Philadelphia has always been a city that walks to the beat of it’s own drummer. And no one in the city does a better job of setting that beat then legendary radio DJ Pierre Robert.
Since 1981 Pierre Robert has been spinning the records and playing the music the Good Citizens of Philly want to hear at iconic radio station 93.3 WMMR. In that time he has interviewed a who’s who of rock n’ roll royalty, played “Alice’s Restaurant” for us every Thanksgiving, rooted for our Boys in Blue and helped everyone get through their workday with good coffee and great music. He has become a Philadelphia institution and one of the most beloved and charitable public figures in the city, all while staying true to himself and his beliefs.
Pierre was kind enough to answer a few question for me about his love of music, why vinyl rules and what makes Philly such a special place.
Did you always want to work in radio?
I did not actually always want to work in radio. I always wanted to be involved in music however. I had thought of it in terms of being in an actual band but did not pursue it. It was in my early twenties that my older brother suggested that I become a DJ. He meant in a club but I thought it would be better on the radio and so went to school at that point.
A year later I was interning and then hired at a legendary San Francisco radio station called KSAN.
You have a passion for music of all types, from Green Day to Frank Sinatra. Where did that passion come from?
My passion for music comes from my parents. We always grew up with music on the turntable. We also ran a little resort at Lake Tahoe not far from the big casinos where artists ranging from Sinatra to Dean Martin to Sammy Davis Jr. would regularly appear.
My parents would take me often to those shows so live music was always part of the mix for me early on. When I first heard the Beatles I knew that everything about them was for me. Their speech, their clothes, and of course their music carried me away.
That was probably my introduction to rock and roll. In high school I started to go see concerts in San Francisco and I was off and running. As I’ve heard each new generation of music I found something that I liked but have never forgotten the other generations along the way. That’s why I like everything from Green Day to Frank Sinatra. To me it’s all rock and roll!
Every day you play The Vinyl Cut, which is when you play a track from an actual vinyl record. What is it about vinyl that you love so much?
The thing about vinyl that’s so wonderful is the three dimensional nature of it. It was all part of a complete package. You’d see the album cover, learn all kinds of details about the band, and then you’d put the record on. CDs continued that to a certain degree but much smaller and in many cases the album artwork suffered. Also, audiophiles will tell you that if you put a brand new vinyl album up against the same CD that the vinyl always sounds better! And it’s making a slight comeback, which is also cool.
The list or music icons you have interviewed over the course of your career is very impressive. Is there anyone left that you haven’t talked to that you always wanted to?
There are a few that I would still like to talk to that I haven’t. They include: Eddie Vedder, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joe Armstrong, and (even though I’ve already had brief conversations with them) more long form chats with Bono, Dave Grohl and Neil Young.
You have been an important part of the lifeblood of Philadelphia for years. What is it about the city that you love the most?
I think every city vibrates to a particular rhythm. The trick is to try to tune into that rhythm and see if you can feel a part of the energy. Philly is a small town contained within a big city. It’s got a great vibe with wonderful people. There’s great art, food, sports, and of course music to be found here. Also, this city has been incredibly kind to me because I’ve been able to be on ‘MMR for 31 years now. At the end of April, on the 29th, ‘MMR will turn 45 which is also amazing.
Any words of wisdom for everyone reading this?
I don’t know how many words of wisdom I have to offer but, at this moment, I guess I would encourage everyone to go someplace they haven’t been and do something they’ve wanted to do as soon as possible. In terms of music, I would encourage younger folks to try to see the veteran bands and people over 40 to go out and see the younger bands. It’s all rock and roll!
You can hear Pierre Robert every weekday between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM on 93.3 WMMR.