'The voice of Warwick'
Dick Wells celebrates 40 years on the radio
By Roger Gavan
WARWICK — In the summer of 1974, a popular Las Vegas singer and entertainer who had recently moved back to New York answered an ad for a radio job in the small upstate community of Warwick.
That was the beginning of Dick Wells' 40-year career in radio, most of which has been and continues to be on Warwick Radio WTBQ (AM 1110/FM 93.5).
"It sounded like it might be fun," said Wells, "and after meeting with Ed Klein I knew it would be. I liked him and he was fun to be with."
'Let's Talk It Over'
WTBQ first hit the airwaves in 1969 as a small station created by Klein.
When Wells joined he livened the program with the popular music that listeners preferred.
After a series of ownership changes and the frequency going dark for almost two years, current owner Frank Truatt purchased station and re-opened it in 1994. Wells, who would help pioneer the station's rebirth, returned to WTBQ at that time after temporarily broadcasting from Middletown Radio WALL.
Now living in Warwick with his wife, Diane, and also hosting an award winning local TV show, "Let's Talk it Over," Wells began donating his time and talent to fund raising on TV and radio for worthy causes such as Winslow Therapeutic Center and Sister Anna's "Garden of the Child."
In 1995, he was named Citizen of the Year.
Beginning with tap dancing lessons
Born in Bayonne, N.J., Wells started his show business career at the early age of five, with tap dancing lessons at a New York dance studio.
At the age of 16, he auditioned and was hired for the dance troupe at the famous Roxy Theatre in New York City, where he met and performed with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, the well-known African American entertainer.
During that show, he was "discovered" as a singer and was later booked into the lounge at Manhattan's Park Sheraton Hotel.
Shortly after, Wells landed a job singing live on a 30-minute radio program on New York Radio WINS. That lasted for more than a year, during which time he was also recording on the Coral record label. He performed throughout New York and New Jersey until the emergence of rock and roll.
Frank Sinatra and Redd Foxx
That literally drove Wells to Las Vegas where he got his first job at the El Cortez.
While in Vegas he met Frank Sinatra and by watching, learned how the famous singer moved and related to his audience.
Wells got his first big break in Las Vegas singing with the Harry James Orchestra at the Flamingo Hotel. He later became the Voice of Harrah's Club in Lake Tahoe, where he sang and emceed shows with Jack Benny, Vic Damone, Mickey Rooney, Sammy Davis Jr. and many others.
Wells also had a three-song spot in a show at the Castaways Hotel in Las Vegas working with his good friend Redd Foxx.
He then appeared in a Barry Ashton Review at the Tropicana Hotel where he was first to introduce the French, song, "What Now My Love" in English.
"Sinatra heard the song one night and decided to record it," said Wells.
He also made an appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, where he sang the ballad, "Here's That Rainy Day," accompanied by the Doc Severinson orchestra.
The local connection continues
Wells is currently hosting his own show on WTBQ every Saturday from 9-11 a.m. where he plays a mix of adult standard hits, including Frank Sinatra, along with live conversations with area business owners.
And, as he does every year, Wells will also be performing with a Big Band in a free concert at Railroad Green on Saturday, Sept. 6.
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