Uncle Vito – Xperience History
Written by Staff on January 7, 2024
Uncle Vito – Xperience History – by Liam Sweeny.
Some of our favorite people are nameless. Okay, so that’s not totally true; they have names, but we don’t know them. We know their personalities. We know their voices and their turns-of-phrase, and the throw off jokes with which they spice their repertoires. It’s such that when we hear their real names, it’s usually when they’ve ended their quests, or at least the leg we’ve joined them on.
I’d never heard of Gary Locatelli until about five years ago, when he retired from radio station PYX 106. Of course I, and pretty much everyone else in the Capital Region, have heard of “Uncle Vito.” They are one in the same.
We sit down with Uncle Vito, and we discuss getting a Zoro mask that fits.
RRX: There’s a pretty close relationship that develops between radio personalities and listeners that goes beyond the distance between a congested highway and the booth in the station. In your time on PYX, you became a beloved figure to many. Now you’re a listener. How is the grass on the other side of the fence?
UV: I love retirement and have never looked back! Honestly, I have never even turned the station on once since I left. If there is one thing I miss it’s sharing good music with others. There is so much good music that a majority of people will never hear because it didn’t and still doesn’t get airplay. Over my career I tried to share as much of that music as I possibly could. One thing I wanted to do in retirement is give back in some way and I’ve been able to do that through our local Senior Center. I joined a few months after retiring and soon became President there. In that role I have not only be able to do things for the seniors in my community, but also lead our group in various fundraisers and donations for things in our community.
RRX: Being on the radio means having your hands on some great music. Sometimes, it’s something great that most people haven’t heard before. Of course, in classic rock, and in a large station, there are expectations – what people want to hear. How were you able to bring something new to people without veering too much from their comfort zones?
UV: I have always believed there is a flow to music and that comes from the tempo and mood of songs. If you go with the flow you can introduce the listener to something new and unfamiliar as long as it goes with the flow. For an example say I wanted to play a song by the Cure on PYX, something they didn’t do. I would play it after a song by Lynyrd Skynyrd, because it would break the flow of the music and seem like a slap in the face. But if I played a song by the Doors and went into the Cure song after that the flow would be continuous.
RRX: Radio has changed a lot over the years. We have Spotify and iTunes, and not to mention that new cars have the internet. With so many choices in terms of what’s out there, what there is to listen to, how does a radio station with a broadcast tower stay relevant? Is it just making yourself available online, or does it take something more?
UV: Being online certainly helps, but I think you need to have that local touch. These days my favorite radio station is my local station that is staffed with live DJs and covers local news and events. I believe people like to be able to pick up the phone and actually talk to the person they are listening to. It’s that human connection that I believe is important.
RRX: I remember your brief stint as ‘Ranger Danger’ on WXXA in the ‘90s. He was a loveable example of what not to do in the world, and it looked like a lot of fun. It’s illustrative of the interconnection between radio and TV. Do you think, at least locally, collaborations like that are easier, or tougher? Are there more barriers or less?
UV: Not really sure how to answer this one. What I can tell you is my radio personality got me the TV job. And then the TV job ended the radio personality for a while. That was because I was a kiddie host and some of the risqué stuff I did on the radio didn’t fit well with that. I think under the right circumstances though they could really benefit each other. Not sure if that really answers your question, but that’s what I have.
RRX: One thing I’m sure you loved from your time on PYX was making people light up with giveaways. Stickers, t-shirts, and let’s not forget concert tickets – I know from what we do how much fun it is to hook people up. And there was a culture behind calling in and winning stuff – do you think that culture still exists in our ‘on-demand’ world?
UV: I honestly don’t. it seems to have disappeared. Even in my final couple of years on air it was diminishing.
RRX: You were on air for thirty years. Your voice has raised some children from the shelf above the cradle to the all-nighter before they submitted their dissertation. You’ve been there for people through their happiest and darkest moments, and you could’ve walked right by them in the store. Anything ever happen that drove this home for you?
UV: Actually, quite a few times. Many times I’ve been told by someone that they listened to me and that it made their day. I have actually received a couple of emails from people who listened and said their lives were headed in the wrong direction and because of something I said on air they turned things around. I can’t tell you how much those emails meant to me!
RRX: This is where you answer the questions I didn’t ask. Anyone you have your eye on musically? Any honors to bestow to anyone? Educate, enlighten, emote – the floor is yours.
UV: I really like the new Pearl Jam song “Dance of the Clairvoyant”, looking forward to hearing the new album when it comes out.
If I was still on air I would be trying to stress the importance of our upcoming election. I used to try to do that through humor on my show, humor that would stimulate and make people think. It’s important that people become informed before they vote. You’re not going to get that way from what you see on Facebook, in a meme or a far left or right blog. Search out the facts from solid sources before checking that box on Election Day.