Music matters most to boomer host of 98.5-FM’s morning show
Boomer Eric Young, host of “Eric in the Morning” at WSBH-FM 98.5 “The Beach” in Melbourne, marks his one-year anniversary at the radio station this month.
Eric Young started in radio nearly 50 years ago in chilly Canada, but the boomer hopes to wrap up his career at The Beach.
Young, the morning show host at WSBH-FM 98.5 “The Beach” in Melbourne, marks his first anniversary this month at the popular 6,000-watt independent station that plays the biggest hits of the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s.
“I just talked to an old friend from Montreal and I said, ‘Isn’t it interesting that I started my career in 1967 at an AM station at 98 on the radio dial, and here I am just after turning 65 and it looks like I’m going to finish my career at 98 on the FM dial,’ ” Young said.
The Montreal native and host of “Eric in the Morning” is on the air from 6 to 10 a.m. weekdays, playing classic rock and roll, R&B and disco hits, interspersed with time and temperature, traffic reports, news updates and a trivia contest.
“I love the music,” Young said. “I play in the morning all of the music that I grew up with on radio. I don’t take myself too seriously anymore. I like to be entertaining. I like to have some significant things to say but I do realize that first and foremost it’s all about the music. I’m very conscious that I’m making sure we’re playing as much music as we possibly can. My listeners don’t tune in to hear me talk. I’d like to think they tune in because they feel I’m a friendly voice and I’m going to give them the necessary information they need when they’re getting ready to go to work in the morning.”
Young was drawn to radio as a child, often pretending to be a disc jockey in the basement of his family home. “For some reason, I’d always been intrigued by guys on the radio,” Young said. “I thought, What a glamorous life that must be.”
After leaving school at 17 and being ordered by his father to get a job to help pay the rent, Young found work as an office boy at Montreal radio station CKGM-AM. “I was basically making sure there was coffee in the coffee machine, and I would do the mimeographed sheets of the Top 40 charts for that week,” he said. “I was the local gofer. But for me, as a kid of 17 at the time, hey, I was working in radio.”
After about six months on the job, Young got a chance to fill in mixing audio as a board operator. “I did a pretty good job,” he said, “and from there it was a continuation of that.”
Young’s career took him to stations all across Canada. Between radio jobs, he supported himself as a drum- and guitar-playing musician and record promoter. In the early 1980s, he was hired at an FM station in Miami, and fell in love with Florida’s weather. After returning to Canada for work, Young came to Brevard in 1996, working for WLRQ-FM Lite Rock 99.3.
Young decided to take early retirement rather than pursue his radio career. “I had become really comfortable in this market, so for three years I sat around and enjoyed my time off,” he said.
A call from WSBH station manager Dave Poore changed all that. “Dave said they were making a change in the morning show and he really wanted me, and it was an offer I just couldn’t say no to,” Young said. “It was like, ‘This is the way it’s meant to end.’ ”
WSBH is Brevard’s top-ranked station for listeners ages 35 to 64, according to Arbitron ratings, and in October the station just enjoyed its best financial month in its 10-year history. Young attributes part of the station’s success against larger competitors to its presence at local functions and fundraisers, such as the pre-concert Picnic on the Patio at the King Center for the Performing Arts, which Young hosts, and its Christmas toy drive, which “went beyond all expectations this year.”
“I like to think people like feeling like they’re in touch with somebody local,” Young said. “For example, I do a little feature called ‘Sports Shorts.’ I talk about the Miami Dolphins and other Florida pro and college teams, but I also like to talk about the FIT Panthers and the Eastern Florida State College Titans. I’m very big on doing high school football during the season. I think it’s important for those folks to hear their kids’ football teams mentioned on the air. My two key words have always been ‘live’ and ‘local.’ ”
When he’s not entertaining listeners or working in the studio, Young often can be found Thursday nights at Squid Lips restaurant in Melbourne, sitting in on drums and singing during a weekly jam session before heading home for bed at 8 p.m.
“That’s my release,” said Young, who gets up before 4 a.m. for work. “It’s fun. Fortunately, I’ve been one of those people who’ve managed to make all my wishes come true. I’m loving The Beach. I’m loving the people I work with. It’s a great thing and in a way I’ve come full circle.”