastings, who, despite his frail appearance and absent-minded behavior, became irritated and tenacious. “Mitch kept saying, ‘There’s something wrong.’ 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.’” Al Perry’s departure would mark a sea change for WBCN, the station facing the grim reality that format restrictions and attention to competition would now be necessary for the station to survive. Perry’s Camelot, it seemed, had passed.
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(by Carter Alan)
Carter Alan is a former WBCN DJ now heard on WZLX-FM in Boston. He is the author of Radio Free Boston: The Rise and Fall of WBCN (University Press of New England, 2013), available here as well as from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.