I have to admit I absolutely love Country Music and pretty much always have. I’m not sure why, maybe because my Mom and Dad were both fans of the genre themselves so I was exposed to it at an early age. In fact, I still remember coming home from Alex Amendola’s music store which used to be located for a short time on the corner of Amsterdam’s Division and Bayard Streets, with a new Eddie Arnold album and hearing my older brother Jerry say, “Eddie Arnold! What the hell is wrong with you?”
I liked the fact that most of the C&W songs told an actual story and more importantly, they were stories an eight-year-old kid like me could understand. The honest to God’s truth is that if I had learned how to play guitar, I just may have taken a shot at becoming a C&W performer. I always loved telling stories and as folks who’ve invited me to their weddings can attest, you give me a few bourbons or six or seven beers and I can sing a hell of a “Kansas City!’ My wife always tells me I never would have made it because they don’t make cowboy hats big enough to fit my huge head.
But enough about me, what brought this whole subject up was today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant. His name is Lee Richey. Lee was born here in Amsterdam on September 1, 1961. He graduated from Wilbur Lynch High School in the late seventies and then started a career in radio. Like so many other Amsterdam kids who built solid careers with a microphone (i.e. Chet Curtis, Rip Rowan, Bob Cudmore, Joe Spencer, Todd Pettengill) Lee’s career path included an early stint at WCSS where he became first a DJ and later the station’s music director in the late 1980’s. Like me however, Richey had a passion for C&W but unlike me, he had a talent that he used to turn that passion into a career.
He took a job at WCJW in Warsaw, NY where he became both program and music director and spent the next ten year’s carving out a name for himself in the C&W industry. That’s not an easy thing to do folks. What’s so special about today’s Amsterdam Birthday celebrant is the effort and creativity he puts into his job to provide his audience with great, unique listening experiences.
He’s had what I like to call a “brass balls attitude” when it came to finding and executing great interviews with both well-established and fresh new C&W talent. Do me a favor and go to YouTube.com and do a search on “Lee Richey.” Within the results of that search you should find about a half dozen or so interviews this guy did on various trips to Nashville, years ago. He actually convinced these talented C&W performers to come to his hotel room for an interview. We’re not talking a suite here, just a plain old basic room with two double beds, a desk and maybe a sitting chair if he was lucky. Richey is so genuine and sincere, he he was able to get these artists comfortable enough to sit there, often times on one of the beds in the room and not just talk about their lives and music, but actually perform too, while his amazing wife Brenda handled the sound. Brass balls baby!!! I love it.
Richey left WCJW after a ten-year tenure there and has spent the next ten doing his thing at WKPQ in Hornell, NY, where he’s headlined the effort to rebrand that station’s format and identity to “Kickin’ Country 105.3.” Richey does a lunchtime request show every weekday on WKPQ plus an afternoon C&W drive-time show on 105.3 from 3:00 – 7:00PM, Monday thru Friday.
He and Brenda are still meeting and interviewing the biggest C&W artists on the planet, but now-days they come to Lee a lot more often than he travels to them. I’m guessing there’s two reasons for that. The first is he has earned the industry’s respect. Nobody has done more to promote the C&W genre in the Central New York State and northern Pennsylvania market than Mr. Richey has during the past few decades. He knows his audience and even more importantly he knows talent and dedicates much of his airtime to promoting emerging artists. The second reason Lee doesn’t spend as much time traveling is named Allie! She’s Lee and Brenda’s adorable grandchild and you can’t blame grandma and grandpa for staying home to babysit these days!