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Jimmy Roach and Steve Hansen

Revived Comedy Radio and Promoted Pittsburgh Music
For eleven years Pittsburghers drove to work enjoying the satirical comedy bits and rock music plays of Jimmy and Steve. Their top rated morning drive time shows on WDVE and Magic 97 were the talk of the town. They brought back and established the morning comedy tradition on Pittsburgh radio.  
As one of the first FM radio comedy duos in the country their show was a forerunner to the "morning zoo" format.  In Pittsburgh they built the morning comedy audience for their WDVE successors Scott Paulsen, Jim Krenn, and Randy Baumann.  

Jimmy and Steve also played a vital role in Pittsburgh music history.  On their WDVE morning show they gave first radio airplay to Donnie Iris and B.E. Taylor starting them on their way to a string of national hits. Through live broadcasts along with concert and night club appearances Jimmy and Steve also promoted the music of the Granati Brothers, the Iron City House Rockers, the Silencers, Norman Nardini and other talented Pittsburgh area bands.

They opened it up to a lot of the local people. There was a lot of music coming from out of here that had never been on the radio before. Jimmy and Steve started that." Donnie Iris Pittsburgh Tribune Review 

"Back in the day when I would listen to WDVE, it was always Jimmy Roach and that deep, beautiful voice of his. ... When we got signed to MCA, Jimmy and Steve (Hansen) were so supportive. The first time I got played on the radio, it was by them. And they've been our friends ever since." - B.E. Taylor Pittburgh Tribune Review 

Jimmy and Steve appeared on WDVE from 1980 through 1986 and after a six month sojourn to Miami, they performed at WMYG (Magic 97) from 1987 through 1991.  Appearing on the Evening Magazine show from 1987 through 1991 Jimmy and Steve brought their comedy to television. Jimmy and Steve went their separate ways in 1991 with Jimmy becoming a country Jock at WDSY (Y108) and the Froggy network.  At Froggy Jimmy continued to support hometown talent playing the music of Fayette County's Povertyneck Hillbillies and up and coming singers Sarah Marince and Vanessa Campagna. Roach celebrated his 40th year in radio in 2012. Steve Hanson hosted morning radio at WWSW and served as program director at KKDA-AM. 

The Jimmy Roach Story with guest star Steve Hansen

Both Jimmy and Steve began their careers as pioneers of free-form album oriented rock.

Roach Born and Born Again in Columbus 

Jimmy Roach was born as James Roach (yes that’s his real given name folks) in the center of the American universe Columbus Ohio. He dreamt of being a radio broadcaster. His wife Karen answered one of those TV ads for the “Columbia School of Broadcasting”.  Eager for a new pupil the school sent a recruiter to his home one Sunday afternoon to convince him that they would make him a famous broadcaster.  The recruiter was a local Ohio television star Nick Clooney, the father of actor George Clooney. With Nick’s endorsement little Jimmy enrolled in the Columbia School of Broadcasting and set off on a 40 year radio career. 

Having learned to annunciate properly at the Columbia School of Broadcasting Jimmy Roach applied for his first big time radio job after six months of study.  Little Jimmy was hired at the whopping sum of $2 an hour at the Columbus, Ohio Christian station WCOL-FM in March of 1970. The station aired religious sermons and Christian music 24 hours a day. Jimmy’s job was load the sermon tapes of preacher Kathryn Kuhlman, read weather reports, and to announce the station’s call letters. In the summer of 1970 WCOL decided to experiment with a nutty new format. The station would play religious programming for 12 hours during the day and would offer 12 hours of free form rock at night. Jimmy became the host of a 6 hour nightly rock show. Jimmy caused a conflagration the first night playing the devils music. A crazed religious listener, wilding an axe tried to break into Jimmy’s broadcast booth.  Undeterred Jimmy spent the next two years playing whatever he wanted. There were no program directors or high paid radio consultants with mandated song playlists. Free-Form program rock ruled. It was the glory days of Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, David Bowie, Yes, ELO, Emerson Lake & Palmer and Traffic. One evening Jimmy invited his friends to the station and played 6 hours of the Bryds. In an interview Jimmy said as there were no other FM jocks around to copy he was an "original".  WCOL-FM’s listenership was reborn.  Eventually WCOL-FM dropped religious programming to brand itself as the album oriented "Stereo Rock 92" with Jimmy Roach at the helm of the evening shift.. 

