Bruce “Cousin Brucie” Morrow was born on October 13, 1937, and grew up in Brooklyn, NY. As a high school student, he became involved in NYC’s All City Radio Workshop, and while attending college at New York University, he helped create the school’s first radio station, WCAG.
Morrow got his first professional radio job on ZBM-AM in Bermuda. Later, while working at WINS in New York in 1959, Morrow adopted the moniker, “Cousin Brucie.” After a stint at a Miami radio station, he returned to New York where he appeared on 77-WABC-AM and spent the next 13 years broadcasting hits for millions of music lovers throughout the NY/NJ/CT area.
During his time at WABC, Cousin Brucie was known for hosting a famous series of rock concerts at NJ’s Palisades Amusement Park and, in August of 1965, he even had the distinction of introducing The Beatles at their historic Shea Stadium concert.
In 1987, Morrow published his autobiography — Cousin Brucie: My Life in Rock ’n’ Roll Radio. In 1988, he was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame and, in 2001, into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Two more books followed — Doo Wop: The Music, The Times, The Era in 2007 and Rock & Roll: And the Beat Goes On in 2009.
These days, Cousin Brucie can be heard on Wednesday nights at 5pm and on Saturday nights at 8pm on SiriusXM Radio’s ’60s On 6 channel.
Spotlight Central recently caught up with Cousin Brucie in order to learn a bit more about his background, ask him to share some of his favorite musical memories, and to find out his thoughts on the world we currently find ourselves in.
Spotlight Central: Growing up in Brooklyn, what kind of music did you listen to?
Cousin Brucie: As a kid, I was probably part of the first generation to listen to rock and roll. My hero was Alan Freed but, before that, I used to listen to Martin Block’s Make Believe Ballroom — that show was on WNEW — and it was sort of early 1950’s pre-rock. Every week, you’d hear Vic Damone and Frank Sinatra and Doris Day and, suddenly, you were hearing Ella Fitzgerald and, suddenly, Bill Haley and Fats Domino.
Musically, it was a very strange time, so I’d say I grew up in a sort of hybrid of rock and roll and pop, and then, little by little, things changed. The pop era was being ushered out very gently — and then quickly — and then rock and roll came in. That happened when I was about twelve or thirteen years old — so I guess, really, I was part of that first generation of rock babies.
Spotlight Central: Did you ever play an instrument or sing?
Cousin Brucie: I never let this secret out, so you’re gonna have an exclusive! I played the accordion. It’s kind of embarrassing.
My parents decided they wanted me to be a musician and they gave me an accordion. But I never really loved it, and I never wanted to practice. I remember my music teacher used to come over once a week and I’d be outside with my friends playing punch ball in the street — that’s what I really cared about — and I can just remember this poor guy, my music teacher, chasing me down the street around the bases. So I guess you could say I gave up the accordion at an early age due to attrition.
Spotlight Central: How did you get your nickname “Cousin Brucie?” Before that, weren’t you called “The Hammer”?
Cousin Brucie: Wow, that’s really weird, you asked that!
Spotlight Central: Is it true?
Cousin Brucie: Yes, but that nickname was given to me in Bermuda. My first professional job was in Bermuda. I had graduated from New York University and like everyone else — all the other radio hopefuls — I sent out some demo tapes. In those days, we sent out tapes, and each would be a two-minute demo of what you could do — on it, you’d do a commercial, you’d read some news, and you’d introduce some records — then you’d hope that the program director would listen past the first 20 seconds of tape.
So I sent out several tapes, and an offer came back from Bermuda. For a young kid, I thought what an adventure that would be!
I started my first job and, there, they called me “The Hammer” because they never heard anybody speak with — I guess you’d say — my punch and my energy, and I sort of helped bring rock and roll over to that very peaceful little island nation.
In retrospect, let me tell you that those were some very happy years for me. I really learned my trade; I learned about broadcasting and I learned all about how to talk to people.
Spotlight Central: So how did you go from “The Hammer” to “Cousin Brucie”?
Cousin Brucie: When I came back from Bermuda, I ended up at WINS in New York City. One day, I was in the studio and a security guard asked me if he could bring this elderly lady who seemed to be in trouble in to see me. In those days, WINS was located right across the street from Central Park by Columbus Circle. And this lady came in and she said, “Excuse me, I’m in trouble.” And I knew, right away, this was not a regular listener of mine but, rather, somebody who had just come off the street from Central Park.
