The Real Bob James Museum

A Rock Radio Scrapbook
Special Section





I always loved funny jocks, so the first time I heard The Real Bob James on WGAR in 1975 while I was still in college, I was instantly hooked. I never dreamed that I would one day not only meet him, but be able to call him a friend.

Here’s how that happened. In the early days of the Internet, around 1995 or so, a website called “” was looking for airchecks. I had one I taped off of The Big 1220 and sent it in. The Admin. loved it, and along with my comments about how he was a hero of mine, put it up on his site.

Somehow, Bob saw it, found my email address and wrote me to say thanks. I was stunned and thrilled. We began exchanging emails and it went on from there. Then a few years ago, the now retired Bob James was travelling with his incredible wife Edie and came to Toronto. We arranged to meet at the Distillery District and filled up on lunch and a lot of equally tasty memories.

He was kind enough to send me some more examples of his great on-air work and you’ll hear a lot of it in this special section. It’s incredible to think he did this every single night and the quality never wavered.

It’s amazing when you get to meet one of your heroes. It’s even better when they turn out to be even nicer than you could have ever imagined. This was not only a dream come true, it's real special. Or should that be Real special? Either way, enjoy Bob James. They don't make them like this anymore.

- Dan Haber


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Station: WGAR Cleveland
Date: February 3, 1978
Time: 50:41 (unscoped)
           22:48 (scoped)

The Real Bob James got his nickname after someone suggested "Bob James" was too plain and needed jazzing up. He did, but Bob James - Real or not - could never be accused being plain.

James started his career at WNIO in Niles, Ohio, but soon moved into the big time in WWDC Washington, D.C., WZMX Hartford, WKIS Orlando, WMIL/WOKY Milwaukee, WNBC New York and the Voice of America. He was outrageous on the air, pushing the limits of comedy and creativity with every show. One of the fun things he did in his time at WGAR Cleveland was the "Parade of the States", where he would ask people to call in and give their location. It was a DXers dream, and just a sample of the off-the-wall stunts James would do.

The WGAR marketing people didn't lack in creativity either. Contributor Dan Haber tells us this fascinating story...

"On the aircheck you sent, there’s a bottom of the hour ID in which the stentorian-voiced announcer intones, “1220 WGAR Cleveland. A Ron Whitman station!” And then they jingle into a song. The Ron Whitman one would air for 24 hours and then the next day, it would be replaced by “1220 WGAR, Cleveland. A Dale Patterson station.” And the next day, a new name would appear.


They would air a different one of those every single night and when I was a kid listening, I always thought, “wow, how many people own that place anyway?”


Many years later I got my answer from Bob himself. The station would send their sales reps out to try to sell what was then the #1 rocker in the city and one of the biggest outlets in all of Ohio. But inevitably, they’d run into someone who'd say, “Ah, no one listens to the radio. And it's too expensive. Forget it, I’m not interested.”


So they’d go back to the studio and use the guy’s name in their bottom of the hour I.D., which would run 24 hours straight. Well, you can guess what happened next. Because 'GAR was such a huge ratings grabber with a 50K signal, family and friends would start calling the guy’s wife non-stop at home saying “Hey I just heard your husband mentioned on the radio.” She'd tell him about it when he got home. 


The kids at his children’s school would come up to the offspring and say, “Hey, we just heard your dad’s name on the radio!”


And the phone at the would-be customer’s place of business would start ringing with people saying, “Hey, I didn’t know you owned part of the radio station!”


After 24 hours of this, it was hoped the guy would realize how much reach and influence 1220 had, and the salesmen would go back out the next day and tell him that if they could make that much of an impression on people in a single day, imagine what an entire advertising campaign could do spread over weeks or months.

Enjoy The Real Bob James on WGAR (UNSCOPED) here.

Enjoy The Real Bob James on WGAR (SCOPED) here.

(The Bob Pondillo Collection via Dan Haber)

Station: WGAR Cleveland
Date: July 4, 1976
Time: 1:02:49

(Description by Dan Haber)

It's the U.S. Bi-Centennial, and the "Real" Bob James is on WGAR celebrating with the top 100 American and British artists of all time - picking up here at #25.

When Bob calls this the "collector's edition", he had no idea how right he was. Preserved on CD, this classic illustrates everything that was great about WGAR: extensive jingle packages, superb production, talented personalities and imaginative programming.

It's a great American weekend on a great American radio station.

Enjoy The Real Bob James on WGAR here

(The Dan Haber Collection)

Station: WHLO Akron, Ohio
Date: February 4, 1974
Time: 13:48

(Description by Dan Haber)

"Man hit by train critical. Well, you can hardly blame him."

Here's another great one - Bob James doing mornings from 1974 on WHLO Akron. You can hear what was coming later in his career in this check, and by the time he got to WGAR, he had it clicking on all cylinders.

Amazing how the quality of the cassettes these were on has stood up all these years.

Enjoy The Real Bob James on WHLO here.

(The Bob Pondillo Collection via Dan Haber)

Station: WGAR Cleveland
Date: Summer 1976
Time: 22:05

(Description by Dan Haber)

I believe this is one of those checks that Bob used as an audition tape, and I can see why. It's hysterical. By this point, he was The Real on WGAR evenings (around 1976) and he threw everything into it. What a show! It's terrific.

There are a couple of gay references I'm not sure would fly today and the Kingfish impersonation definitely would never be done now. But other than that, this could have been on the air yesterday.

Enjoy The Real Bob James on WGAR here.

(The Bob Pondillo Collection via Dan Haber)

Station: WZMX Hartford, Conn.
Date: February 2, 1992
Time: 30:18

(Description by Dan Haber)

He's still Real, but he's not quite the same sound in this aircheck of Bob doing mornings on WZMX in Hartford around 1992. The format is very different from WGAR and is more FM-y, if that's a word.

But it's a different look at this amazing talent and proof he can master a number of radio formats.

Enjoy The Real Bob James on WZMX here.

(The Bob Pondillo Collection) via Dan Haber)