Pierre Robert graces the cover of the latest issue of MaxAlt ROCK! This digital zine gives an insider view to the world of rock radio and highlights the best new music breaking onto the scene. This issue features not only our favorite Good Citizen, but our favorite bands: The Pretty Reckless, The Offspring, Greta Van Fleet and more. Thanks to Mike Parrish for the feature.
The Spirit of Philadelphia: Pierre Robert on WMMR
“Begin the day with a friendly voice, a companion unobtrusive.” While those legendary lyrics were written about a radio station in Toronto, for the good citizens of Philadelphia they have become personified by radio icon Pierre Robert. Since 1981, Robert’s smooth, soothing voice has been entertaining and informing the listeners of 93.3 WMMR and he recently signed a new deal to continue to host the midday show at the Beasley Active Rock outlet… To help recognize the milestone and unrivaled achievement, Max Alt ROCK caught up with Robert for a conversation about his career and his relationship with the city of Philadelphia.
MP: You just inked a new deal to ensure you’re going to be celebrating your 40th year of uninterrupted service on air at WMMR. Let’s start with how psyched are you to be able to continue your love affair with the listeners of Philadelphia.
PR: It’s an honor more than anything else, but it’s also very cool. There are radio and TV personalities in any given market representing any style of broadcasting that have been in their market for just as long or longer, but oftentimes they’ve bounced around to different stations. My little claim to fame is that I’ve been at one station for that entire time. In fact, I’ve only worked at two stations my entire career – KSAN in San Francisco and WMMR. It’s really exciting to sign up again. I feel more alive and vibrant than ever and our connection with the listeners is stronger than ever. Every single person, on or off the air, is well aware of and celebrates this bond with the listeners, as well as our sponsors. We’re very strong in the ratings and do exceptionally well in all day parts. I’m blessed with my own and thankful for that.
MP: You have a unique style that isn’t heard on air at music stations much these days. You tell great stories. I think it’s really what connects you with the listeners the most. Why do you think your style isn’t more prevalent these days?
PR: It starts for me where I learned, which was at KSAN, one of the first freeform FM stations. FM radio at its beginning was a reaction against the Top 40, fast speaking DJs of AM radio. I respect what those DJs did and, and those who still do do like Jerry Blavat, who I worshiped. It’s an art to be able to do that, but it’s very tight and very formatted. FM was about let’s slow this whole thing down and talk to people and not talk at them. The style was an attempt to be more natural and be yourself. So I learned that style from those FM DJs and took elements of that to develop my own style… When you read a book, you create an image of what you’re reading. Good storytellers can weave a story into a song or a song into a story pretty easily and that’s what I try to do.
MP: You remain passionate about not just music in general, but actually finding new bands and learning about them. You’re as well-versed in the Stones, Def Leppard, and Foo Fighters as you are about newer bands like Royal Blood or The Pretty Reckless. How do you keep that fire of discovering new music and not just finding songs, but actually learning about the bands so that you can tell the stories that you weave on air?
PR: A lot of times it’s by meeting those bands when they’re young and by doing some research about them when they come in to the station. If a band comes in, I always go see them. Prior to the pandemic, I’d be at a hundred shows or more a year. If I’ve established a relationship with the band, then I will say hi to them before or after the show. When you find a band and like what they do and meet them early on in their journey, they never forget it. Jon Bon Jovi is one of the best examples of that. When that first record came out, they were playing Ripley’s nightclub and it was their first area appearance. Their record guy, David Leach, brought Jon into the studio. We’d started just playing “Runaway” and David introduces him to me in the lobby of our building. He asked if I would come to the show and wouldn’t give up until I finally said yes. I went and I’ve been friends with them ever since. Jon and the rest of that band have never forgotten that WMMR connection. If you can make a connection with these bands, they don’t forget it. I’m always campaigning for us to play more songs from some of these great young bands and mix the old and the new. You have to keep striving to find that balance.
MP: Talk about your producer, Pancake, who plays an important role in keeping you organized.
PR: I’m not a traditional midday show in that I have in my contract a deal for a producer. There are a lot of moving parts to my show and he’s everything from an executive assistant to a producer. He’s knowledgeable, funny and a great personality in his own. His name is Chris Ashcraft, but the morning show named him Pancake because when he was an intern working for their show, he heard them while driving in one day saying it’s International Pancake Day, so he pulled over to an iHop and persuaded them to give him bags of pancakes to bring in to the show. The producer of the morning show, Casey, named him Pancake and it stuck from that day on. He’s got the drive, a love of radio, a love of music, a love of sports, a love of Philly and has become a masterful editor. I don’t have patience or great skill with editing. I know what I want to hear and he’ll just make it happen. He’s become an incredible asset and I couldn’t do this without him.
Read the full interview here!