Legendary radio host Neil Rogers died of congestive heart failure in Broward County on Christmas Eve 2010.
But he’s alive and well on Michael Allen Smith’s neilrogers.org, a website that allows free access to 1,900 Rogers shows — more than 4,500 hours of broadcasts spanning 25 years.
For good measure, Smith added 300 “drops,” seconds-long bits that Rogers sprinkled on his audience, including “Neil God,” “It’s Friday, you bastards” and “Floridians, dumb as dirt.”
The thing about software engineer Smith, 48, is that he never met Rogers.
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He never listened to a single Rogers’ program live.
And he never lived in South Florida, which was as much a character on the show as Rogers himself.
No matter, he says.
“Neil’s best shows were when he was really local,” Smith says, “when he talked about the hockey team and the penny tax and old people.
“Even if you never lived there, it was the kind of stuff you’d never hear anywhere else.”
Smith’s collection starts in 1982 and ends on June 12, 2009, Rogers’ final broadcast on WQAM-560 AM — and his last show ever.
There are a few gaps here and there, says Smith, and he's still on the lookout for the missing broadcasts.
With the blessing of Fort Lauderdale attorney Norm Kent, the executor of Rogers’ estate, Smith started working on the website in 2011.
“It’s great,” said Kent, “because it’s free. Neil was insistent that his show always be free, which is why he never went to satellite radio.”
Smith says he first heard of the Rochester, New York-born Rogers while living in Tampa, where Rogers wasn't heard.
“I lived in Tampa in the late 1990s and a friend kept telling me about Neil Rogers,” Smith recalls.
“I moved to D.C. and I couldn’t a radio signal in my office. So I remembered what my friend said and I started downloading Neil’s show from his website daily so I could listen on my computer at the office.”
Smith says he found the discs he used to download the shows on a bookshelf in 2011 and he started sharing those on a Google page.
Meanwhile, through Facebook, Smith hooked up with an inveterate Rogers fan, a Boca CPA named John Baker who knew Rogers from the horse-racing tracks.
Baker taped Rogers shows starting in 1982 on reel-to-reel and cassette systems, and networked to find more programs from South Florida fans.
Smith then added a few more years from Neil’s old website.
“It wasn’t being maintained and it was about to go dark,” he says. “I was able to recreate some stuff, including the drops.”
Although he makes no money on the material, Smith says he’s getting good traffic, 10,000 to 12,000 plays a month.
His gut feeling, says Smith, is that most comes from Rogers fans from back in the day. But, he says, he has seen an increasing following from Great Britain, thanks to radio personality Nick Abbot.
“Nick plays some of Neil’s comedy bits and that’s sending traffic to the site,” Smith says.
As for a recommendation on what year listeners should first focus on, Smith says 1999.
“Neil had great energy and anger and amazing streams of consciousness,” he says. “And a lot was going on in Miami. The Los Van Van ban, Elián González, all that stuff made for great material.”