She said, “I’m in trouble; can you lend me fifty cents to get home? — simple as that — and she looked at me and said, “Do you believe we’re all related?” and I said, “Yes, I do ma’am.”
She was so cute — she had these sparkly eyes — and she looked me right in the eye. You know when someone looks you right in the eye and they capture you and they magnetize you immediately? Well, she magnetized me.
I said “Yes, ma’am, I do believe we’re all related,” and then I said, “Excuse me for a moment, I’m cueing up a record.”
In those days, we used to have records — these black vinyl things, each one with a little hole in it — and I’d have to cue it up back and forth to get it to start properly, because nothing was electronic, or digital.
After I said, “I do believe we’re all related,” she said, “Well, cousin, can you lend me fifty cents to get home, please?,” and I said, “I beg your pardon?” and she said, “‘Cousin, we’re all related.”
And after I gave the little old lady the fifty cents, she responded by saying, “Cousin, thank you and God bless you,” and she walked out.
That night, I was on my way home, and as I was going through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, a bell rang in my head and I heard the words, “Cousin Brucie…Cousin Brucie….Cousin Brucie…,” and that was it — I knew I had my schtick!
You know, everybody in our business — your business, my business — we all need a little something with some sex appeal, and I now had “Cousin Brucie.”
The next morning I arrived at work and I told the program director about my new name and he absolutely forbade me from using it. He said, “That is the corniest thing I’ve ever heard in my life! This is not Piscataway, NJ. This is not Morgantown, West Virginia. This is not North Dakota. This is the Big Apple, son — this is New York City!”
I gathered up all my energy and all my nerve and I said to him, “Sir, it might sound corny to you, but everybody loves their cousins in New York — and aunts and uncles are some of our favorite people, too — and we all love to go visit them. Everyone loves their cousins!”
Well, he looked at me and he scratched his head, and said, “I’ll tell you what. Try it tonight, but don’t overdo it. If you overdo it, I’m going to fire you tomorrow morning.”
So when you tell a kid from Brooklyn not to do something, what happens? I did it! I used the word “cousin” probably every three words. Every time, instead of taking a breath, the word “cousin” just came out.
The next morning at 6 o’clock, I got a phone call. It was the program director, and he said, “Brucie, get your ass in here now! You’re in trouble,” and I thought, “Oh my God — he’s gonna hit me!”
I didn’t know what it was to be fired — I was still a kid — I was very young, with not much job experience.
So I called my father and I asked him to please come with me — I was still thinking the man was gonna hit me — and so my dad came with me. My dad was an experienced man — he was in the garment industry; not in show business or anything — but he was very street smart.
So we both went into the office together and the program director said to me, “What did you do last night?”
I said, “Nothing… I just made myself ‘Cousin Brucie,” and he said, “Sit down. You’re fired.”
When my father heard this, he jumped up and said, “What do you mean he’s fired?” and the program director just looked at my father and said, “Mr. Morrow, I need you to see this…”
Then, the program director opened up his desk drawer, he put his hands in, and he scooped out hundreds of Western Union telegrams — you know, those yellow papers? And he threw them on his desk — and they spilled all over the desk — and he said, “Every one of these is about your son. He’s fired!”
My father looked at the program director and said, “What do you mean? If I had a response like this, I’d hire him and put him under contract!” and the program director replied, “Mr. Morrow, he is fired — but I’m putting him under a seven-year contract!”
And that’s how Cousin Brucie was born… [laughs] but boy was I scared!
Spotlight Central: And what a deal you got — it only cost you fifty cents to get your new name!
Cousin Brucie: Well, there’s a postscript to it, too. That old lady never paid me back — I never saw her again — but I think I might owe her a couple of bucks!
Spotlight Central: We remember you working for years at New York City’s 77-WABC radio, where you played all kinds of music — pop, rock, Motown, soul, etc. How did you decide what music you were going to air on your show?
