M.D.G. Remembers Unkle Roger
Recently, I have been reeling from the senseless shooting death of an unparalleled radio broadcaster and a great friend. His name was Roger McCall, but to his friends and fans he was curiously known as Unkle Rog. The man was one of the most sincere and kindhearted creatures on the face of this earth.
I first met Roger in 1988 at the young age of 18. He occupied the night shift at WCMF, a prominent rock station here in Rochester, NY, but he was also the host of a long running local music program of his own creation called Homegrown. One Sunday night I made a direct call to him at the station. I was still in high school boldly promoting a cassette containing my very first bunch of original songs entitled M.D.G. EP. The well respected DJ kindly invited me to bring it to the station so he could hear it. After listening to only about a minute or so, Unk lit right up and insisted that I appear on his show. He gave me my first chance to be heard outside of my little bedroom studio and I am forever grateful. I was treated like a platinum-selling artist from day one. M.D.G. was a guest on Homegrown more than a dozen times over the next 15 years and I am only one of hundreds of local artists who have a story like this.
Appearing on Homegrown Sunday nights at midnight was always a priority and a pleasure for me. WCMF was a big station and it was such a great honor to be welcomed there so often. I can't tell you how exciting it was in the early days to hear my songs emanating from radios all over town with Roger's ultra professional announcements wrapped around them. He was so sincere about his appreciation for all of the local music he played. The on air banter Unk and I shared was fast and frantic, often bubbling over with musical obscurity and miscellaneous trivia: a freight train of fun for all those who were still awake and on the inside. In fact, there's no one else I know that could engage my mind like Unkle Roger.
My work often keeps me up all night and Roger and I were usually on the same schedule. His brilliant wit and wisdom kept me going on many occasions. It was comforting to know that he was always on the air playing classic rock tracks while I was busy making new ones in my studio. Many's the time I'd catch Roger sneaking in a deep deep album cut of the progressive rock variety while the program director snored away. I always phoned in to bust him. Unk was one of only a few people I could call in the middle of the night to strike up a lucid conversation with. The older I got, the more he and I seemed to have in common. I made it a point to try to keep in regular touch and I'd even bring coffee and cookies down to the station when I could. We were just getting into a new phase with our friendship.
I loved the man and I so loved his voice. I clearly remember the warm, low, smoky tone of it, but it could also swing comically high, particularly when he greeted you. I can't believe I'm never going to hear that voice again. The world has lost a true legend of broadcasting and a great universal friend. From now on, the night shift will be a lot lonelier and Sunday nights will be a lot less significant for me.
Rest In Rock,
Matthew D. Guarnere