Monday, January 2, 2017

R.I.P.: New England Radio Manager, Personality John Bassett

John F. “J.B.” Bassett, who also helped usher in Boston radio’s rock and roll era, died Dec. 27.

He was 92-years-of-age, according to WHAV 97.9 FM.

Bassett, of Milton, served as general manager of WCCM in Salem, NH from 1973 to 2008. During the summer of 1956, however, he became one of WBZ radio’s five original personalities when the then-Westinghouse station broke its network affiliation. In a telephone interview last year on WHAV’s Open Mike Show, Bassett explained the transition to “live and local.”

John Bassett
Bassett joined Carl DeSuze, Alan Dary, Bill Marlowe and Norm Prescott for the precedent-setting radio lineup. He was first known as “Mr. Inside” of WBZ’s “Program PM” newsmagazine, beginning at 8 p.m., weeknights. Bassett would later be heard overnights.

Early in 1959, Bassett moved from WBZ to a 2 p.m. afternoon slot at WORL, Boston. Several years later, he joined WHDH radio.

“I did color with Johnny Most on the Celtics games and with Bill Harrington on the Bruins games,” he said. He eventually moved into management of the radio station where he oversaw another great name in sports reporting.

“Long story short, he made me the program director, and I was actually Curt Gowdy’s boss because Curt had—in addition to doing the Red Sox—he was doing a sports radio show on WHDH.”

As program director of WHDH, then a largely easy-listening music station, made it clear his obligation was to the public. In a 1964 interview with Billboard magazine, Bassett was quoted as saying, WHDH has “responsible broadcasting built around middle road music, news, weather, sports, skyway patrol and community service, because we long ago accepted the premise that responsible programing attracts responsible listeners.”

Gowdy bought WCCM, then in Lawrence, in 1963. A decade later, he asked Bassett to manage the station and its FM counterpart, WCGY. Bassett recalled he knew little of Lawrence, but made it his mission to become one of the city’s biggest boosters. He eventually served on the boards of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce (now Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce) and the local Red Cross chapter.

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