Cousin Brucie: Very simply, I grew up with Alan Freed. Alan Freed really was the godfather — or the grandfather — of rock and roll Top 40 radio. I studied him, and I listened to him like he was a radio god. After school, as a kid, I used to go up to Columbus Circle and see him when he was on WINS. I got friendly with the guard who worked there, and he used to let me press my nose against the glass outside of the studio when Alan Freed was on the air. I’d watch him — and, at the same time, listen to him on a speaker — and I’d study him like he was an encyclopedia or a text book; he was my mentor, my teacher.
One day Alan looked at me — I guess he started to recognize me because I was showing up there almost every day — and he waved me into the studio. I was scared stiff — I was going to get to meet my radio god!” and he said, “Sit down, kid. What’s your name?”
I said “Brucie Meyerowitz” — the family name — “from Brooklyn,” and he said, “Bruce, let me ask you something. What does your father do?” and I said, “He manufactures children’s clothing.”
Freed looked at me and he said, “You go into that! This job is boring and not for you,” before adding, “Right now, I want you to sit here and listen, and I’ll show you what I mean,” and right there, Alan Freed demonstrated for me exactly what he did — and, you know what?
Spotlight Central: What?
Cousin Brucie: I loved it — I loved everything he did — and fortunately for me, I did not listen to his career advice.
Spotlight Central: Fortunately for us, too!
Cousin Brucie: And I should also note that my parents encouraged me to do what I had always dreamed about doing. In those days — generally speaking — a lot of Brooklyn kids were being brought up to be doctors. But I knew right away radio was my thing. Growing up, it was like breathing for me, you know?
When I was a little kid, I used to sit behind a big Zenith console radio at my parents’ house, and with a fork in my hand — making believe it was a microphone — and I’d do a broadcast, and make believe I was on the air. I mean, I was doing this since I was a little kid. I knew where I was going!
Spotlight Central: So how did you come to decide that you would program so many different varieties of music on the air? Did you get that from Alan Freed, or was it your idea?
Cousin Brucie: It wasn’t so much my “idea” — my musical format just came from my growing up. It’s like it was in the air, it was in the water, it was in the food — it was in your relatives, in your religious leaders, in your teachers. In other words, it was part of your socialization. It just came to me — this developing DNA — that happened over time. I didn’t wake up one morning and the Lord said to me, “Bruce, this is your format!” No. It was something I ingested growing up in Brooklyn. It just happened, but it took many years. And, of course, it continued to develop when I finally got on the air and realized what the audience wanted, because I was very much a part of that audience. I still am.
And, by the way, this is very important — I program all of my own shows — nobody else touches my shows. So either I program the show, or the audience programs what you hear — because when they call me to request songs, they’re actually programming the show — so that’s something that’s developed over the years, too. In summing up, I guess you could say that I just know what people want to hear because I’m one of those people myself.
Spotlight Central: You were the emcee who introduced The Beatles at Shea Stadium — but didn’t you do that with Ed Sullivan?
Cousin Brucie: Are you kidding? Yes, and that was one of the highlights of my life! I was there with Ed Sullivan from the CBS network — he had The Toast of the Town with Ed Sullivan show — and Ed Sullivan did not even know who The Beatles were! Very honestly, at the time, I don’t think he could have cared less about it; it just wasn’t his thing.
But he and I were asked by Sid Bernstein, the producer of the Shea Stadium show, to emcee and introduce The Beatles. So I walked out, I introduced Ed Sullivan, and then we introduced The Beatles.
It’s kind of interesting — I watch the footage of that concert every once in a while on PBS, and it still gives me a chill. I get a chill when I realize that, as I was out there with Ed in front of these 60,000 amazingly-hypnotized young people, it was one of the most important days of my career and, very honestly, I can still feel it in my chest — the noise, the emotion — not to mention the lack of music; we couldn’t hear a damn thing!
I’ll let you in on a funny thing, too. I never heard what The Beatles did that day — and I was right there introducing them with Ed — until maybe three or four years ago when somebody sent me a DVD recording of the show, and for the the first time, I finally heard what they did!
Spotlight Central: And speaking of not being able to hear above the noise of a crowd, back in 1972, we can remember going to Madison Square Garden with our siblings to see David Cassidy. His opening act was Tony Orlando and Dawn, and you were the emcee, but mostly, all we can remember involves lots of screaming girls. Do you have any special memories of that experience yourself?
Cousin Brucie: It’s funny you bring up that particular concert, because that’s another one that always makes me laugh.
