Them were the days

Danee Samonte - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - It was the late ’60s when the new trend called Top 40 programming arrived in Philippine shores. The radio format involved rotating a playlist of the 40 most popular songs of the time and was introduced by barker-type DJs with three- to four-hour shifts. Pioneering the format in the Philippines was DZRJ AM. I was a big fan of DZRJ and listened religiously to it the whole day. Their popular DJs back then were Jimmy Labrador, Handy Andy, Double A and Charlie Brown. I was starstruck with radio and dreamt of being a DJ. Who would have thought that later in life, I would spend my longest radio gig at the same station (14 years and counting on RJ100.3 FM).

I was 14 years old when my radio wish came true. I was accepted sans compensation at DZSA 1230 Khz and did the sign-on duties (5 to 6 a.m.). The station’s signal was so weak I highly doubt if anybody listened to the station but that didn’t bother me because it was the fulfillment of a dream. A lot of radio legends cut their teeth at this station including my compadre Joey de Leon. I lasted at DZSA for a year then joined DZMB 760 Khz for a couple of days then onward to my first salaried radio job at DZZZ 560 Khz in early 1969. I went on air every morning as “Smiling Danee Samonte” and played R&B including the current hits. I had a legion of loyal fans who faithfully listened to my program. I felt fulfilled for the first time with the recognition and adulation. Unfortunately, the euphoria didn’t last long.

Our boss decided to switch formats and all the young DJs, including myself, were kicked out in favor of the professionals from another station that included Ben Hernandez (RIP), Angelo Castro (RIP), etc. The radio network (Mareco) these professional DJS left now had vacancies and I was just happy to have qualified to fill a slot on DZBM 740 Khz. Once again, I got assigned sign-on duty (5 to 9 a.m.). DZBM’s programming was the old magazine-type “ho-hum/the-bigger-the-voice-the-better” format. Listenership was low, therefore, I talked to management and suggested a format with an exciting and high energy announcing style to boost ratings. Management agreed and adopted the format, and the station lorded the ratings for at least five to six years. It was also during the reformat that I dropped the “Smiling Danee Samonte” moniker in favor of “The Real Steve O’Neal.” Other AM stations followed suit and reformatted. Suddenly, there were lots of competition. Rated stations of similar format at that time were DWKW 600 Khz, DZMB 760 Khz, DZRJ 780 Khz, DWIZ 810 Khz and WBL 1250Khz. Competition on the airwaves became tough but beyond our radio chores, we were all friends. In fact, we have remained close friends and managed to keep in touch through the years. 

Three decades later, most of my radio colleagues and peers have either retired, moved forward to managing businesses, settled abroad or are in radio heaven. Those who live abroad include Robert de Leon a.k.a. Robert Stone (Southern California), Alex Aison a.k.a. Pete McNeil (Northern California), Bambi Fonacier a.k.a. Lee Michaels (Vancouver) who currently does a radio gig at 96.1FM, Ronnie de Asis a.k.a. Baby John (Northern California) who has a daily talk show, Peter Molina a.k.a. Blue Alvin/Peter St. John (Chicago), Ron San Agustin a.k.a. Cruise (Las Vegas) and Anthony Llorente a.k.a. Little Anthony/Bwana Johnny (London).

Those who now broadcast from radio heaven include Manny Reyes a.k.a. Manny GR/Mac Roller, Vic Sabalvaro, Freddie Dandan and Ditos Diaz Jr. a.k.a. Double DJ/DJ Alfred. Those left in a DJ time warp who still work today include yours truly with a daily three-hour morning program on RJ100.3FM, Long Tall Howard for DZBB, Mike Enriquez for DZBB, Rudolph Rivera for Retro FM, George Mercado a.k.a. Joy Rider/George Boone for Business Radio, Hillbilly Willy for Wish FM and Raffy Wenceslao a.k.a. Archie Crane for RJ100.3 FM. 



Reunions with my former co-DJs are great fun and always an occasion to look forward to. Recently, Jun Santiago went back for Christmas vacation and suggested a lunch reunion. It was so much fun reminiscing we even didn’t notice our lunch had turned to dinner. So many stories and lots of reminiscing. In attendance were Jun Santiago (Keith James) who worked with me at DZBM, then DWOK and DWBL, now lives in Fairfield, California and is involved in real estate. Ricky Dizon (Ricky D, Randy Daniels/DZUW, DZBM, DWKW, DZRJ FM and IBC 13) is now a consultant and managing director of RD Comm merchandising. Maurice Kayanan (Heavy Morrie, Morriejane/DZUW, DZBM) was an advertising executive in Washington, D.C. for three decades and a professor at Howard University. He recently returned to the Philippines to retire. Howard Medina (Long Tall Howard/DZBM, DZME, DZMB, DWKW, DZRj FM, DZMM and DZBB) currently does a daily radio show, 1 to 2:30 p.m. on DZBB. Willy Inong (Hillbilly Willy/DZXQ, DWBL, DWKC FM, DZRJ FM, DWET FM-Energy FM, DWNU FM– Wish FM) is currently the station manager. Rudolph Rivera has had worked with DWBL, DWKC, DZRJ FM, Retro FM. Those who confirmed attendance but were no-shows were Mike Enriquez (Baby Michael, Booma/DZMB, DWBL, DWKC, GMA 7), Renen de Guia big boss of Ovation Productions and Ignacio Rimando (Chito R, John Hardy). Chito is semi-retired but does the occasional sales calls.

Back when we were young DJs, our topics whenever we got together were cars, girls, going out and dating — not necessarily in that order. Nowadays, when we get together, all we talk about are our ailments, medications and remedies. Such is life.










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