Greg Gattine as a kid growing up in New York’s Hudson Valley loved listening to the radio.
“Whether it was country or rock or just Top 40 or soul and Motown,” he said. “I just loved everything that was on the AM radio as a kid. It was about the music. It was about the songs.”
Gattine’s passion continued through his teens. And one day that very radio he so loved listening to handed him a golden ticket. While in high school, Gattine heard a commercial for the Connecticut School of Broadcasting.
“That’s when it hit me,” he said. “I had a spiritual awakening, that that was a job. Listening to the radio, it never occurred to me that this was a gig. It just seemed like the other side of the wall, something that was unattainable. I heard that commercial and I was like, that’s what I want to do, and that’s what I did.”
And that’s what he has become.
The program director and morning host of Radio Woodstock/WDST/100.1 FM in Woodstock, New York, Gattine is a one-man Hudson Valley radio institution. He has conquered the airwaves. He established a brand with a long reach that is exceeded only by the deep personal connection he shares with listeners over decades of speaking to them through their speakers, headphones, car radios and computers.
Gattine’s career made for an interesting choice for a man who said, “I certainly wasn’t a big talker, when I was a kid or teenager.”
But regardless, he’s truly enjoying the ride.
“If you do what you love,” he said, “you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Radio Woodstock for years has called the Bearsville Theater complex home. A historic destination located in Bearsville, a hamlet of the Town of Woodstock, the Bearsville Theater complex was built decades ago by the late Albert Grossman, the Woodstock music impresario who managed Bob Dylan, The Band, Janis Joplin and other notable names.
Radio Woodstock’s home at the complex has been the Utopia building, which decades ago was home to Todd Rundgren‘s Utopia Studios. And Radio Woodstock over the years has staged some epic shows at the Bearsville Theater, including ragers featuring Mike Gordon of Phish.
But Radio Woodstock at the moment is gearing up to move into its new home, one town over, in a former church. Complete with stained glass and a church bell, Radio Woodstock’s high-profile home on Route 28 in West Hurley also features a performance space for when Covid restrictions are lifted and we can gather again for gigs. The station should be in its new digs by the end of the month.
“We’re looking forward to moving into the new place and inviting folks in and having live music,” Gattine said.
The station’s new home will mark Gattine’s latest chapter in the radio industry, which he launched as a senior in high school at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, with a 3-4 hour class each Saturday for six months. His parents covered the $700 tuition and Gattine commuted from his home town of Poughkeepsie to Stamford.
The school’s Radio Broadcasting 101 covered it all — running the board, segues, playing songs back-to-back, writing commercials, production and conducting interviews, among other areas of study. Then it was time for students like Gattine to practice what they learned. But there was no transmitter, so nothing was available for public consumption.
“Thank God,” he joked.
The course ended and, Gattine said, “I graduated high school the day after I graduated from the Connecticut School of Broadcasting.”
His first job was in an old haunted house turned-radio station. WHVW was the AM station in Hyde Park, the community north of Poughkeepsie where President Franklin D. Roosevelt was born, lived and is buried. And its FM counterpart was WJJB. That’s where Gattine worked the overnight shift, from midnight-7 a.m., changing reel-to-reel tapes at one of the first automated stations.
Gattine’s resume also includes 11 years at Poughkeepsie, New York-based WPDH (101.5 FM,) a classic rock station that remains firmly entrenched in that city’s legendary live music history. He arrived at Radio Woodstock in 2000.
“In my career, my first full-time job was at an oldies station,” he said. “In the 1980s I was playing music of the ’50s and ’60s. In the ’90s, I was playing the ’70s and ’80s, and I came to WDST in 2000. It was great to play new music from the late ’90s all the way to the current stuff. There was a whole library full of records I got turned onto coming here.”
Through it all, Gattine works to reach one listener at a time.
“I don’t think I had a lot of communication skills until I started doing radio and learning that the basic thing is, you’re just having a conversation with one other person,” he said. “I know a lot of DJs on the radio, they get on there and say, ‘Hey, good morning everybody.’ I don’t want to talk to everybody. I just want to talk to one person, and connect with one person at a time, and maybe say something or play a record that makes their day, or makes them happy, or just for a second changes their mind about something, and puts them in a more positive space so they can share that with their community and with the rest of the people around them.”
We all find ourselves being negative and pessimistic at some point. That’s just human nature. And a global health crisis that has triggered a global economic crisis isn’t helping at all.
But, Gattine said, “At least once a day I try and be positive, say something that maybe could help one person. If I could help one person each day, then that’s more than I could ever ask for.”
And those people Gattine speaks of, his listeners, typically have plenty to say when they see their favorite DJ out and about in the Hudson Valley, which pre-pandemic was typically at a Radio Woodstock concert.
“People love to talk to me about music or tell me something about a show or this artist I should be playing or this record I should check out,” he said. “I’m always looking for the next great record. I’m always looking for the next great band to see.”
And as these Radio Woodstock listeners get to put a face to a voice, Gattine gets to close a loop as well.
“They’re meeting me but I’m meeting them and I want to know what they’re listening to and what was their first record,” he said.
Gattine added, with a laugh, “I don’t like to judge people. But I do when it comes to their record collection.”