If you were growing up in Syracuse in the early 60's, there was one disc jockey who stood out from all the others. His name was Bud Ballou. Bud's non-stop joking and his "on air" patter became his trademark of success.
Bud's name also became synonymous with The Beatles. Very early on he was so captured with their sound, that he made them a featured part of his radio show. He was one of only a few people who traveled with The Beatles through St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Montreal as an interviewer. In fact, Bud went so far as to try and get The Beatles to make a Syracuse appearance, but their schedule did not permit it.
Bud graduated from Sodus High School and attended Syracuse University where he majored in T.V. Drama and English.
In the summer of 1962, while still an S.U. student, Bud began working as a disc jockey for WOLF Radio and then WNDR.
Bud's popularity was so widespread that on February 8th 1965, he debuted his own T.V. dance show on WNYS-TV. (Now WIXT) Channel 9. His guests that day included the local rock group Carmen and the Vikings. The show was an immediate success.
Then, Bud made what too many was a surprise move. On March 29th 1966, he left Syracuse to accept a job at Denver's KBTR Radio. Not caring for Denver's climate, Bud returned to New York State in the fall of 1967, on Buffalo's WKBW Radio Station.
By the fall of 1968, Bud was on the move again, this time to Boston's WMEX Radio where he hosted a variety of radio programs.
Ron Robin: "You couldn't sit still with the energy Bud Ballou had. When he said he liked a group he really liked a group. In fact, whatever city or town, he happened to have been in, The Moody Blues and Bud would get together. They had become friends."
Ron was a co-worker of Bud's and also a D.J. "No matter how down you could've been, you talked to Bud for just a little bit, there was that excitement and enthusiasm. That was the way he led his life. There were times in his life that were fairly difficult with a business problem or what have you, but he'd just pull out of it, especially if he had to be on the air".
Mark Davis, also a disc jockey at the same station remembers: "He had a classic disc jockey rapport with any newsman who was on duty at the time. It was a challenge to get through a newscast when he was on the other side of the glass."
Bud was also an avid sports fan. Mark Davis recalls, "The hockey player was part of the program, whatever program he did. If there was a hockey game on, I don't know how he did it. He watched every minute of that hockey game on T.V. while he was entertaining thousands of others on the radio. He never missed a play. If he could manage to tape a portion of his night time program he would, so he could get over to the Garden (Boston Gardens). He was very friendly with Westin Adams of the Bruins and a lot of the Bruins. He never missed Red Sox games. I used to see him opening day almost every year."
Towards the end of 1974, Bud decided to do full-time what he had been doing part time - working night clubs and starting an advertising agency. Bud's 10,000 "oldies but goodies" record collection made him a real hit on the club circuit.
He worked regularly at Gladstone's in Brockton, El Bolero in Raynham, the Pub and Grub in Boston and Timothy's Two in Framingham, where he enjoyed his longest stay of almost 5 years.
Tim Hanna of Timothy's Two reflected on Bud's stay at his club: "He was an easy guy to get along with. Very friendly. He liked rock “n” roll. One of the goals of his putting on a show in the night club was to take people away from any boredom or perhaps problems they had. He was trying to give them a good time. He had the first song he wanted to play and it was usually 'Mack The Knife', and he knew the last song he wanted to play and it was usually 'Rock Around The Clock'. He was very interested in what the people wanted to hear. He used to take polls, in the club."
Sadly, the story of Bud Ballou ended in South Natick, Massachusetts on April 15th 1977. There, Bud died of a cerebral hemorrhage. He was 34 years old.
Jay Williams, the Vice-President and Manager of WMEX/WVBF recalls: "I couldn't believe how positive Bud Ballou was when he first started the station. He was so easy to work with. Bud was one of those people you could go to with any kind of problem. He could discuss any problem you had. He was a very open person. He was always very, very up. And, that was surprising because most people you work with, at times show very, very bad tempers, and occasionally flies off the handle. But, Bud was never one of those people."
Over the years Bud Ballou's name has become a legend, not only in Syracuse, but throughout the East Coast. He was a disc jockey, at a time when being a disc jockey was really something.
For those who knew Bud, his death was a tragic loss that words cannot describe.
And for those who never knew Bud Ballou - you missed something very special.
We gratefully acknowledge the assistance and cooperation of Mr. Ron Robin in assembling this tribute to Bud Ballou.
© Gary James All Rights Reserved