Lebanon Twp. man has fun doing the popular 'Boss Hour'
Published: Jan 8th, 6:53 AM
LEBANON TWP. - Northern Hunterdon County certainly has its share of Bruce Springsteen fans, but one Lebanon Township man has taken his enthusiasm towards "The Boss" to the next level.
Jon Lewis has turned his passion for New Jersey's number one rock 'n' roll son into a successful career which fuels the fervor of other Springsteen fans locally and around the world.
Lewis hosts "The Boss Hour" radio show on the Centenary College FM radio station WNTI 91.9 from 11 a.m. to noon every Saturday.
"It's fun," said Lewis. "How can you not have fun when you listen to The Boss Hour? It's just a blast to do. I've been listening to Bruce as far back as I can remember, and then to get the opportunity to do a radio show about him, it's really just great." In addition to a strong local following that listens over the airwaves, people from all over the world listen to The Boss Hour over the Internet. Lewis gets regular e-mails from listeners as far away as Iraq and Manchester, England.
"The fans are amazing," said Lewis. "Every once and a while someone will recognize my voice and they'll say, 'you're The Boss Hour guy! Oh dude, you rock! The show rocks!' It's really crazy."
Although most Springsteen fans have CDs in their cars, Lewis says that to hear the songs over the radio "is a whole other charge," and that's the premise that keeps the show going strong.
"I try to play the obscure stuff; the stuff you don't hear time and time again on the radio," said Lewis. "I don't have the Wolfman Jack voice on the radio. I sound on the radio the way I do all the time. I'm just a fan who does a Springsteen show on the radio, really."
Lewis says The Boss Hour's format is dictated by his mood, and that he pulls his music from an extensive collection of recordings from live shows and studio sessions.
"I don't have a set list and I don't write things down," said Lewis. "I have a bag full of CDs and there's a bunch at the radio station. Whatever I'm in the mood to play, I play. There's no preparation involved with The Boss Hour. If I'm in a rocking party mood, I'll play rocking party music. If I'm in a down mood, maybe I'll play some tracks off the 'Nebraska' album. I'm usually in a good mood though, so it's usually a rocking show. I always imagine people driving really fast in their cars if they're listening."
Although Lewis has not yet met "The Boss" himself, he has met and spent time backstage at concerts with a number of E Street Band members - Springsteen's primary band - and interviewed a number of E Streeters on his show, including guitarist Stephen Van Zandt, David Sancious - (the E Street Band's original keyboardist), Vinnie Lopez (the original E Street Band drummer) and Ernest "Boom" Carter (the E Street Band's drummer after Lopez and before current drummer Max Weinberg).
Born in Morristown and raised in Bernardsville, Lewis graduated from Bernards High School in 1983. After attending Monmouth College in Long Branch, he transferred to California State University at Northridge where he majored in radio, television and film. He had plans to work in the motion picture industry after school, but fate had something else in store for him.
"I really didn't like L.A.," said Lewis. "I came back home and worked in the corporate video world. I did that right up until I came to Centenary College."
Lewis has been broadcast manager at Centenary College for the past five and one half years where he oversees the college's television station, CCTV, and fills the role of general manager of the radio station.
"Coming from a corporate world, which was a nightmare, to this is just fantastic," said Lewis. "I have a 12-minute commute to work, unless I get behind a farm tractor. I really do love it here."
Lewis says the Boss Hour came about from a running joke. He used to tell the previous general manager of the station that the station should play more Springsteen. After awhile, the general manager told Lewis to record a show and that he would run it during the 2 a.m. shift.
Lewis said he had come up with the names "Swamps of New Jersey" and "One Two Power Shift" for his show before finally coming up with "The Boss Hour."
He said that three years ago on Springsteen's birthday the evening disc jockey called in sick. Unbeknownst to Lewis, the general manager ran the taped Springsteen show that Wednesday evening.
"The phones never stopped ringing," recalled Lewis. "Listeners wanted more information on everything: me, The Boss Hour. I thought it was hysterical." Telephone Lines Lit Up.
Lewis was asked to do another show, but live rather than taping it. When he came in to do the show, all four studio telephone lines were lit up the entire duration of the show. Lewis says he couldn't take calls fast enough.
"And here we are, three years later and low and behold, I'm still doing it," said Lewis, who says he will continue to produce and host the show "as long as it continues to be fun."
Lewis can pinpoint exactly when he became a Springsteen fan. "I can remember vividly," said Lewis. "It was 1977 and I was in my friend's basement and they were listening to the 'Grease' soundtrack. My friend's older brother came down and said, 'I just got this new record and it's called 'Born to Run' by this guy Bruce Springsteen.' I'd never heard of the guy. I was just like, 'wow' and something clicked in me and ever since then I've been a Springsteen fan."
Lewis says the first song by Springsteen he ever heard was "Meeting Across the River." Although it remains special to him, he says his favorite song is called "Zero and Blind Terry," which Springsteen recorded early in his career but did not release until it appeared on 1998's "Tracks" CD set.
The first time Lewis saw Springsteen in concert was in 1984 for the Born in the USA tour, as a senior in high school. He had been invited with friends to see an earlier show when he was a sophomore in high school, but his parents would not let him take the train into the city on his own.
Lewis says the best Springsteen concert he has ever seen - and he has been to 27 shows - was at Madison Square Garden in 1999 at the end of the "Reunion Tour."
"That's a weird thing about Springsteen fans; we always know exactly how many shows we've seen," said Lewis.
Another distinguishing characteristic of Springsteen fans is their unwavering devotion, he said.
"I can't put my finger on whatever it is," said Lewis. "There's something. I can say there's no other artist out there that makes me feel the way I do when I listen to Springsteen, I can't say what it is that makes me the fan I am. It's hard to pinpoint an artist that is still going strong three decades after his first album came out."
"I've never heard from Bruce," said Lewis. "I don't know if he even knows the show exists, but WTNI is pretty big and New Jersey is a small state. One of these days I'm going to pick up the phone and it's going to be him on the other end."
When asked what he would say to Springsteen if he ever calls, Lewis said, "All I would say is 'thank you.'"
Lewis lives with his wife of 18 years, Lisa, and their two daughters, Rachel, 13, and Sydney, 7, in Lebanon Township. He says that if Springsteen goes on tour for his upcoming album, "Working on a Dream," he would like to bring his eldest daughter to her first "Boss" concert. "Working on a Dream" will be released later this month.
Also see the WNTI Jon Lewis Bio