Roach Rocks WDVE

In 1970 KQV-FM converted from the “Love” format to free form album rock .  It changed it’s call letters to WDVE in 1971.  
The DVE call letters were chosen to represent the word ‘dove’ the bird of peace. Several on-air members of the WDVE staff left in 1973 to join the new free-form station WYDD-FM in New Kensington.  Looking for new talent WDVE hired Jimmy Roach offering him a whopping $12,500 a year (which Jimmy didn’t know was union scale.)  With the chance to make big bucks Jimmy moved his wife and kids to Mt. Lebanon (the center of the Pittsburgh South Hills Universe). He manned the afternoon shift at WDVE for the first time in 1973. With his super deep pipes, casual laid back style, and great music selections he won over the Pittsburgh rock audience. At the time WDVE played everything including Frank Zappa, Led Zeppelin, the Temptations, John Denver and Gilbert O'Sullivan.   Roach became WDVE’s program director for two years beginning in 1975.

Steven Hansen joins WDVE For the First Time

In 1975 program director Jimmy Roach hired Minneapolis native Steve Hansen to be the evening host of WDVE.  Steve worked at WDVE until 1976.  He left Pittsburgh when he was offered a big raise for a DJ job in the hip San Francisco radio market.  In San Francisco is went on the air on KSAN-FM 95 as "Jay Hansen" working weekend shift and also serving as the station's music Director for a short time.  While out on the West Coast he wrote an alternative guidebook of San Francisco.

Jimmy’s Backstage Special

Jimmy Roach was heard nationally as the host the nationally syndicated radio show “The Backstage Special”. It aired on about 120 stations across the United States from 1979 to 1981. On the show Jimmy interviewed rock superstars such as Frank Zappa and members Rush and Yes. Jimmy spliced the show segments at his home using the high tech tools of the day: scissors and scotch tape. A few tapes from those shows are floating around on the internet including the Frank Zappa and Rush interviews.

Jimmy and Steve Bring Comedy Back to Morning Radio 

During the 1950s and 1960s Pittsburgh radio offered great morning drive time comedy and aired the music of Pittsburgh area musicians launching many local and national hit records. By 1980 great morning comedy was gone from Pittsburgh radio and Pittsburgh area musicians were refused airplay on Pittsburgh area FM and AM stations. Jimmy Roach and Steven Hansen changed all that in 1980. They brought back morning comedy and put Pittsburgh musicians back on the national airplay and sales charts.

Morning drive time comedy radio began in Pittsburgh in 1948 on WWSW with Rege Cordic.  For 17 years Pittsburghers awoke and traveled to work listening the antics of “Cordic and Company”. Rege Cordic was the straight man to a cast of nutty characters who dropped into the studio. They were portrayed by Sterling Yates, Bob Trow, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman and Charlie Sords. They poked fun at Pittsburgh with their characters. Brunhilda was a wide zaftig young woman who arrived by freight elevator and who spoke in a heavy Yinzer accent. Louie Adamchevits was the Garbageman who spoke in broken English and whose home was featured in "Better Homes and Garbage. Other regular characters were studio announcer Roquefort Q. LaFarge, taxidermist Carmen Monoxide, the mean boss Mr. Murchison, Omicron the bureaucrat from Venus, and drunken golf pro Max Korfendigas. The "Cordic & Company" show moved to KDKA radio in 1954 to take a commanding 85% share of the Pittsburgh radio market for a decade. The fun ended in 1965 when Rege Cordic left KDKA to join KNX (AM) in Los Angeles. 

In this same era from 1959 through 1970 KDKA-AM DJ Clark Race promoted the music of Pittsburgh musicians. Clark’s afternoon show was heard by over 50% of the total Pittsburgh radio audience. Clark willingly listened to demo records by Pittsburgh musicians and gave them airplay. He helped launch the careers of Bobby Vinton, the Vogues, Tommy James and the Shondels, Lou Christie, and more. Clark left KDKA in 1970 also to work in Los Angeles. Rege Cordic and Clark Race made morning drive time comedy and home grown hand crafted Pittsburgh music proven successes in the Pittsburgh market. But that was long forgotten by the czars of Pittsburgh radio in 1980.

