Michael T. Baldwin talks with the only and only Rod Biehler
Rod Biehler of Eldred, PA is a Wellsville area radio legend. (In full disclosure, Rod gave me my first radio job at WLSV in Wellsville in 1981. On Wednesday, he’ll be honored for his service at the Allegany County Legislature meeting. During an interview with Wellsville Regional News in 2017, Biehler called Wellsville “his adopted home.” The text below is from his interview in January 2017:
For the past fifty plus years, Rod Biehler has made the daily 25 mile trip from his home in Eldred, Pa. to Wellsville…to do something he loves. Biehler is a radio guy. In today’s marketplace, to hold a job of passion for five plus decades is a miracle, some would say.
In 1966, an 18-year-old Biehler became an on-air personality and station manager at WLSV-AM 790 in Wellsville. At the time, it was the only game in town. He accepted the job after spending a year in Washington, DC at the Career Academy of Broadcasting. He hasn’t looked back since.
During the course of his tenure, Rod has gone through (and in some cases, outlived) five different radio owners. While the ownership in local radio has changed…Rod has remained the constant. Rod stayed with WLSV when it merged with WJQZ-FM in 1991. In 1998, he was hired as the General Manager of WZKZ (KZ102). Although technically licensed to Alfred, the studios have been in Wellsville. Today, the country radio station is owned by Sound Communications. He has nothing but praise for the Elmira-based company saying, “they have been totally supportive.” When Biehler made the move to the country FM radio station, he also transitioned from on-air only to General Manager and sales. Does he miss the DJ days? “I sure do,” he said this morning.
Flood of 1972
Being in radio for 50+ years will certainly provide opportunities and challenges, noting that “everyday is different.” Biehler says that perhaps his most important broadcasting moment came in 1972, during Hurricane Agnes. He made the daily trip that June morning as usual, although he admitted that “the water seemed pretty high in spots.” When he arrived at the radio station, then located above Ludden’s Shoe Store on Main Street, he quickly understood the day was about to change. The waters continued to rise and Rod soon realized he wasn’t returning to his wife and newborn son anytime soon. So Rod did what Rod does…being the only radio station in Allegany County, he went on the air and began providing news and emergency information to the community. At the time, I was just thrilled that he announced that school was closed! For five days, Biehler and staff provided necessary information to flood-ravaged victims. It was radio at its peak and finest. Rod said he remembered being shuttled by boat to a co-workers home for rest and food. “The flood of 1972 was the most important moment of my broadcasting career,” Biehler said during this interview. Interviewing the late Gov. Rockefeller in Friendship was a close second, he recalled.
“I’m a survivor”
In today’s media world, working for 51 years with no end in site is a rarity, indeed. Beihler’s thought? “I’m a survivor,” he said.
Future of local radio
To this day, Rod says the future of local radio is bright. He said listeners want to be informed…they want local information…they want to be talked to. He said, however, there is a growing trend for automation and non-local programming…something he strongly disagrees with. He fondly recalled listening to sporting events on the radio…hearing the play-by-play. “You had to use your brain and imagination,” he said. Today, “it’s a smartphone or other device with a screen.” Radio, he claimed, is supposed to be fun and imaginative.
Awards, other interests
Broadcasting may be Rod’s first love, but it’s in competition with sports and racing. For 15 years, Rod was also the promoter of McKean County Raceway. In fact, he noted, he’ll soon celebrate the 35th Olean Center Mall stock car show.
As for awards, Rod has a few. He has been honored by the Allegany County Fair Committee and was also the Chamber of Commerce Person of the Year! He also serves as the Vice President of the Greater Allegany County Chamber of Commerce and says he is impressed by working with the local tourism staff.
Is there an exit sign?
Biehler, who will soon turn 70, says he has no plans of giving up his passion. “I gotta keep busy,” he said. “I love interacting with people,” he added.
In the interest of full disclosure…Rod gave me my first job in radio. It was a Tuesday morning, 11 a.m. in September 1981 when he gave me an interview. How did it go? He had me sit down in front of the broadcast console, and place the needle (back when there was vinyl) onto track two of the album. With a shaking hand, I attempted the task, but only heard ‘zip, zang, scraaaatch’…as I watched the needle skip across the record. With absolute horror, I said, and I remember it vividly…”did that just go on air???” “Welcome to radio, my friend,” he said. And so it began…36 years running. Thanks Rod.
Despite his love for his hometown of Eldred, Rod proudly says, “Wellsville is my adopted hometown.”