An Interview with Fingers of WBAB

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FINGERS CELEBRATES 31 YEARS OF FMS ON WBAB WITH REVOLUTION CONCERT EVENT |  Farmingdale, NY Patch

I’m from Long Island, NY, born and raised. I’ve got the accent and everything. People on the outside of this 118 mile long, 23 mile wide island have a lot of preconceived notions of what we’re all about. Some call us loud. Some say we curse too much. There are even those that feel we are all wealthy Manhattan/Hamptons socialites. Well, take it from me, the people of Long Island, NY are largely hardworking, blue collar people, who are just trying to get by…even if we are a bit too loud and curse just a bit too much. Haha!

A big part of the heritage, as well as day-to-day life here on the Island is music. More specifically, the radio stations. WBAB is one of those stations. For me, it’s THE station. Growing up as a kid, my appetite for Rock music was steadily fed by WBAB. I learned so much just by listening to bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Billy Joel, KISS and more. So many points of my life have been backdropped by the familiar sounds of WBAB.

Of course, WBAB has many voices behind it, but for me, one voice always stood out, and that’s the man we all know and love and “Fingers.” For as long as I’ve been alive, Fingers has been with WBAB; longer, actually. I’ve never known the station without him. Many a long drives and afternoons stuck in traffic have been made that much more bearable with the help of Fingers and his awesome Rock sets.

So, today, it is my pleasure to present my chat with the one and only Fingers. We talk about his early love for Elvis, how he got started with WBAB, what the station means to the Island, and so much more. If you would like to learn more about WBAB, check out their website here. Lastly, don’t forget to tune in to Fingers show during the afternoon drive, weekdays 2-7PM. Enjoy getting to know one of our own a bit better. Cheers.

Andrew:
Fingers, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. This last year has been rough, right? How are you holding up during this seemingly ever-raging dumpster fire?

Fingers:
Hi, Thanks for having me! Dumpster fire indeed. I have to say that I am truly blessed because I have not had to stop working. Broadcasting from home since March has, at times, been challenging. But there are pros with the cons. On the pro side, I didn’t have to get dressed. It was night pajamas and day pajamas. Now I get up and shower and get dressed just to feel human. I’m 20 feet from my kitchen! I have very few distractions not excluding my PS4. The Cons are few. I miss people. Especially my coworkers. I miss events and connecting with listeners. Also, my PS5 mocks me because it knows if I touch it before or during a show, nothing will get done.

Andrew:
Tell us about your backstory. What was your musical gateway so to speak?

Fingers:
My mom would listen to a lot of music. Top-40 radio was always on in the car, and at home, she played records from all the girl groups of the 60s and the crooners like Bobby Vinton, Robert Goulet, Jerry Vale and Eddie Arnold. She also loved Elvis and the Four Seasons. I remember pawing over her collection and finding joy in Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass and the Harmonicats. At the time, I was too young to connect the dots between musician, record and radio; I just knew I liked music. I remember the first album I bought with the financial assist from mom was Elvis in Memphis, not because it was “The King” so much as I had heard the Mac Davis penned song “In the Ghetto” on the radio and it touched me deeply. I believe it was then I realized the power of music. BTW the first 45 I bought with my own money was Grand Funk Railroad, We’re an American Band on gold vinyl. I still have it. My mom was a beach person, and I used to love the radio playing with the sounds moving with the wind. First time I heard the Rolling Stones “Angie” was at the beach. Listening to sound change with the wind was fascinating to me. Still one of my top-3 bands.

Andrew:
What first sparked your interest in working in radio?

Fingers:
My mom gave me a transistor radio when I was about 7. It was about the size of a pack of cigarettes and had a wired single earbud. I remember being mesmerized that there was music and voices coming out of this little thing. I wondered how they got all that in there. LOL. As I got older, I started to pay attention to the voices, the Deejays! Wolfman Jack, Imus, Casey Kasem, and many others playing records and dishing schtick. Couple this with the fact that I would sit up with my mom watching Jonny Carson having a ball talking with music and movie people, and I was like, “This is so cool.” I remember talking to my mother about it and when I found out they got money for doing this stuff, I knew I wanted to do it. I thought radio was cooler because you can’t watch TV at the beach. Well, back then anyway.

wbab color rounded | EAC Network

Andrew:
Tell us the story of how you ended up at WBAB. What does the station mean to you?

Fingers:
I grew up in Brooklyn. I remember hanging with the teenagers singing doowop in the halls of the apartment building. Flatbush was just always buzzing with activity and a lot of music. At 15, we moved to Masssapequa Park, Long Island. I went from hyperactivity to crickets. I hated it. My solace was music and radio. I came upon WBAB shortly after, and was happy that they played so much music and the jocks seemed cool. Marc Coppola, Al Vertucci, Al Milukas, Bob Buchmann and Ralph Tortora to name a few. I recall a time my buddy Bobby and I were at Sunrise Mall to Christmas shop. It was snowing and Perry Stone was doing afternoon drive. Buchmann loved the snow and went out and got a snowball, and went into the studio and hit Perry in the back while on air. It was funny as he complained that his underwear was wet now. So, my buddy and I bought him some underwear that read, “Jingle Balls,” and brought it to the station. It was closed, but Buchmann saw us at the door and when we told him what we were there for, he invited us in all the way into the studio. “Shh” he said as we entered. Perry was just getting on the air and he said, “Hi,” we presented our gift, and we all laughed. All on the air! My biggest takeaway was the different sound in the padded studio and the equipment. Internally I said to myself, “I’m going to work here.” A few years later, March 15, 1982, I was hired to drive the WBAB Rockvan.