The Pittsburgh market was ripe for fresh comedy and fresh new Pittsburgh music in 1980. WDVE program director Dave Lange and station manager Bob Dickey asked Jimmy Roach to create a new morning drive time show. Jimmy agreed to do it only if he could team up with Steve Hansen. Steve was working in San Francisco at the time. Not really wanting to work the early shift Jimmy thought there was little chance that Steve would return to Pittsburgh.  Having just had a huge fight with his girlfriend Steve decided he needed “some space” just a few thousand miles away. He accepted the job at WDVE and drove back to Pittsburgh arriving on a Monday morning to team up with Roach. They went on the air in September of 1980.

Together Roach and Hansen created their on-air personas and a group of zany characters who dropped into the studio. Roach played the role of the stable laid back hip dude and Jimmy became the sly wry dry witted friendly guy. Visiting them were the excitable Top-40 deejay Biff Bob, nutty professor Wilmer Flemm, Jimmy and Steve’s flashy showbiz agent Murray Crash Brokewizt, Silly Sally the Pittsburgh Mon Valley Girl, wino O.T. Ripple and Jimmy’s redneck cousin Luke. They also wrote satirical skits poking fun at news items and the entertainment world. “Miami Mice” their send off of the Miami Vice TV show was one of their most popular skits. In a spoof they ran against Mayor Sophie Masloff with the slogan “two heads are better than none”. They wrote six skits for each show. Quickly everyone across Western Pennsylvania was talking about Jimmy and Steve. WDVE's ratings went through the roof. "Jimmy and Steve in the Morning" became the number two radio show in the Pittsburgh market and dominated the prized 18-49 demographic.

Promoting Pittsburgh Music

Along with the comedy Jimmy and Steve’s listeners tuned in to hear great new music from Pittsburgh’s musicians. Jimmy and Steve carried on the promotion of Pittsburgh bands that was started by DVE program director John McGahan before he joined NBC. In 1978 and 1979 John McGahan boldly stepped forward giving first airplay in the country to Diamond Reo, the Granati Brothers, and the Iron City Houserockers on WDVE. Given major market exposure with resulting strong record sales in the Pittsburgh market all three bands were then able to get airplay on major stations around the country. John gave them their start nationally.

Becoming friends with the Granati Brothers John McGahan came to hear them play many times at Morry’s Speakeasy in Rochester. He brought Jimmy Roach along with him. After the gigs Roach crashed on a couch at the Granatis' Patterson Township house before going into DVE the next day to tell his listeners about the previous night's G-Bros show. Arriving in Pittsburgh in 1980, to partner with Roach, Steve Hansen also became a post gig guest at the Granati Brother’s house. Jimmy and Steve had the Granati Brothers on their show hosting them in the studio and featuring them on live breakfast broadcasts attended by hundreds of fans at local restaurants. Jimmy and Steve emceed shows of other Pittsburgh bands such as the Iron City Houserockers at the Decade, Morry’s Speakeasy and other area clubs and concert venues. It was a beneficial relationship for Jimmy and Steve and Pittsburgh musicians. Jimmy and Steve built a strong relationship with their audience meeting them in person at night clubs and concerts. The bands got much needed exposure on a major market FM station.

Jimmy and Steve introduced Pittsburgh rock fans to Donnie Iris and the Cruisers in 1980. Rick Granati, a neighbor of Donnie Iris, played a tape of “Ah! Leah!” for WDVE program director Dave Lange. Lange loved it and said he would start playing it on WDVE the next day. WDVE premiered “Ah! Leah!” on the Jimmy and Steve show and Pittsburghers loved it too. When “Ah! Leah!” hit the Cashbox and Billboard charts MCA/Universal signed Donnie Iris and the Cruisers to distribute their album nationally. “Ah! Leah!” became a national hit reaching number 19 on the Billboard Rock chart and number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100. The “Ah! Leah!” video was shown on MTV. Seven other singles released by Donnie Iris and the Cruisers from 1981 through 1985 made it into Billboard top 100 list including” Love is Like A Rock, Do You Compute, Sweet Merilee, My Girl, Tough World, and Injured in the Name of Love. Five of their albums made it to the Billboard Hot 200.

