Radio station WMKG an eclectic mix

Justin Rodstrom

“Really love your peaches, wanna shake your trees” wafts through the air from the 25-plus radios set all around the WMGK office and from several of its employees.

The Promotions Ground Crew Team checks in with their fearless, bearded and shaved-bald leader, a young drummer of 25 who goes by the name “Gooch.”

As Gooch readies the trivia wheel and giveaways, Monica, Gooch’s promotions counterpart, hammers away at the phones, making calls to the never-ending list of on-air prize winners and promotions clientele.

All the while, Tony “Smooth Jazz” Harris warms up for another radio sweeper spot in his own distinctive, low-drawling, crisp radio voice.

Greater Media Philadelphia’s own 102.9 WMGK is the last of a dying breed in radio.

The station is filled with a potpourri of misfits – from fun-loving Beatlesmaniacs to metal heads and former Haight-Ashbury peaceniks – and that’s just the DJs.

The rest of the lot is a myriad of dreamers, drummers, roadies and punks, all brought together by a shared passion for music and radio. For some, WMGK is a career step to the future, but for many, it’s a way of life.

Of course, there is still the not-so-quirky business end of radio, commonly termed the sales department. But even among the mucky mucks in WMGK sales, the occasional odd-ball pops out.

Take Blair for instance – Blair walks around in the same suit and tie as the rest of his colleagues, but there’s something different about him.

He’s an actor, writes on-air scripts and does voice-overs on the side.

Or Maura – she spends just as much time chatting up coworkers about the latest Wilco album as she does at her desk – and firmly resents being labeled a “salesperson.”

Probably the best example of the air in which WMGK operates is in afternoon DJ Andre Gardner, a bespectacled bald family man in his late 30s, whose two brothers are also career DJs. For Andre, the DJ life is a dream come true.

Andre’s favorite part of the week is his own Hometown of the Week, where listeners maraud Andre with song requests and wild stories with sharpies in hand, waiting for autographs.

The magnanimous Andre listens keenly in on listeners’ tales, shoots a big smile and a hug to anyone he meets, and the guy never forgets a face.

Tagging along for one such Hometown was Andre’s daughter Glynnis, whose halfday at grade school gave her reason enough to hang with the station at a bowling lane and shoot pins with her DJ daddy for the day. For Andre, it’s all about the music.

As a Beatles fanatic, Andre hosts the Saturday morning “Breakfast with the Beatles” show, a fan favorite among listeners featuring interviews, rare clips and studio cuts from the pioneers of the ’60s British Invasion.

And when asked to cover for fellow DJ Ray Koob’s “Get the Led Out” segment during a snow storm, Andre was a kid in a candy store, beaming about the chance to cover one of his favorite shows.

When out at station appearances, Andre makes it his job to grill listeners on all manners of classic-rock trivia, tossing T-shirts to fellow music gurus and proselytizing anyone who will lend him an ear.Though not of the legendary status of morning show demigod John DeBella, Andre’s charm and colorful interaction with listeners has made him one of the most beloved DJs among coworkers and fans.

Fellow Beatlesmaniacs send in treasure troves of rare material for Andre to scour through and play on his show, often resulting in child-like exuberance on the part of the Beatles-freak DJ.

One time, Andre had just received some outtakes from the Beatles “Abbey Road” sessions from a listener.

He came bouncing in to the promotions desk, saying, “This is unbelievable, this is awesome! Can we hook this guy up? We need to hook this guy up. You guys have tickets or anything I can give this guy?”

For Andre, it’s as if every day is his first day on the job – another day he gets to live out his childhood dream of music.

It is that same enthusiasm and passion that so many of the characters at WMGK bring to the office everyday.

Be it employees busting out in song to “The Joker” by Steve Miller Band or the daily music conversations and debates and fits that fill the air, WMGK is filled with people who sincerely love music and love what they do.