Career as a Deejay Lights His Fire : Pop music: Singer Jose Feliciano co-hosts a Saturday morning show chatting with callers and offering insider tidbits about favorite musicians. He even sings a few songs.
It was just another day spinning oldies at WMMM radio in August when station co-owner Mark Graham got a call from someone who identified himself as Jose Feliciano.
“I said, ‘Anybody can claim to be Jose Feliciano. Let’s hear you sing a few bars of “Feliz Navidad.” He started singing, and I said, ‘OK, OK, I believe you,’ ” Graham said.
Feliciano’s impromptu rendition of the Christmas song landed him a job as a disc jockey at the station.
Feliciano spends every Saturday morning chatting with callers, offering insider tidbits about Elvis, the Beatles, Bob Dylan and other favorite musicians. He even jokes about his blindness.
“When I go to a restaurant and the waitress says to me, ‘Mr. Feliciano, would you like to see a menu?’ and I tell her, ‘Lady, I’d like to see anything.’ ”
Interspersed with the jokes and stories are a few songs--some old, some new, some in Spanish, some in English. The show, “Speaking of Music,” with co-host Russ Garrett, premiered Aug. 31.
Using only an acoustic guitar and two microphones, Feliciano sits in a corner of the cramped studio. On a recent Saturday morning, he sang “Daniel” and “All the Way.”
Even when he’s not singing on the air, Feliciano is singing along with the record on the turntable, rocking in his chair and constantly moving his neatly manicured fingers.
“I’m having a great time,” he says. I love it all--the singing, the talking, the performing.”
Although the role of disc jockey is new to him, Feliciano describes himself as a “radio junkie” and says he always wanted to give radio a try.
“I’m not the type of disc jockey who’s going to give you the weather, but I can talk about certain things other people might not know about,” he says.
Like Diana Ross, and how she had to sing her first lead with the Supremes in a bathroom because Motown Records did not have an echo chamber.
Or about how he wrote and performed the theme song to the ‘70s TV series “Chico and the Man,” and once had a guest appearance on the show.
Or about how the flip side to the Everly Brothers’ smash hit “Dream” was “Claudette,” a love song Roy Orbison wrote for his wife.
At the request of a caller, Feliciano breaks into a soulful version of Orbison’s “Pretty Woman.”
He muses on the air about how he got his start singing in Greenwich Village clubs in the early ‘60s, his friendship with Bob Dylan, his admiration for John Lennon.
With his long, shagged hair, gray jeans and jean jacket, Feliciano, 46, looks much the same as he did in 1968, when his version of the Doors’ hit “Light My Fire” made him a star.
He lives in Weston, a five-minute drive from the station, in a converted 18th-Century tavern with his wife Susan, daughter Melissa, 3, and son Jonathan, 6 months. He moved here from California about 18 months ago at his wife’s urging, he said.
Even though his last big American hit, “Hi Heel Sneakers,” was 23 years ago, he still has a loyal following in Latin America and among Latinos in the United States. He won his sixth Grammy this year when a song from his album, “Nina,” was named best Latin-pop performance.
Feliciano occasionally performs his new songs on the air, but stays away from his old hits, saying he doesn’t want to live in the past.
But he does lament not being able to get a North American record deal. He has a recording contract for Latin America.
Feliciano, who was born blind in Lares, Puerto Rico, moved to New York City with his family when he was 5, and grew up listening to a wide range of both Spanish- and English-language music. He said he was influenced heavily by many musicians, but especially Ray Charles, who is also blind.
“I was inspired by him. I said, ‘If he can make a living, so can I.’ ”