See, I very stupidly — and very unprofessionally — wore a brand new suit. I was really excited to be at that venue. I had this brand new green striped suit and I wore it on the stage. And all of a sudden, as I was introducing David Cassidy, the stage was rushed by young girls who grabbed my pant leg — and they were ripping at it — and they ripped the seam right up to the crotch!
So all I can remember about that show is getting my pants ripped off me — it’s so funny you brought that up.
Spotlight Central: Well, that was the first time we ever saw you in person.
Cousin Brucie: [Laughs] Yeah, you saw me, all right!
Spotlight Central: Are there any other memorable stories you’d like to share with us?
Cousin Brucie: Gosh, where do you start? From Elvis Presley to Bob Hope to Jackie Gleason — I mean, there are so many stories — but can we talk about Little Richard, because we just lost Little Richard?
Spotlight Central: Of course.
Cousin Brucie: I interviewed Little Richard — and I visited with him a couple of times — and all of the times were very unusual; I used to walk away scratching my head each time after talking to him.
Little Richard was the most different, courageous guy I’ve ever met. He used to surround himself with bodyguards who walked around with microphones in their lapels. I don’t know who he thought was going to try to hurt him — because nobody would hurt Little Richard — but I think he was a little paranoid about his persona. Maybe he thought somebody was going to come after him, but it was funny because everybody seemed to like him.
Now I’m going to share with you something Little Richard once told me; this is kind of a funny story. During one of the interviews I had with him, Little Richard said to me, “Brucie, did you know I taught Elvis Presley how to shake his pelvis?”
Spotlight Central: Really?
Cousin Brucie: I believe Little Richard told me that it was at the Apollo Theater in New York City where he saw a young, Southern white boy who was scared stiff before going on stage. Now, as you know, the Apollo audiences can be pretty tough — if they like you, they love you — but if they don’t like you, forget about it; you’ve got troubles.
So Little Richard said that he went over to this Southern white boy — he didn’t tell me his name yet — and told him, “This is what you gotta do: You can’t stay stiff, you gotta move!”
Then Little Richard moved his pelvic area and showed the kid how to do it, telling me, “I taught Elvis Presley how to do it and then he went up on stage and the people loved him!”
He also told me, “I was the innovator — the inventor — of rock and roll.” I’ve always called him “the architect,” but he’s the one who told me that he “taught Elvis how to move his pelvis.”
Spotlight Central: That’s some story…
Cousin Brucie: Yeah, according to him!
Spotlight Central: Well, we’re gonna miss him, for sure. And after all these years, you’re still going strong on SiriusXM Radio’s ’60s On 6 channel, and you have fans all over the world who listen to you. With everything that’s going on in the world today, are there any words of wisdom that you’d like to share?
Cousin Brucie: Well, I’m doing all of my shows now from my home in upstate New York — my wife, Jodie, has become my associate producer, and we beam the show from our house — but I have these words of wisdom for everyone: Use your own common sense! Do not be led by any so-called leaders. Listen to what everybody has to say — listen to the politicians and, especially, to the scientists and the doctors and the healthcare providers. Do not, however — under any conditions — go headstrong back to your normal life unless you think about it, and unless your common sense tells you it’s safe to do so.
Personally, I don’t believe things are going to revert back to what we knew before, but I think there’s going to be a new normal — one which we’ll get used to, and one which we will all do very well with.
So things are going to be different — I don’t think we’re quite ready for them yet, and I don’t want to see people getting hurt — but that’s what I think is going to happen.
Spotlight Central: At least, in the meantime, we have the music to help guide us through all this — and, hopefully, we’ll continue to have it in the future.
Cousin Brucie: Well, music is always going to be there, and I really believe with all my heart and soul that the best medicine in the world is the miracle of music.
“Music is the food of love” — that’s a quote from William Shakespeare — and it is. Music is love. Music is the medicine and the miracle. As long as we have music, we’re gonna be ok; it’s gonna be fine.
Of course, we need other things, too — an occasional hot dog, or maybe a steak — but music is so important to our lives. It bonds us together, it gives us solace, it gives us peace, it gives us tranquility, and it gives us hope.
And that’s what music’s all about.
To learn more about Cousin Brucie’s Sirius XM ’60s on 6 radio program, please go to siriusxm.com/60son6.
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