I don’t interview celebrities; I just, as you know, interview CEOs. But recently I had the opportunity to interview a beloved childhood hero because unknown to many, Cousin Brucie (whose actual name is Bruce Morrow) actually was a CEO! Below are some of his insights. And if you want to hear Cousin Brucie on the other side of the glass, here is the link to the actual interview with Cousin Brucie.
What’s exciting is that Cousin Brucie is now reinventing himself again and coming back to his roots. His reunion with WABC actually happened because the man who is known by many to be the true heart of New York City, John Catsimatidis, recently purchased WABC and brought in ‘Cousin Brucie’ … somewhat coincidentally and full circle, I grew up on 83rd Street in NYC and my local supermarket on 83rd Street and Broadway was the Red Apple which was actually one of Catsimatidis’ first group of supermarkets. Here are pieces I hope you enjoy from my interview with Cousin Brucie.
Talk about your early involvement in helping bring th Beatles to radio in America.
Cousin Brucie: The very first Beatles record was given to me by an armed security guard, and It was handcuffed to his wrist in an attaché case. The song was “I want to hold your hand”. And he says to me you can’t have it until 9 o’clock. So at 9 o’clock when I played it would automatically go on our syndication to 40 states.
So I played, “I want to hold your hand”. Never played before. And I heard it. I played it eight times. I knew what was happening. Now it seems what happened is dozens of radio stations because of my reach copied that record. Now it wasn’t great quality. But the next day they all did what I did. And it went everywhere.
How about Shea Stadium?
Cousin Brucie: The big day was Shea Stadium where I introduced them with Ed Sullivan. About 65,000 screaming fans. There was energy like I have never felt. But now I say, it was an energy of love.
And in the dugout before we introduced them John Lennon comes up to me with Paul McCartney and John says, “Cousin, is this going to be safe? Is it dangerous?” And I put my fingers behind my back and I crossed my fingers because I was scared, and said, “John, Paul. This is going to be safe. All they want to do is be in the same space as you cause they love you.” Frankly I was scared stiff – I’d never felt a cacophony of energy like I’d never felt.
So I’m walking up the stairs with Ed Sullivan and we were just feeling this huge energy – you could feel it through your body. And Ed says, “Is this going to be safe Cousin?” So I said to him since I wanted to give him a hard time, “Well Ed. I think it’s not going to be safe. It will be dangerous.” He then asked, “What do we do?” I said, “Pray, Ed, Pray.”
Postscript, nothing bad happened that day. The 65,000 fans just wanted to see their heroes. I’ll always remember the feeling of that day.
Do you have any advice on connecting with an audience?
Cousin Brucie: Other than coming from Brooklyn? It’s something I tell young audiences all the time, “Never, ever talk at an audience”. Talk directly with people like you’re sharing space with you. And that’s the secret. I did that on Sirius XM for 15 years, and now I;m going back to WA Beatles C!”
What was it like shifting and becoming a CEO?
Cousin Brucie: Becoming a CEO was a big change. My partner and I were buying radio stations, I brought my way of doing things. Sometimes a young person or DJ would explain the excuses of why they made a mistake, and I’d look at them from behind my CEO desk and tell them, “Son, don’t try to tell me that kind of thing, I invested that! So listen to me … make your mistakes, I did.” And I could see them relaxing. SO I continued, “Make your mistakes, but don’t do it again.”
But honestly, sitting behind that desk was not as exciting as being behind the microphones … I love being with the audience. I give out mu love, my emotions, my spirit and I get it back 10 times!
Talk about what you’re doing now
Cousin Brucie: I’m now returning to WABC, or as I call it WA Beatle C!
What advice do you have on being successful?
Cousin Brucie: Elvis Presley had a song he sung, “follow that dream”. That’s the message. And don’t; tell me you want to be a star. Just follow that dream and if you work hard enough at it you might then become a star.
Originally published on Forbes.com