I first met John Hancock in the early 90’s when I was working at WRFX, The Fox and he had just hit town as the new guy on WBT 1110-AM, a place I had worked in the mid 80’s alongside many of the people that John was now working with. There was a Charlotte radio joint event held to raise money around that time for a cause that I can no longer remember. Across from our WRFX broadcast site was the WBT site and since I’ve always subscribed to the “be kind to your competitors” mantra, I strolled over and introduced myself. We hit it off immediately because he had come from Rock Radio in Colorado. Sure, he was a little cocky and the fact that he didn’t look exactly like the rest of the WBT air staff was exactly why I thought it could work.
Photo from 2018, (L-R) Boomer Von Cannon, Harold Ballard, Jack Daniel, John Hancock, Larry Sprinkle, the late Nathan Richie)
Our paths would cross again a few years later when Sharon Sanders of Kid’s First of The Carolina’s, whom I had known from the old “Fox After Five” days at The old Adam’s Mark Hotel on McDowell, called to let me know that she had started up this charity and asked if my current station, THE END wanted to help? “Sure thing” I said, and she told me that John Hancock at WBT-AM was already helping her, so John and I connected again for a great cause.
One day, I get a call confirming what I had already heard rumors about that morning, John Hancock had left WBT over a dispute with management. John was calling to make sure I knew and suggested we have lunch and that I should plan to buy because it was a job interview and I was doing the interviewing. At that time WEND, 1065 The End was about 2 years old and in a “niche” format like Alternative Rock circa 1997-98 there was lots of “angst” with that younger audience. So much so, that as its Program Director, I felt the station lacked a social conscience and maybe, just maybe, John Hancock could help. At that time, The End’s morning show was Kenny & Wilson, two immensely talented guys, who after the morning show doubled as the production department which made their days long. Their show was by design, geared towards the younger end of the audience and management was pushing for more adults. Such is this business.
Not long after that lunch, after pitching the possibilities to management, “New Rock & Hancock” was born. John was edgy, entertaining and added a new dimension to the radio station. His show was a mix of music, news, commentary and with him came the social conscience I felt was missing. Joining him was Ethan West (former Magic 96.1 DJ “Jack Flash”) and Suzanne Redd handled news and traffic. They developed some real chemistry! By late 2000, the show was doing well in the ratings and had brought our young alt rock station some clout with advertisers. During John’s tenure there, Hurricane Floyd tore through Eastern N.C. and devastated homes along the Tar River. The next day, John is on the air asking for local charter companies to donate buses and invited listeners to join him to head down and do clean up and help the victims of the storm. I think a total of 3 trips originated from John’s tenacity, good heart and his sheer power as a personality to make people act. I went on two of those trips and it was the hardest thing, physically and mentally I’ve ever done, and also the most rewarding.
As 2000 wrapped, WEND and its sister station, Magic 96.1 were SOLD to Clear Channel Communications and new owners pulled the plug on New Rock & Hancock to bring in a show they owned, the syndicated Bob & Tom Show. I was very sad to see our time together come to an END, but John is a pro and handled his firing very well. He still refers to his stint at THE END as his “time-out”. By then, new management at WBT realized what they had lost and John was invited back. It was great knowing that my friend and colleague was back where he belonged in Charlotte Radio. “If the glove fits, he must not quit”!
John Hancock is retiring from his radio career this week after 50+ years on air and since 1990 that career has been in Charlotte. John truly cares about people and causes, and I’ve seen that first hand over the years. I can’t begin to thank him for the endless hours, money and stuff he’s raised for Kid’s First of The Carolina’s and countless other charities he’s been involved with. Even though he said it in “jest” many years ago just to stir the pot with listeners, he truly has become “Charlotte’s Most Beloved” and was recently inducted into the WBT Radio Hall of Fame. I was honored that he invited me as one of the guests on his final week of shows. Good luck in retirement my friend and NOW, you really don’t have any excuse for missing lunch and… it’s your turn to buy.
“…And off he goes” John Hancock pushes the “off” button on an illustrious career. A True Radio Legend and friend.
P.S. I promised John when I was on his show that I wouldn’t share the story about the time he wore “white jeans” after Labor Day to the End of Summer Weenie Roast back in 2000. So I won’t tell that one.
John retires to his new home in Belmont with tons of memorabilia.