WMXJ disc jockey Ron St. John started off his life in broadcasting 48 years ago by playing the Four Tops record I Can’t Help Myself, an appropriate choice for a young guy giving radio a shot after nothing else had worked. He ended it Friday with an even more fitting choice: John Fogerty’s The Old Man Down The Road, an eerie ballad of supernatural powers.
It was the perfect punctuation for a career that defied all the natural laws of radio. Not only did the 69-year-old St. John last five decades in a profession where half that is considered amazing longevity, he spent his final 26 at a single station. That’s virtually unheard of in the gypsy world of radio, where abrupt changes of ownership and format inflict a high casualty rate.
“You just persevere,” a smiling St. John shrugged before starting his final 3-to-7 p.m. shift Friday, where he would play the final 48 songs of an estimated 723,000 since starting as part of WMXJ’s original air staff in 1987. “I don’t know what to tell you. It’s certainly not like I expected things to go this way.”
Even if you don’t listen to WMXJ — the oldies station known as Majic 102.7 to its fans — there’s a good chance you know St. John’s voice. He was the stadium announcer for the Miami Dolphins for 17 years — he announced every home-field play of Dan Marino’s career.
And he’s also the guy who made famous the words “But wait! There’s more!” His voiced-over television pitches for such wonders of American technology as the Clorox ToiletWand and the 2Max Minnow Lure have literally echoed around the world.
“I was on vacation in Spain once, and I turned on CNN,” said his fellow WMXJ deejay Joe Johnson. “And there’s Ron’s voice, telling me, but wait, there’s more about the Singer Handi Stitch. I thought, did I get on the wrong plane? Am I back at home?”
St. John grew up in Minnesota, where four years after he graduated from high school, things weren’t going well. He’d tried several jobs that didn’t work out, and now he was flunking out of electronics school. (A fact of which his WMXJ colleagues mercilessly remind the techno-skittish St. John.)
“Right upstairs from my school was another one for broadcasting,” St. John recalled. “So I thought, I might as well see what’s going on up there.” He soon caught on with a station in Hastings, Minn., the first stop on a peripatetic trail that included places like Glendine, Montana, and Winter Haven before he hooked on with Miami’s legendary Top 20 station WQAM in 1972. He never left South Florida again.
His plans for retirement include a long fishing trip back in Minnesota, and a concerted effort to cure himself of a severe infestation of ear worms, a chronic problem for longtime deejays, but at least slightly less yucky than it sounds.
“An earworm is that song that pops up in your head at random until it makes you want to kill yourself,” St. John explained. “Like Rupert Holmes’ Escape. [ If you like piña coladas, and getting caught in the rain…] I hated that song when it first came out. And having it in my brain all these years hasn’t made me like it any more.”