In this age when news changes every second and songs are forgotten before they can be downloaded, a radio career of any length is something to be celebrated. That is why it is so fitting that Jordan Rich, star of WBZ’s “The Jordan Rich Show,” has written a book to celebrate 50 years on the air.
In the book, “ON AIR: My 50-year Love Affair with Radio,” which was co-authored by Steve White, Rich reminisces about the radio heritage we in New England enjoy and recalls interactions with heroes and colleagues like Larry Glick, David Brudnoy, Jerry Williams, Jess Cain, and Ron Della Chiesa. He also recounts some darker times in his life and how his listeners helped him persevere and get to the next gig.
“I struggled mightily for many months,” Rich admitted, “but having come through it and becoming better, I wanted to write about it to tell my story and to honor the people in it.”
Raised in Randolph, Rich recalled one of his first meaningful public appearances being his bar mitzvah at the former Temple Beth Am in Randolph. In high school, Rich discovered theater and radio, and the combination of being in front of people and behind the microphone would become his calling.
“I absolutely fell in love with the stage,” Rich said, remembering early performances in “The Music Man” and “Carousel.” “There was also a radio club in school that allowed us to record interviews with people at school.” It was when local station WJDA replayed the high school students’ segments on Sunday nights that Rich first heard his own rich baritone on the air. He was captivated enough by the idea of helping to share other people’s stories that he began to seriously consider broadcasting as a career.
“I realized that the chances of becoming a famous actor were slim,” Rich said, “and that the chances of becoming something on radio were less slim.”
With that in mind, Rich applied to Curry College in Milton, where the college station allowed freshmen to get involved right away. Among the fellow students that he met during his first year was Ken Carberry, who has been his business partner at Chart Productions in Braintree for over 45 years.
“Chart Productions is an all-purpose house,” Rich said, noting that though they started doing commercials and voice-over work, he and Carberry now help produce original broadcast segments and podcasts and even make some on their own, including Rich’s popular “Connoisseur’s Corner” and “Upside with Jordan” segments, both of which are heard on WBZ.
“People love the ‘Upside’ segments,” said Rich. “They’re only a minute, but it is good news and, every time I do one, I get a warm feeling knowing there is some good news and people tell me they want more and that I may have left the world a better, happier place.”
This desire for tikkun olam extends to hosting events for many charities and organizations – including the Vilna Shul, Jewish Family Service of Metrowest, and the Zakim Foundation – and donating proceeds from his book and his annual poem and recipe collections, efforts which have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years for Boston Children’s Hospital.
“I’m giving every penny I get from the book to [them],” he said.
Rich chose the hospital as a beneficiary because it has been a go-to organization for WBZ, and he “took it over” from legendary radio man Dave Maynard when Rich had a late-night talk show on the station.
Rich recently ended a 20-year stint as a late-night host on WBZ, but he continues to produce and host two features on the station: “New England Weekend” on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and “Connoisseur’s Corner,” which discusses restaurants, wine, recipes, and more weekdays at noon.
“My life is pretty easy,” said the man who recounts a near fatal run-in at an electronics store, the loss of his wife of 31 years, and a battle with depression in his otherwise fun and encouraging book. “It is a small gesture at best, but it is my way of saying I want to do what I can when I can.”
Even when sharing the more difficult stories of life, Rich always comes out smiling, knowing that he has learned from and hopefully been able to support the people with whom he speaks.
“I told them they helped me and they told me I helped them,” he said.
And while he admitted it has been a thrill to discuss life with the likes of Madeleine Albright, Ed Asner, Theodore Bikel, Kirk Douglas, Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, Carl Reiner, and Joan Rivers, Rich said some of the most profound discussions he has had have been with listeners and other people in the neighborhood.
“There are many more people I have yet to meet,” he said, “and many more stories I want to share.”