By Joshua Maloni
Roger Passero’s Viva Nostalgia store, already home to Lewiston’s coolest pop-culture toys, is now home to a radio station playing Top 40 tunes and showcasing Lewiston businesses and events.
WVNR – Viva Nostalgia Radio – launched earlier this month at www.vivanostalgiaradio.com. The community station primarily focuses on two things: Music and Lewiston.
As to the former, “I call it an oldies format. A classic top 40 format: 1964 to 1989, from the Beatles to the end of the ’80s,” Passero said.
“The music is great,” he explained. “If you’re into music, this is music history. If you go to listen to a regular radio station, their playlists are very restrictive. I mean, they may play The Beatles or The Rolling Stones or whatever they play, but they’ll only have two or three of their songs in their program, and they’ll play the same things over and over again. And whether it’s Rod Stewart or whatever it is, they’ll play the same songs.
“This library is so extensive, that you’ll hear every hit by The Beatles and every hit by The Rolling Stones. Every hit by Fleetwood Mac or the Beach Boys or Hall & Oates … or the Bee Gees. I’ve got 10 or 15 or 20 hits by each one. So, you’re not hearing the same hits by the same people all the time. The depth in the music, this is like a history lesson – and I’m not done yet.
“And I also have a lot of a one-hit wonders. A lot of music from the ’70s that they don’t play anymore. Artists that had one hit and then they totally disappeared. I put a lot of that in, so there’s a lot of people going to say, ‘Wow; I hadn’t heard that song in 40 years,’ because a lot of stations don’t play it. And they’re great songs, and a lot of great artists that had one hit.”
As to the latter – Lewiston – Passero is sprinkling in local commercials and a listing of upcoming River Region activities.
“This is a place where you can do something like that and people will pay attention,” he said. “Other places, not necessarily, because people love Lewiston. People come here from all over this region to hang out. So, for them to be able to know when our festivals are, and different things, and what are the great shops in Lewiston, they can listen to that, and hear the history of music, and they won’t be turning it off, because they never heard that song. You know, they don’t hear three songs in a row they never heard of.”
When the music stops, “It’s like 30 seconds long. It’s no more than 30 seconds,” Passero said. “But the only thing they will hear is from Lewiston. They won’t hear staples, or coffee from Maxwell House. It’s only Lewiston. And every three hours, we have the Lewiston event calendar.”
Passero said people are surprised to see this side of his personality. Inside his collectibles store, customers find toys, lunchboxes and posters – mainly from TV shows, sci-fi series, movies and anime. But for Passero, “It was always the music” that appealed to him.
“I had a record store in New Jersey in 1983. I had a record store from 1983 to 1998: records, albums, CDs, tapes. But then we also added other stuff at the time. We added video games and movies, which were VHS at the time. So, I’ve been around this business my whole life. I’ve been a record collector since I was 5 years old. This is just like a life common culmination.”
Passero uses Live365 and a program called MIX to schedule his content. He has more than 2,000 songs in his collection.
A deejay for decades and a former program director in New Jersey, Passero also was on-air on Long Island from 2013 until he came to Lewiston in 2017. Today, he has a syndicated radio show that airs in the U.K. and online around the world.
“I did a ‘rock ‘n’ roll heaven’ show, which was all people that were dead (laughs),” Passero said. “Daryl Hall’s 70th birthday. The Monkeys’ 50th anniversary special I did. Every time I did one of these, we had special guests on. Neil Diamond’s 50th anniversary. Glen Campbell’s 80th tribute – I had two of his kids on, over the air on the radio. George Harrison – we did a six-hour tribute to him. When Bowie died, I had this special already planned, and he died three days before it was supposed to come on. He had the new album coming out. So, I was going to do a special called ‘Jones,’ which was his original name, Davy Jones, to Bowie to ‘Blackstar,’ which was the new album. And he died three days before. And it turned into a marathon – the whole station – everybody started. I started it, and then it went for like the whole night. … I had John Oates on earlier, from Hall & Oates. He did the longest radio interview of his career with me – an hour and 15 minutes.”
Passero will be behind the mic during the “Shop Hop” next Saturday.
“What I’m going to do is program a playlist of specific songs for the day. I’m going to go more for up-tempo,” he said.
Viva Nostalgia Radio, links to Lewiston businesses, and a sampling of Passero’s work (see “Captain Rockit’s Time Machine”) can be found online at www.vivanostalgiaradio.com.