102.3 WBAB is one of Long Island’s most prominent radio stations. Fans of the classic rock station will likely be familiar with morning hosts Roger and JP who are now celebrating their 20th anniversary on air. The Roger & JP Show airs weekdays between the hours of 5:30am to 9am. Music, traffic, and amusing discussions are staples of the program which has been rated the #1 most popular show among men between the ages of 25 and 54. In an industry that is as ever-changing as radio, the success of the Roger & JP Show is truly noteworthy.
For over forty years, WBAB has been dedicated to playing classic rock, covering music events in the Long Island area, and entertaining listeners. The WBAB promotion van can typically be found at beloved annual events such as Alive After Five in Patchogue, St Patrick’s Day Parades, and the annual WBAB Vetsrock Benefit concert for Hope For The Warriors at Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater. WBAB is also the founding organization behind the annual Police Tug-of-War which has become a staple event for members of law enforcement. Providing giveaways, opportunities to meet rock stars, and airing “Rock Blocks” based on listener requests, WBAB has become more accessible than ever in the digital age. Now boasting a website, an app, and activity across several social media platforms, the station remains the most listened to classic rock station on Long Island.
“We have quite some history here,” said Brand Manager Chris Lloyd via a recent phone interview. “We’ve had many rock gods come through the halls. One time, back in the 1980s, Ozzy Osborne was here. A local kid heard about it and rode his bike over to the station. He waited outside with a six pack of beer and offered Ozzy one when he came out. Ozzy ended up taking the whole pack! Years later, that very same kid ended up working here as a DJ. He’s known as Rocky!”
It is not at all unusual for WBAB employees to come up through the ranks, typically starting at the station as college graduates and staying on into middle age and beyond. Both Roger and JP got interested in radio work via a deep seeded love for music. The Bethpage-raised Roger attended college at C.W. Post (now LIU) and joined WBAB as an intern. JP was attracted to the radio industry, especially rock radio, due to his admiration for the music. After briefly attending Dowling College, JP transferred to Hofstra University and majored in Communication before landing an internship at the station. In both cases, their internships led to full-time positions and permanent careers at WBAB.
“I’m not musically inclined at all; I can’t sing, can’t play guitar, nothing. So, hosting a radio show was the next best thing,” JP confessed by phone. “I started out as the promotion guy who would drive the truck around. I then got into producing the shows which involved programming the music and that’s how I got to know Roger.”
Nine years apart in age, Roger and JP are also polar opposites in personality and they credit this discrepancy as being the reason why they enjoy interacting with one another so much.
“He makes me laugh,” Roger said of JP. “When I got the morning show segment and needed a partner, he was my first choice.”
The humorous banter and bickering between Roger and JP was instantly successful with audiences…even if the DJs didn’t initially realize it.
“I think we sort of stank in the beginning but we worked at it and got better,” Roger said. “People have stuck with us all these years so we must be doing something right.
Over the course of two decades the show’s formatting has evolved. For instance, years ago a staple of the program was turning the month of January into “Manuary” where emphasis was placed on topics that appealed to men. This cumulated in a contest that resulted in a select few lucky winners being flown out to Las Vegas, during Super Bowl weekend, to celebrate with Roger and JP. After approximately ten years, this segment was retired.
“We felt it had run its course and our base of female listeners was growing more prominent anyway,” Roger explained and noted that women currently comprise about forty-percent of their listeners.
When asked why they think their show has remained so consistently popular among listeners, Roger and JP agreed that the primary reasons were authenticity and familiarity.
“We speak to regular working people who live on Long Island. Most of them have had life experiences similar to ours,” JP stated. “Long Island and its residents are the fabric of this station. We speak our listeners language.”
JP also commented on their ongoing relationship they have with their audience which is due to the accessibility of the call-in line.
“We have a lot of recurring characters calling us,” Roger said with a laugh. “There are a lot of creative people out there and we are an outlet. These callers help make our show what it is. Of course, some of the people who call in are nut jobs, but that somehow works, too.”
Among their most famous regular callers is Smokey the Stoner who, in real life, is actually a successful local builder who is absolutely nothing like his on-air persona. There is also Billy Mack the private eye and numerous other colorful characters, some of whom make a single appearance and then do not call back.
Yet not all of Roger and JP’s experiences on air have been so lighthearted. When asked about their most memorable experience with the show, they both immediately reflected on the events of September 11, 2001.
“We were a fairly new show back then since we had only been on the air about a year and a half,” Roger said. “We didn’t play any music for that whole week. Instead we just took phone calls and let people talk. It was a means of coping and getting over the trauma.”
“We went by our gut that week,” JP recalled. “Our audience rallied in the parking lot, bringing supplies to help people at Ground Zero. The whole thing resulted in us building an unbreakable bond with our audience.”
“And there’s a lot of loyalty in that bond,” Roger replied. “We are so thankful to still be here. Radio is a very transient business and the fact that our show is still going strong is all down to our audience. We are so grateful. The listeners give us the opportunity to do something we love every day. We don’t take it for granted.
“If you start to feel too big for yourself, they’ll ground you real quick,” JP said of loyal listeners. “That keeps us on track and constantly working on improving our show.”
When asked how they would like to see their program evolve in the future, Roger and JP suggested that it would be nice to add a female voice to WBAB.
“I would love it if we ended up with a female on the show,” JP declared. “I don’t want to replace anyone, just add a woman’s perspective on the things we talk about, not just a female voice giving weather and traffic reports.”
“We have a solid show now but that would certainly be an evolution,” Roger replied. “It’s something to consider.”
For now, Roger and JP are continuing with their morning show and making appearances at local venues and events, such as concerts at the Jones Beach Theater.
“We’re everywhere that there are community events, especially those that involve rock music,” JP proclaimed. “We plan to keep entertaining Long Island as long as Long Island keeps listening.”