March 18, 2010

Bud Sawyer comes back, big time

— FALMOUTH — He's tried the retirement thing. He loves doting on his seven grandchildren, dabbling in his woodworking shop and gazing through the telescope at what could be the most spectacular view anywhere of scenic Casco Bay.

But there's a problem: Bud Sawyer still can't keep his mouth shut.

''The good ol' days start tomorrow!'' Sawyer said Friday, flashing a smile so broad that his eyes almost closed. ''That's been my guiding principle.''

Meaning he's back. Sometime in the next few weeks, the man whose name was long synonymous with local radio in southern Maine will dust off his headphones, flip on the microphone and once again bathe the area with his baritone banter and trademark chuckle.

''He's too good to sit idle,'' said Dave Patterson, who owns and operates WJZF, a nonprofit, low-watt, community FM station in Standish. ''I listened to Bud when I was just a pup.''

It all started when Patterson, who's awaiting Federal Communications Commission approval for a full-power FM license, decided recently that his programming needed a boost as well.

He approached Sawyer, 76, who spent much of his 50 years as a radio disc jockey high atop the local ratings -- most notably during a 25-year stint with WPOR that ended in 1997.

Would Bud be interested in going back on the air?

''I think my answer was 'Yes!' '' recalled Sawyer.

It was an offer Sawyer couldn't refuse: Rather than commute 60 miles round trip to Standish, he'll broadcast his show 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays via an Internet modem from the second floor of his oceanfront home in Falmouth.

And lest longtime fans think Sawyer deserves better than a broadcast signal that struggles to reach the outskirts of Portland, consider that WJZF also streams on the Internet at www.wjzf.org.

That's right. Sawyer, who last signed off with WLOB in Westbrook a few years ago, will be accessible to listeners anywhere on the planet.

''I'm going coast to coast,'' he beamed. ''The long way!''

He'll even reach Maine soldiers serving overseas -- a big reason Sawyer wants back on the air in the first place.

''Veterans are so important to me,'' he said, tears welling in his eyes. ''Always have been.''

The newfangled equipment still needs to be installed. And Patterson would welcome a few more underwriters for Sawyer's show -- a virtual bargain at just $25 per week.

But it's official: Sometime between now and Jan. 1, Bud will be back.

''You may hear Willie Nelson next to Glenn Miller,'' Sawyer said, perusing his closet full of LPs and bookshelf full of CDs. ''You may hear the Kingston Trio next to some of today's people.''

You also might hear Jan, Bud's wife for half a century, vacuuming the upstairs hallway. Or the workers currently building a dock just outside the ''studio'' window.

''I might even drop a (microphone) out the window so you can pick up the sound of the surf,'' Sawyer said.

What you won't hear is a man anywhere near ready to retire.

''It's been a good life,'' Sawyer said, perusing a home full of mementos. ''And it's just beginning.''

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

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