Andrew:
What are some of your favorite things about working at WBAB?

Fingers:
Of course, my favorite part was/is being on the air. Bob gave me the green light to produce “Fingers Metal Shop,” in 1983. Two hours of Hard Rock and Metal at what would be the perfect time for a show like that. My passion is turning people onto the music and touching them with tunes. But I have to say, driving that van was some of the best summers of my life. I had experience with crowds from spinning in night clubs and being a light man and roadie for the Long Island band, Whitefire. They gave me my nickname back in ’78. But this was a new level of crowd. People loved WBAB, and I made sure they knew we loved them back. Interviewing Rock Stars is a very cool aspect of the job. Also, it was evident that the radio station could and would help others, and I love that. Events like 911, Super Storm Sandy and the blackout were game changers. We went from being rocking, goofy deejays to news people and therapists. I believe these events only made us realize how much we mattered and galvanized our resolve to focus on our community. I have to say, I have survived several owners, companies, and bosses in my 39 years at WBAB and the last 20 years have been the best. CMG really cultivates an inclusive and collaborative culture, that is in my opinion, simply the best. Even with this pandemic, they are taking care of us. I work with some amazing people.

Andrew:
WBAB is a staple of Long Island. What do you feel the station’s impact and legacy is on music and in the community as a whole?

Fingers:
On the music side, I would say our Homegrown radio program and subsequent albums showed support to local up and coming bands like Twisted Sister and Zebra. More broadly, the music we play daily goes through a rigorous process to make sure we play what our listeners want. Our ratings prove that it’s working. On the community side, I truly believe WBAB has and does more for our Long Island community than anybody by far. We are fully vested in Long Island and stay focused on the needs and wants of it. From the individual to the neighborhood to the towns and the Island at large. Going back to Charity Begins at Home radiothons up to present day Cold Finger and Sticky Finger bike runs, Bowling for Breast Cancer, Clam Shucking, blood drives, walks, runs on air and in the streets, WBAB is always helping.

Andrew:
Let’s talk about the state of the music industry a bit. What are a few things you would like to see change for the betterment of both the fans and artists alike?

Fingers:
The music industry as a business is a train wreck. The art has become about money. Sure, people want to start a band because they love playing and some want fame and fortune. Rightly so, artist should be paid for their works. But it seems everyone around them makes the money, at least first. With the Internet, bands can market themselves, and if they have the smarts, they can really get established before the vulture’s land. I don’t like that many people today feel music should be free. Just because I gave you a sample doesn’t mean the meal is free. Although, I think it’s great you can get a service like Apple Music and have access to almost everything for a fair price, but I’m concerned for the artist getting their fair payment. One thing is for sure, scrolling through a list will never replace visiting a record store.

Andrew:
Opinion question. In a world dominated by big business and social media, can indie artists really, truly get ahead? How do we keep the playing field level so that everyone has a chance to succeed?

Fingers:
The playing field will never be level because it’s a dog-eat-dog business. That being said, as I mentioned, bands with the smarts can grow. Not the playing, writing, performing abilities but the marketing and savviness of the social media and biz side of things. If an Indie band can build up their fan base to a commanding force, they then have leverage. It may take a long time, but it can be worth it. Just ask Twisted Sister.

Andrew:
What other passions do you have? What do you like to do outside of music/work?

Fingers:
I love spending time with my two daughters and my fiancée. I love motorcycling, cooking, video games, making and editing videos, and writing.

Bike & Music Fest for Breast Cancer: Over 600 Rode in the 10th Annual  Sticky Finger Motorcycle Run | | SBU News

Andrew:
Are you into records? Tapes? CDs? Digital? Where do you like to shop for music? If you have a collection at home, how big is it?

Fingers:
I spent so much of my money growing up on records. I amassed a collection of 5,000 albums and a little over 7,000 CDs. I sold them off because of space, but I kept the ones closest to me. I have most in my computer. I prefer the sound of a vinyl album. Digital is easy. CD is better. Vinyl is best. But with a good system, it all can sound good. My go-to place is Looney Tunes, in West Babylon.

Andrew:
What are a few albums that mean the most you and why?

Fingers:
I love all my Rolling Stones, KISS, Dream Theater, Blue Oyster Cult, Foghat, Black Sabbath and Metallica records. Specific albums Back to Black by the late Amy Winehouse, because it is lyrically raw and excellently produced. Bob Marley Legend, because every song is a homerun. Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones, because that album along with Pink Floyd Meddle and Jethro Tull War Child got me through some tough times in my youth. Of course, Elvis In Memphis, because it was my first. When I’m in a sour mood, I crank Master of Puppets by Metallica and everything feels better. Ha!

Andrew:
Last question. What advice would you have for anyone just getting started in radio?

Fingers:
It is very competitive, but what isn’t? So, learn everything you can. Train and hone yourself into who you want to bring to the mic. It should almost always be you with a spin. Make a lot of mistakes; that’s how we learn. Finally, always believe in yourself and surround yourself with those who believe in you. Never give up. I was in radio about 18 months before I got on the air. Another 18 years passed before I went full time on the afternoon drive. Feeding my children with my passion has been a true blessing. Dreams do come true!

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.
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