Bobby Box cringes when people refer to him as a celebrity — even though many of them have been listening to him on radio stations in the metro area for about five decades. Maybe “legend” is a better description, in light of his career, which landed him a spot in the New Mexico Music Hall of Fame in 2006.
He just thinks of himself as a guy who does his job every day and loves every minute of it. It’s not his fault his voice is easily recognizable by listeners, many of them teens of that “Baby Boomer” generation when they first heard him spinning 45s of Elvis.
He’s still playing Elvis, although now off a computer.
“I’ve found some young people who like oldies,” Box pointed out.
As you might expect, he’s not a fan of rap, and prefers Led Zeppelin and Cream, although when two of his favorite cuts from those groups, “Whole Lotta Love” and “Sunshine of Your Love,” respectively, came out, the station he was at forbade him to play those “suggestive” tunes.
Yes, the times have changed.
When KQEO in Albuquerque, where he’d been termed the station’s “brand,” canned him after 20 years of playing oldies, the ageless Box was snatched by Derek Lloyd in Rio Rancho, putting him on the air at KDSK (92.7 and 92.9 on the FM dial, 1240 on AM).
Lloyd, another old-timer in radio, got KDSK on the air here in May 2016. He also owns KMIN-ANM in Grants, which he literally bought off eBay and later had that online auction house lead to his purchase of KDSK.
It wasn’t the first time Box had been fired, but it may be the last. Despite being “the brand” and having a four-hour show on KQEO, he was whittled back to a two-hour show and then an hour-long show, but at the same pay, before the ax finally dropped.
Stoically, Box says, “You know something’s gonna happen; you don’t know when.”
There was a chapter in his career when he’d left KQEO in 1973 to take a job at the top-rated station in Sacramento, Calif., where he still has relatives and ventures every July 4 weekend. That didn’t last long and Box was happy KQEO would welcome him back.
“I lucked out,” he said, adding he’s worked at KQEO three times.
Then, the ornery station manager who’d first hired, then fired, Box at KROY in Sacramento was fired after a mutiny by the employees.
“I had the top ratings in the morning,” Box said, recalling his distress when he was axed because he didn’t have an audition tape he could send to prospective employers.
“I’m sure glad to have him,” said Lloyd, who hired Box in early January this year. “He’s made a difference to the station, brought in a lot of listeners. Bobby is a part of people’s youth — for whatever reason, he’s the only one left.”
And Box will probably “be left” for a long time: He loves his job, has his own hair and has a loving wife and their three children, including a 6-year-old son, “a big surprise,” Box says.
Along the way — he won’t say how old he really is but first hit the radio waves in 1962 — he’s worked in five states: Ohio, Tennessee, Texas (Box was born in Abilene), California and New Mexico. He’s a huge Dallas Cowboys fan and admitted he idolized the team’s late quarterback “Dandy Don” Meredith, can’t wait for the 2018 NFL season to begin and is looking forward to his annual cruise with listeners, this time to Hawaii.
“KDSK is like an old-time radio station and who better than Bobby (to work here)?” Lloyd asks.
Box plays oldies from 11-1 Monday-Friday and hosts his long-running “Roots of Rock & Roll” show, including the Elvis Hour (noon-1) on Saturdays.
It’s something like a time warp: Box takes requests at 260-1240, plays the hits — er, “sound souvenirs” — from the 1955-79 and adds personal knowledge.
“We love the Eagles here,” Box said. “(And) I love Motown — it survived the British Invasion (of the mid-1960s).”
When the Observer dropped in at KDSK, he had just played Jackie DeShannon’s “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” from 1969 and told the listeners that she’d also written the song “Bette Davis Eyes,” a hit for Kim Carnes in 1981.
Next up came The Animals’ “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” and then something a bit newer, The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm.” Box plays what he wants to play, when he wants to play it and when the mood strikes, although he does some show prep.
Satellite radio — like Sirius — often won’t provide tidbits like that about DeShannon, and a lot of Box’s “notes” come from interactions with the artists. He’s seen Elvis three times, including once in Tingley Coliseum in Albuquerque; got “blown away” by a Neil Diamond concert at the Cow Palace in San Francisco in 1980; was a good friend of the late Bobby Vee — who once called in a request, disguising his voice and asking Box to play anything by Bobby Vee; and Paul Anka.
“I know ’em all — Chubby Checker, Chuck Berry … Little Anthony,” he said.
But not every great singer is a great guy: Johnny Rivers, he of the velvet-smooth voice, is an “egotistical SOB,” Box said.
Lloyd reminds him he’s in contention for a “Best of the City” award from Albuquerque the Magazine, through online voting, but Box doesn’t care.
Tune him in someday and be “transported” to another time in your life via one of his sound souvenirs.