Tom Bergeron Returns to WHAV, Asks for Donations of Support

Tom Bergeron appeared live on 97.9 WHAV Friday morning. (Cindy Driver photograph for WHAV News.)

WHAV’s own Tom Bergeron returned to the Haverhill airwaves June 16 for a special air shift Friday morning, reflecting on his early days at the city’s radio dial and asking for the community’s financial support of the station.

In Haverhill during his summer break from ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” Bergeron explained his purpose for stopping by for a chat with station President and General Manager Tim Coco.

“First of all. Let me commend you and everybody here for what you’re doing—the incredible work you’re doing to keep the legacy of local radio alive in Haverhill and the vicinity. Obviously, for me, having started at WHAV in 1972 when I was still in high school. You know how much I appreciate what you’ve been doing and I’m happy to be a supporter of it. This is a real treat to come back and visit, but also to underscore the nature of what WHAV now is and the importance of community support to keep it going,” he said.

Bergeron said he loved that his airshift took place in the Edwin V. Johnson Newsroom, noting it was the late Johnson who kicked off his career.

“I was a student of his public speaking class with the expressed goal of impressing him enough to maybe get to WHAV because I knew he was a newsman there. It worked. My Machiavellian plan worked. He introduced me to Ed Cetlin and I got a part-time gig while I was still at Haverhill High. What I felt when I walked through that door for the first time was just a heart-pounding excitement. I mean I was a 17-year-old kid. I only ever wanted to be in radio and there I was. I was doing a Saturday night rock music show.”

Pat Johnson and Tom Bergeron. (Cindy Driver photograph for WHAV News.)

Pat Johnson and Tom Bergeron. (Cindy Driver photograph for WHAV News.)

Bergeron took time to talk with Johnson’s widow, Pat.

“I’ve often told the story of how my career began,” he said. “Ed was always much too modest in deflecting my appreciation for it, but he really got me started. He really was the one that turned it into a reality for me.” Mrs. Johnson responded, “You’ve never forgotten that which is wonderful.”

She explained she met Ed while she also worked for WHAV.

Recalling his time on the air, Bergeron remembered how he’d play a few tricks on Haverhill listeners on extra-long air shifts. He explained he would work from 6 a.m. to noon, take a lunch break and then work another hour.

“I would just pretend to be somebody else, Duston Hannah—which, of course for people knowledgeable of Haverhill history is Hannah Duston backward.”

Another Haverhill highlight for the radio veteran: Interviewing the Three Stooges’ Larry Fine over the telephone from his parents’ kitchen as a Haverhill High School student. Bergeron’s taped conversations later aired on his WHAV morning show and eventually turned into a special aired on Howard Stern’s SiriusXM special, Stooges Lost and Found.

“Worst Thing I Ever Heard in Radio”

Bergeron’s morning show on WHAV was a big hit. He laughed, however, his engineering skills fell short. He reflected on his time operating a seven-second tape delay for Bill Pike on the Open Mike Show.

Tom Bergeron with WHAV contest winner Sherryl Comeau. (Cindy Driver photograph for WHAV News.)

Tom Bergeron with WHAV contest winner Sherryl Comeau. (Cindy Driver photograph for WHAV News.)

“It was a mess. I couldn’t figure out how it worked. The tapes came off and I bloodied my hands and poor Bill Pike is in there and he’s trying to manage because now we’re not on delay and he’s trying to take calls live. Ed Cetlin, God bless him, came in the next day and said, “Tommy, it was the worst thing I ever heard in radio.’”

In between sharing memories and chatting with listeners, including contest winner Sherryl Comeau, Bergeron pledged his continued support for nonprofit, noncommercial radio stations like WHAV.

Bergeron Urges Support for WHAV News

“What you are doing here—and I don’t think people realize it—is a publicly supported station. You depend on—particularly at this time when journalism anywhere is under fire just for economic reasons if not political ones. It’s a tough time to be a journalist or to run either a newspaper or a broadcast station, and this particular type of station now depends on listener support,” Bergeron argued, in an effort to solicit listener donations and memberships.

“I’ll come to your house and cook dinner!” Bergeron joked to potential donors.

WHAV offers a number of ways listeners may contribute. A variety of memberships, including the News Leader membership, may be found here. To make a general donation, click here.