The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Former Richmond radio stars reuniting locally
BY ROB HEDELTFor 11 years, Jeff & Jeff were a fixture in Richmond radio, a popular duo earning high ratings for a morning show mix of music and talk that ranged from silly to serious.
Eleven years since they signed off on WRXL–102, Jeff Beck and Jeff McKee will reunite on the radio here, trying to recapture their morning-show magic for one week on 96.9 The Rock, WWUZ–FM.Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., Beck (96.9’s program director) and McKee (who now works at University of Richmond) will air some of their favorite discussions, bits, gags and promotions that earned the pair induction to the Richmond Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
I spent some time with the duo last week as they prepared for their reunion. It was clear they still had the communication shorthand developed in their thousands of hours on air.
“It’s really simple,” said the curly-haired McKee, the jokester of the pair. “I would talk too much and Jeff would eventually wave his hand in the air to cut me off. If I ignored that, he’d toss something at me.”
Beck, who brought extensive production skills to the partnership, said he thought the pair’s morning show worked because it wasn’t “lowest common denominator” radio.
“Our charge was, in a G–rated sort of way, to come up with something every morning to explain why that day was different and special,” he said.
The chemistry of a morning-show pairing is a delicate thing, and both of these Jeffs say it worked because they each brought different things to the mix.
Beck noted that he’d been a “radio brat” growing up, moving with a father in the business to spots that included St. Louis; Phoenix; Salinas, Calif.; and Long Island, N.Y.
McKee is from northern New Jersey, and noted that he and Beck both grew up listening to great rock on WABC in New York.
He was doing radio in Orlando, Fla., and Beck was doing the same in New York when they pursued the morning-show openings in Richmond.
The partners said that although something clicked when they got on the air, the show’s mix of gags, promotions and community events didn’t just happen.
“We’d go in every day with a script for every segment,” said McKee, noting that it wasn’t set in stone. “Sometimes, things would come up and you’d go just with it.”
Regular features ranged from the “Call of the Day,” often something a listener would set up with a family member, to promotions such as a call a song for Richmond.
“We got more than 300 entries on that, just asking folks for a song to sum up living in Richmond,” said Beck, noting that the winner was a mailman/musician who submitted a song called “Back to Richmond.”
And while the pair had plenty of fun, they made an effort to balance that out with more serious or service-oriented segments.
They recall when listeners stepped up to help a homeless man and a youngster who rescued someone from a fire, and even an extended segment on the plight of a death-row inmate.
There were also annual promotions, such as the “Field of Dreams” event each spring, when listeners could take the field at The Diamond the day before the start of baseball season and swing at 10 pitches.
“We’d get upset if that got rained out because it was our favorite day of the year,” said McKee, who noted that listeners got to play the infield and outfield, as well.
Another popular one was a gas promotion where a service station would sell fuel at a reduced rate announced during the morning show.
“One year, a competition started and one station eventually decided to make it free,” said Beck. “Cars were lined up around the block.”
Beck, who McKee said was an old-school master at editing audio tape with a razor knife, said changes to the radio business eventually ended the pair’s run in Richmond, where they both still live.
Some of the show’s regulars and friends may even turn up on the air when Jeff & Jeff fill in for a vacationing Brady in the Morning.
I hope Beck does at least one round of lunch menus as Darth Vader. In that voice, it’s a hoot hearing him say things like green beans and Salisbury steak.
Will Jeff B. toss a cup or a shoe at Jeff M. if he talks too long in any one segment?
Radio history and a friendship forged during a decade on air make that a pretty good bet.