The diminutive Granati Brothers challenged the WDVE staff to a charity basketball game at the Civic Arena. It was the rockers against the jocks. With tall Jimmy Roach and Steve Hansen on the WDVE team they thought they would kill the miniature rockers. But the G-Brothers, calling their team the G-Men, recruited their secret weapons Herm Granati Sr., B.E. Taylor, Rick Witkowski and Donnie Iris. The rockers trounched the jocks. No one could guard B.E. Taylor as he sunk many throws from the outside. Hansen said “Who is this guy?” It was the first time that Steve and Jimmy met B.E. Taylor.  They became friends that night. When .B.E. Taylor released his single “Vitamin L” on MCA in 1984 Jimmy and Steve were the first in the nation to play it. “Vitamin L’ reached the Billboard Hot 100 and the video aired on MTV. B.E. reached the Billboard 100 again in 1986 with the song “Karen”. 

Jimmy and Steve also hosted and promoted many charity events including the Annual Toys For Tots drive. One of their most lasting contributions was the Steel Workers Benefit Concert. Hard times came to Pittsburgh in the early 1980s. The great steel mills of Western Pennsylvania closed their doors throwing thousands out of work. The former steel workers unemployment benefits were running out and thousands of homes were being confiscated in foreclosures. Members of Homestead Steelworkers Union Local 1397 including Mike Stout, Jerry Laychek, and Jay Weinberg asked Rick Granati of the Granati Brothers band to help them organized a benefit concert. They wanted to raise funds to help the unemployed and raise awareness about their plight. DiCesera-Engler Productions graciously agreed to donate the Stanley Theater. Rick Granati also convinced WDVE to sponsor the concert. Jimmy and Steve promoted the concert on their show and emceed a Market Square press conference and rally a day before the show. On April 15, 1982 the Granati Brothers, the Iron City House Rockers, Billy Price, and Rare Experience performed at the Stanley. Jimmy and Steve were the emcees. The CBS Evening News, the Today Show, the New York Times, La Times, AP, the UPI covered the event focusing international attention on needs of the unemployed steel worker families. The Allegheny County Sheriff’s Department put a moratorium on home foreclosures. The proceeds from the concert were used to found a food bank that provided unemployed steelworkers with $60 in groceries every two weeks. The food bank was the forerunner to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank that has feed thousands of Western Pennsylvania families 

1,000th Show Celebration
Jimmy and Steve celebrated their 1,000 broadcast in August of 1984 with live show from the William Penn Hotel Ballroom. Don Pardo, the Saturday Night Live announcer, flew in to emcee. George Gee and his Imaginary Ballroom Orchestra Hundreds performed their big band versions of rock songs like We’re Not Gonna Take It. Hundreds of fans filled the ballroom and balcony. Comedian Billy Elmer conducted a wedding ceremony marrying the tuxedo clad Jimmy and Steve. It was great fun. The celebration won the award as the top local Pittsburgh broadcast of 1984.

Leaving DVE for Miami Vice

Jimmy and Steve were at the peak of their ratings in October 1986,  With a 9.4 ratings share they were the second highest radio show in the Pittsburgh market behind John Sign’s K-Team. They were first in their target 18-49 age bracket. In their infinite wisdom the management of WDVE did not renew Roach and Hansen’s contracts. They were fired. Roach speculated in an interview with the Tribute Review "Our bosses didn't care for us. I think there was some jealousy there”. The rock and roll crowd of Pittsburgh identified with Jimmy and Steve and partied with them. Hansen in the same interview speculated the WDVE management wanted to shift the stations appeal away from the rock crowd to the three piece suited Yuppies who were a more sought after market for advertisers.

