Let’s face it. The charming era of Richmond Radio is awkwardly sauntering away, evoking sadness. The finality of all this culminated when someone humorlessly described traditional WRVA –AM as a strong web site which happens to have a radio station among its services.
Lunching in the luxurious company of veteran radio pros, Lou Dean, and Tim Timberlake (WRVA personalities) last year, the realization was reached that radio’s sad slide was not only gaining momentum, but reflected the culture of now.
Dean, the dominate night broadcaster with his “Music ‘Til Morning”, its seductive theme, “Devotion”, was testimony to heights great radio could reach. The 1140 AM show enjoyed an impressive run – implacably maintaining greatness of post World War II radio. Dean’s kind of eclectic mix can still be found from Jonathan Schwartz – once on American Popular Standards, Sirius XM, channel 4. He recently retired from Sirus XM but still holds court on WNYC, New York….he’s exactly my age, so I understand.
Is it any wonder the semi-emptiness of Richmond’s air waves draws out unsmiling pessimism – losses of Harvey Hudson, Alden Aaroe, Frank Soden, Fred Haseltine, Carl Stutz, Lud Sterling, Dave Wilburn, and recently Tony Sposa. Replacement is impossible.
Inventive Jess DuBoy (chimes format), Tim Timberlake, Floyd Henderson, John Harding, Dr. Bob DePuy (Mr. WEET), Bill Bowman are performing a variety – some quite different from professional roles of yester-year. Current remnants of traditional radio are locally found in Bill Bevins, Jimmy Barrett, and the irrepressible Tony Booth.
Still. What about Ray Schreiner?
Renowned for volunteerism at Valentine Richmond History Center, and Virginia Historical Society, Schreiner’s contributions to local stage, theater are well documented. His monthly column, Richmond Firsts, rewards the reader with constant historical insight, receiving 2006 Virginia Press Association award for excellence.
For me, remembering Ray Schriener is a delight….he was popular in Richmond Radio’s scene throughout the 1950’s. As teenagers, many of us would periodically troop down to the then WRNL state-of-the –art Fifth Street studios. We’d sit (he always made room) watching him conduct his complicated theatrical radio craft.
Schriener would show-prep in the morning – then ease to on-air radio’s afternoon shift. Capturing a sizeable teen audience, he labored over a music mix. Billboard quoted him, “it’s with joy I receive records with a great non-singing sound. It gets a little tiresome to have nothing but vocalists….trying to keep a well-balanced program you have to lean heavily on albums seeking good instrumental sound.” This made him unique… in our minimally unique 1950s.
Richmond was, oh so, fiscally conservative in those days. Recalling clearly, Schreiner landed a new sponsor: Friendly, Bob Adams. For radio advertising, this was revolutionary; promoting new high- interest financing evoked scorn from Richmond’s traditional bankers, and the financial district. Schreiner would field complaining calls, some bordering on vitriol; he would not allow them to abuse, intrude, or disengage him while on air. We learned.
Surrounded with WRNL news talent, Bill Morrison, and Roger Mudd – yes, that Roger Mudd, later of CBS News, Schreiner would present his soft voice accompanied with popular music selections to Richmond teens.
I’ll never forget this: Ray Schreiner was invited to new Douglas Freeman High School for a presentation in the new gym. Principal W. Howard Mears “inartfully” introduced him to a large audience… as Herb Shriner. Shriner was a popular TV personality, American humorist, frequently compared to Will Rogers. Our broadcaster was unaffected – he simply picked up Herb’s Indiana drawl and imitated on for several minutes….all so hilarious. There was impishness about this 910-AM personality.
He frequently found himself in Billboard’s Chatter page: “Ray Schriener, WRNL, Richmond, Va. conducted a mail poll among his listeners and found Eddie Fisher favorite male vocalist in the Richmond area. Johnnie Ray was second, Frankie Laine third.” No stranger to the likes of Variety and Billboard, he.
Schreiner’s heart and soul were engaged in those days, attempting to give us a lesson as to what popular music could be. It’s impossible to comprehend what local listeners have lost if they lack comparative context… but we do.