Dennis Elsas: 50 Years in Radio

Photos from Dennis Elsas's private collection
by Kara Manning | 07/11/2021 | 11:00pm

Photos from Dennis Elsas's private collection

FUV's own Dennis Elsas marks 50 years on New York radio this month, celebrating a colorful career that has stretched from his first overnight shift at WNEW-FM in July 1971 to his present gigs at WFUV and Sirius/XM.

On Monday, July 12, during his WFUV afternoon show, Dennis noted that landmark anniversary with a four-hour, all-star special that included highlights of favorite interviews with artists such as John Lennon, Elton John, and Joni Mitchell as well as songs that defined the soundtrack of Dennis’s radio career. (You can listen to an edited archive of that retrospective in the player above.)

“I have been very fortunate to do what I love to do for 50 years, playing rock records on the radio,” he says. “I didn’t know anything about the business of radio when I started out, but I knew I loved rock music. I listened closely to the pioneering New York DJs who brought me my favorite songs and told me about the artists behind them. I’m proud to continue that legacy.”

In August 2020, Elsas reached his 20-year milestone as a WFUV host, where he continues his daily shift from 2-6 p.m. ET weekdays. He’s also on Sirius/XM, anchoring weekends on Classic Vinyl and co-hosting the weekly “Beatles Fab Fourum” on The Beatles Channel. In addition to chats with John Lennon, Elton John, and Joni Mitchell, Elsas’s 50th anniversary show on WFUV on July 12 will include some of his favorite conversations from the past five decades with folks like Pete Townshend, Ringo Starr, Jerry Garcia, Richie Havens, Roger Daltrey, Mel Brooks, Julian Lennon, Clarence Clemons, Grace Slick, and many others.

“Rock and roll never forgets a legendary disc jockey celebrating 50 years on New York radio, and neither does WFUV," says WFUV Program Director Rich McLaughlin. "Everyone at the station sends Dennis their warmest congratulations on his anniversary. We're grateful Dennis has called WFUV his radio home for more than two decades (and counting) of that time. On behalf of the millions of New York radio listeners you've reached and inspired over 50 years, thank you, Dennis, for sharing your passion and knowledge of rock music; for championing rock artists that changed our lives; and for connecting with us in an enduring, authentic, and meaningful way.”

Back in April 1971, Elsas sent a letter and demo tape to WNEW-FM program director and DJ Scott Muni, inquiring about openings at that radio station. Although Dennis counts his subsequent first overnight shift on WNEW-FM in July 1971 as his official debut in New York City, he’s been on the air far longer. As a student at Queens College in the mid-Sixties, Elsas was one of the founders of the college’s station, WQMC. His first professional radio job was at WVOX, a small New Rochelle station, with a weekend evening show he created called “Something Else Again.”

Dennis is proud to be featured at Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s exhibit of the most influential American disc jockeys. He is the producer, co-writer, and host of a 2004 award-winning radio documentary, “It Was 40 Years Ago Today: The Beatles Invade America,” which was revised in 2014 for the band’s 50th anniversary of their Stateside arrival; that documentary is included in the Grammy Museum’s traveling Beatles exhibit. Elsas’s own multi-media show, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Never Forgets,” which he began in 2010, features many of his history-making interviews.

“‘Rock and Roll Never Forgets’ is more than just a song title to me, it’s a philosophy,” explains Elsas. “It sums up the relationship I have with the music and the artists, the connection I feel to my listeners, and the support I have received from them, my friends, and my family over the years.”

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