Rick Phillips on WSJR in Madawaska, Maine

Bill Russo of Cape Cod, Massachusetts was Program Director at WSJR when Rick was 'General Manager'

I worked with Chuck/Rick at WSJR in Madawaska, Maine in 1966. The little station was my first radio gig and I worked there for a few years in the early-to-mid 1960s. Rick was there for a very short time - perhaps four or five months - and I am 90% certain that WSJR was his last stop in the U.S. before leaving for Europe.

Rick just showed up one day, pretty much unannounced. Apparently he had telephoned the station's owner, Vaughn Currier of Fort Kent, Maine and convinced Currier that he was going to turn the station into a cash cow.

I think he arrived in late 1965. He had a woman with him whom he introduced as his wife. He had the reputation as a wannabe ladies' man, but I can't really speak to that issue. He was immensely talented but seemed to have an affinity for drinking spirits. As great as Rick could sound on the radio, he never clicked in the tiny little Madawaska market. He certainly did not grow the revenue and failed to attract a following and was pretty much gone as quickly as he came.

I managed to locate in my attic the advertiser handout that Rick put together. He lists me as Program Director and himself as 'General Manager'. It was a grandiose title indeed for a 1000 Watt station (at night, reduced to 250w) in a town of 5,000 people - most of whom spoke primarily French!

'General Manager' Rick is calling himself R E Phillips at this stage. The middle name could have been Earl or Erven, both of which he used at various times.

The brochure he produced for WSJR claims:

"Every phase of our broadcasting operation reflects quality adult appeal and constant top productions techniques."
"Our programming is formulated to appeal to every member of the community. The stress is on songs that everyone likes to hear... standards, top popular tunes and favorite hits of all time."

(Click on any of the pictures to see larger versions).

This section lists the WSJR national and regional advertising accounts, claiming that the station serves over 30,000 homes and an international audience of 113,000. Unfortunately, potential advertisers remained unconvinced. The reality of the station's reach (presumably daytime only, when the transmitter was at full whack) was somewhat less impressive, as Bill explains.

Rick talked about having worked in Boston, but I followed the market pretty closely and had friends who worked in that city and I don't remember him being employed at any of the stations with which I was familiar. He did not stay long enough in Maine for anyone to get to know him. The other workers at the station hung out together but he was not in the group. I never understood why Rick came there in the first place, since WSJR was such a tiny station in a small town with a matching low population, close to the Canadian border. Across the border, most of the people were French-speaking, so WSJR had a very limited reach.

I was not surprised to learn that Rick had been less than truthful about his background, but I was astounded when I read that after WSJR, he went to the UK and apparently made a fairly big impact. I do not want to speak poorly of the departed, but we all thought that he was at the end of his career and had pretty much hit bottom in Maine. He had no money and I can't imagine how he got enough cash to fly across the Atlantic*.

This probably does not give you much information that you do not already know. Rick was a likeable, if untrustworthy, rascal. I am sorry (but certainly not surprised) that he died at a fairly young age.

Webmaster's notes:
Very many thanks to Bill for his recollections of the enigmatic Mr Phillips and for taking the trouble to search his attic for the WSJR brochure. He says, "Congratulations on all the great work you have done. The Radio London site has been a pleasurable education for me."

Bill didn't tell us about his own radio career, but we unearthed a feature he has written about Dick Curless. Dick was a country star who got his first airplay on WSJR, thanks to the station's morning DJ – Bill! We hope he will forgive us for 'borrowing' his photo!


*Possibly, Don Pierson was impressed by Rick's CV and so eager to recruit him for Radio England that he paid his fare.


If you have any info concerning Chuck that you would either like to share with us (it will not necessarily appear on the website), or wish us to pass on privately to Carleton, please contact Mary:

(The most up-to-date information concerning the family history and the various names that the enigmatic DJ used are on our 2011 page.)

Chuck's 1967 CV and info The incredible story of how we found Chuck
Feedback from our story about finding Chuck Chuck's final show on Big L
Chuck shares his 'will' with Big L listeners Seventies photographs taken by Chuck's family
2011: much more information comes to light 2013: Page 1 of Chuck's memorabilia
2013: Page 2 of Chuck's memorabilia  

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