Rockford Rocked talks to Brent Alberts

Former Y95 DJ Brent Alberts (left) with musician Billy Squier and fellow DJ Don “The Doctor” Ballje. (PROVIDED)
Former Y95 DJ Brent Alberts (left) with musician Billy Squier and fellow DJ Don “The Doctor” Ballje. (PROVIDED)

By Todd Houston
Special to TRRT

RRI: Hi Brent! What have you been up to and where are you at these days?

BA: After 46 years in radio I retired from full time work in the radio business in March of 2014. I spent 30 of those years in Operations, Programming, and on air. I really feel that programming in radio today has lost it’s luster Todd. Radio stations are simply not investing in themselves anymore.

Fortunately I was able to go to work for a good friend who is also a Hair Transplant Physician. I am his business manager and patient advocate. I love the job! I still get to have fun on the radio every Saturday night doing the All Request Saturday Night on Classic Rock 94-9 WMMQ in Lansing Michigan. There is no playlist – a little bit of radio heaven!

RRI: You were the program director at WYFE Y95 here in Rockford from 1979 to 1984. What an amazing time for music! Did it ever occur to you that you were right in the middle of some of the greatest rock music ever?

BA: It was a great time to be in radio, along with being my first Program Director job and doing afternoons at Y95, I also did weekends at The Loop in Chicago!  You may remember Steve Dahl and Disco Demolition at Comiskey park. We had a lot of fun blowing up disco records on the air and at the ball park! A great time for Rock and Roll!

RRI: If I remember correctly you were somewhat of a local music advocate, spinning songs by Off Broadway, The Kind and The Boyzz. What was the Rockford live music scene like during that time?

The Midwest had a lot of great talent, and radio was happy to give them airplay. We were at the peak of it at that time in 1979. The great mass appeal rock wave continued into the 80’s, but was almost gone by the 90’s. Fortunately, we all got to be there, right at the heart of it all.

RRI: A lot of people here in Rockford still talk about the Y95 Mother’s Day concerts and the shows at the Rockford Speedway. What are your memories if any?

BA: Always loved doing the Mother’s Day shows at Anna Page Park, what a wonderful place! That tradition started prior to my arrival but it was an event that was very special to Rockford. We did several years there before moving it to the speedway.

RRI: There are a few pictures of the Cheap Trick guys in the Y95 studio with you floating around the internet. Do you still keep in contact with Rick or Bun?

BA: It was always fun when Rick Neilsen would just show up at Y95, he was a real character. Probably the band I see the most these days is Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I know Paul O’Neill the writer and producer, and Adam Lind their manager.

RRI: Most requested song to play in 1979?

BA: We supported the regional artists for sure, far too many to mention from that year. As far as Rock and Roll radio, I think AC/DC was one of the biggest bands of the year with Highway to hell, and Big Balls.

Locally Rockford always had a good music scene, which we supported with our RadioVision TV show. When we moved it from Rockford Cablevision to (I think) WREX 13 the format changed to all local bands instead of national videos. We had bands come to the TV station every weekend and produced our own rock video’s just for Rockford TV. That was a lot of fun to be a part of. Mark Thompson and I hosted the show. I also was involved in managing “Robin Banks” during that time.

RRI: Please give us your thoughts on the following: Y95 satin jacket.

BA: I wish I still had mine! I have many, but not from that far back. I think I still have my Intersection satin jacket (laughs).

RRI: The Grinder Shop in Rockford.

BA: The Munchie Monster (David Corbett) was a friend and an advertiser with Y95!  I loved going there and getting a big fresh grinder and a purple cow milkshake. He also did some very entertaining commercials on Y95. My favorite was one he did to a Chuck Berry Song! “Riding along in my automobile…”

RRI: One song you wish you would never have to hear again?

BA: Bonnie Tyler, “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

RRI: The Doctor (Y95 DJ).

BA: Don “The Doctor” Ballje. He did almost every shift on Y95 and finally ended up doing mornings. He was a best friend. I was his best man when he got married and he was mine when I got married. We shared a house on Main Street for a couple years and were living there when his son was born. Man time flies. Doc lives and works in Chicago now, he’s a specialist in the business machine Industry. He hasn’t been in radio in decades.

RRI: What’s next for Brent Alberts?

BA: Just got engaged to be married for my fourth time. I finally found my soulmate and couldn’t be happier. I’ll always keep my toe in the radio water, but at this point it’s all about quality of life. I still work full time and will for as long as I can.

I like to be productive. Sherry and I like to travel, and we will continue to do that. Who knows what the future holds. Just hope I’m in the right place at the right time. It’s worked well for me in the past. Thanks for making me drag out all these old Rockford memories. It’s a town that will always be special in my heart. And I still have very close friends there. Rockford Rocks!

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