To keep a good face on WDVE and Jimmy and Steve there was no announcement about their firing. Instead Jimmy and Steve announced they were leaving town to take a new job in Miami. It was like when Lebron James left Cleveland. Their loyal fans felt betrayed and abandoned. Jimmy and Steve took the heat for the management
 of WDVE. Their last show on WDVE was on October 24, 1986. KDKA newscaster Patty Burns reported their final show on the noon news.  WDVE’s morning show ratings plummeted.

No Shock and Awe in the Land of Miami Vice

Station WSHE-FM in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, whose slogan was "She's only Rock n Roll” was the number 1 rated 
AOR rock station in the Miami Market in 1986. But facing new competition its ratings had dropped in the summer of 86.  Having in September of 1986 lost their popular morning team Jim McBean and Skip Herman to WGTR FM, a new AOR competitor, WSHE hired Jimmy Roach and Steve Hanson as replacements. Jimmy and Steve made their Miami debut on WSHE's 5:30-10 a.m. weekday show in mid November of 1986. WSHE programming vice-president Rick Peters described Jimmy and Steve's humor to the Miami Herald as "SCTV type, National Lampoon, Saturday Night Live, David Letterman type of humor. In conversation, they're very quick. The (comedy) bits they write revolve around the sicker side of life."

Huh? – bits about the sicker side of life…..

Rick Peters expected Jimmy and Steve would follow McBean and Herman’s sick shock comedy act. In 1985 the Fort Lauderdale Humane Society threatened to have McBean and Herman arrested if they went through with a cat spinning contest. On the air McBean said that he was a cat spinner and that cat spinning was the feline version of break dancing. “You put down some cardboard, lay your cat on its back, grab hold of its shoulders -- and spin.”  Herman invited listeners to bring their cats to Lester's Diner in Fort Lauderdale for a cat breaking dance spinoff. To avoid arrest McBean and Herman dressed up like cats and let listeners spin them for a $1. Later in 1985 they staged contest to pick a new stunt baby for the Miami Vice TV show. They crushed baby dolls under cars, dropped them from cherry pickers, and burned them. Yes, that was the sicker side of life.

Jimmy and Steve did not live down to Rick Peters’ low expectations for “bits about the sicker side of life”. They were not raunchy enough for Peters. Compounding the ugly situation was increased competition. WSHE as the only AOR station in the Miami market in 1986 had a dominant 6.0 marketshare. Facing competition from two new AOR stations Zeta 94 and WGTR WSHE’s Arbitron ratings suddenly dropped to 2.7 in the winter of 1987. With the ratings drop there was a big drop in advertising revenue. Jimmy and Steve’s stay at WSHE was only six months. Unable to afford Jimmy and Steve’s salary and disappointed by their refusal to do sick raunchy bits like McBean and Herman, station owner John Tenaglia
 gave Jimmy and Steve the quick hook. He did not give them a chance to build an audience in Miami.  Program Director Peters may have also been shown the door. He resigned from WSHE in June of 1987.

Jimmy and Steve Are Back
On their return to Pittsburgh in August of 1987 a crowd of fans gave Jimmy and Steve a home coming celebration at the old Pittsburgh International airport. Dom DiSilva, the owner of the Decade Club, handed out T-Shirts to the crowd. DJ Sean McDowell of WMGY drove out to greet them. Comedian Billy Elmer, who had married Jimmy and Steve at their 1000th show, made them promise never to leave again. Chuck Brinkman, program director of WMYG jumped at the chance to sign Jimmy and Steve to a multi year contract. Jimmy and Steve returned to the Pittsburgh airways on WMYG-FM Magic 97 on Sept 1, 1987. Biff Bob, Murry the Crash Berkowitz, and O.T. Ripple welcomed them back to the Burgh. WMYG's ratings immediately rose with Jimmy and Steve beating out WDVE's Scott Paulsen in the morning drive slot for several months.

Jimmy and Steve on Evening Magazine and National Shows

In 1987 KDKA TV hired Jimmy and Steve to produce comedy segments for the daily show Evening Magazine. In the initial segments called “Ask Jimmy and Steve” they answered viewer questions. They appeared on Evening Magazine until its last broadcast in October of 1992. During their years on Evening Magazine they hosted the Annual Graffiti Rock Challenge Award Ceremonies and broadcasted it live on Evening Magazine in 1989. 
Jimmy and Steve received national attention for their comedy. In October of 1988 Electronic Media Magazine named Jimmy and Steve one to the five top teams in radio broadcasting. The pair traveled to Atlanta in August of 1990 to tape “The World’s Greatest Morning Show.” The top morning show hosts in the country well invited to perform their skits for a nationally distributed broadcast. Tapes of the shows were also aired internationally on Armed Forces Radio. Jimmy and Steve appeared on Joan Rivers nationally syndicated television talk show in 1991.

The Break Up

The “magic” was gone at WMYG in 1991. The station changed its format to “solid rock” and changed its call letters to WRRK The team of Jimmy and Steve parted ways in the fall of 1991. WRRK program director Buzz Casey announced to the press that the station and Jimmy and Steve were unable to come to an agreement on a new contract. According to Casey one of the two DJs did not want to resign. WMYG wanted Jimmy and Steve or nothing. So they all decided to part ways. Morning radio host Don Carpenter was hired away from the Top 40 “Power Pig” station in Tampa, Florida WFLZ to replace Jimmy and Steve. He took over their time slot on Oct 1, 1991. Dr. Don before coming to WMYG wrote comedy material for radio stations in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. But Dr. Don was not able to hold Jimmy and Steve’s audience. The stations ratings dropped to 14th place in morning drive time.

Jimmy Born Again as a County DJ
With the rise of country music in the 1990’s Jimmy made a career change. He left rock and roll behind. He became the morning host of country station WDSY-FM (Y-108) in 1991. Roach who grew up listening to '60s folk music said he liked the music of the new generation of country artists that included Dwight Yoakum, Clint Black and Garth Brooks. He said they were adapting elements of rock n roll to country music. In 1993 Roach took on a morning partner again: Monty (Brian Montgomery). Roach appeared on Y-108 for seven year until 1998 when the station fired him. In an interview Roach speculated "I got fired for being too old" after he talked about one of his four grandchildren on the air.
Froggy Come’s A Courtin’

Eager to compete in the growing country radio market station WASP-FM (94.9) quickly hired Roach as their morning host in 1998. When WASP became part of the Froggy network Jimmy’s show was aired simultaneously on three stations: (WOGG-FM (94.9), WOGH-FM (103.5) and WOGI-FM (104.3). Wendy Green was his morning co-host. Roach was heard on Froggy until March of 2012

You Can Go Home Again

Hearing that Y-108’s morning host Zeke (Rick Eberhart) was leaving Roach contacted the station expressing strong interest in the job. In April of 2012 WDSY re-hired Jimmy Roach and teamed him again with his country side kick Monty (Brian Montgomery) for their morning show. They now have the top rated country show in the Pittsburgh radio market.

Hansen Moved to WWSW and KDKA

After leaving WMYG/WRRK, Steve Hansen moved back to his hometown of Minneapolis. He became a freelance writer contributing articles for weekly alternative newspapers in Minneapolis and Pittsburgh. He also worked on plays and movie ideas. On December 3, 1994 Steve performed as a guest host on WWSW morning show from 7 to 9 a.m. Steve wrote a Pittsburgh version of the Christman Carol that was aired on WWSW on Christmas day in 1994. It featured the voices of Sophie Masloff, Larry Richert, Peggy Finnegan, Sally Wiggin and Hansen. Hansen return to Pittsburgh in 1995 becoming the morning show host on WWSW. He teamed with Jim Merkel. Hansen and Merkel won an Achievement in Radio Award in March of 1997 from the March of Dimes. In July 1999 Hansen left WWSW to join his wife who had been transferred to a new job in San Francisco. Hansen’s wife transferred back to Pittsburgh and in October of 2003 Steve was hired by KDKA-AM to be the director of programming and news. He worked at KDKA until December 2006 and has returned to free lance writing and other projects.

One of Steve favorite charity projects that he writes and stars in is the annual “Night of the Singing Dead” show. In its 19th year. Recently deceased celebrities like Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Mary Travers sing and dance. The most recent cast was comprised of Larry Richert, Steve Hansen, Carol Lee Espy, Susie Barbour, and other local celebrities. Produced by 
Carl Grefenstette it is usually held during Halloween.