Profiles of the Extraordinary – Al Roney

Al Roney, Ordinary Citizen and talk radio host on Albany’s Talk 1300, could be described as the “Voice of the Albany Tea Party.”  Certainly, it’s an apt description.  He served as MC during three large Tea Party rallies in Albany.  His rallying cry of “Freedom” echoed throughout the city.  (It should be trademarked.)  But it’s not his involvement in the local Tea Party movement alone that makes him extraordinary.  It is much more than that.

Al Roney (right) with Wade Abbott (left) on the air at the Albany Tax Day Tea Party

You see, Al Roney was not an overnight success as a talk radio host.  Al’s career has been and continues to be a journey.  The road map for Al’s life shows more than its fair share of bumps and detours along the way.  Ultimately, it’s one of persistence and self-education.  Allow me to share that journey with you.

Al has childhood ties to the Capital District.  In his joking manner, he often says that he grew up “on the mean streets of Rotterdam [NY].”  (Interesting side note… I live in Rotterdam, and my kids play almost daily in a park that Al often visited during his childhood.)  He also lived in Schenectady.  He attended high school at Christian Brothers Academy and furthered his education at both Hudson Valley Community College and Schenectady County Community College.

His career path took him from a local McDonalds to the US Army with a stint in Colorado.  He moved back to New York for a state job in the mental health field.  Still, he had not found his niche.  After getting frustrated with the state job, Al felt compelled to move into the radio world.  He attended The New School of Radio and Television in Albany.  His radio career started with roles as an overnight DJ and traffic reporter.  He moved to the newsroom and filled-in for other talk show hosts.  The jump to radio was risky.  Al describes himself as very shy when he was younger.  Not exactly a sought-after trait for a talk radio host.

The risks and challenges did not stop there.  Al continually looked for new opportunities.  He took on new roles, learning the basics on the job, often with no more pay and longer hours.  He may have been shy, but it did not deter him from asking his bosses to give him a chance.  They did not regret it.

Eventually, Al found himself hosting the 9 AM to Noon slot on 810 WGY.  His show was immensely popular.  He built an incredibly loyal audience.  How did he accomplish that?  Al brought the perfect mix of local, state, national and international issues to his audience.  More importantly, he listened to his audience.  His talk show was not limited to one-way rants.

Along the way, Al described himself as “not a rally guy.”  However, I believe that he changed his viewpoint because he listened to his audience, and because he got so fed up with government corruption.  Al became more than a mere promoter or participant in rallies.  He became a leader.

Success, right?  Probably, but that’s not the end of the story.  On February 25, 2010 Al hosted his last show on WGY.  Due to the ever-changing nature of the radio industry, Al found himself out of work and replaced by just another nationally syndicated host.  Many of his loyal listeners were devastated.  Some, including this author, rallied outside WGY shortly thereafter.  Large numbers of fans flocked to a “Save Al Roney” Facebook page.  Within just a few days Al’s own page, and the “Save Al Roney” page had more fans than WGY.  Al was overwhelmed and humbled by the support.

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Many listeners thought it likely that Al would not return to the Capital District airwaves.  His talent could have taken him to another talk radio market.  Perhaps it will someday, but not for now.  Al reminded his followers that he wanted to stay in the Capital District.  Many of his loyal fans campaigned for another station to bring him onboard.  On June 21, 2010 Al returned to the airwaves for the 2 PM to 6 PM show on Talk 1300 in Albany.  Persistence pays off.

Al is a family man.  His concern for the future that his children will face comes across clearly, both via the airwaves and in person.  He asks the tough questions.  His independent views mean that he will call out corruption whenever he sees it.  He does not blindly follow a party line, as is the tendency of too many nationally syndicated shows.  He challenges his listeners to think critically.  His discussions of local and state issues bring vital news to the area.

Personally, I am proud to know Al.  I have planned two rallies with his help… rallies that would not have seen success without him.  He is the epitome of “what you see is what you get.”  I sat across from him at a McDonalds, interviewing him for this blog, as our kids ran around the play area.  He was there in his typical jeans and t-shirt, just another ordinary guy.  He could be described as patriotic, persistent, freedom-loving, NASCAR fan, self-proclaimed geek, intelligent, thought-provoking, locally concerned, and motivated.

I say that he shows us all what it means to be extraordinary.

Profiles of the Extraordinary is a category within the This Ordinary Citizen blog.  It features Ordinary Citizens who show us what it means to be Extraordinary.  If you know someone who should be profiled, contact the author.

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6 Comments

  1. Amy

     /  July 28, 2010

    I moved back to the Capital Region 2 years ago. I still remember hearing Al for the first time. Driving in the car I was listening to Al and thinking “this guy’s nuts!” I got to my parents house and asked my dad, “Who the heck is this Al Roney guy?”

    I was hooked. I loved what he was saying, I hated what he was saying, but he made me think. My past commutes had consisted of radio hosts such as Tom Leykis, Curtis Sliwa, Hannity & Limbaugh but I had never before listened to talk radio other than in the car. Al was so compelling that I went out and bought a radio for my home. A year later I bought an a.m. radio I could take with me while grocery shopping.

    I was so sad when WGY fired Al but elated that Paul Vandenburgh picked him up on Talk 1300. Al Roney has that quality that either drives you nuts or rallies you in solidarity. Either way, Al Roney is an invaluable voice for the Capital Region!

    Reply
    • Amy,

      Great story! I too had listened to some talk radio, but it was largely national. With Al, I got more of that local and state flavor. I think he got me hooked, too.

      I’m glad he’s back on the air, too!

      Reply
  2. Gilda

     /  July 28, 2010

    Al is what the American experience is all about. In this “not my fault” and “I inherited this mess” attitude Al set such a great example by telling his listeners that he was “not too big to fail”. He has always worked hard and has been true to his listeners and his beliefs. That is why he back on the air. People trust him. He is an example that I know I would point to for my children to follow.

    Great to have you back, Al.

    Reply
    • Gilda,

      You’ve hit on a big portion of why I think Al does show us how to be “extraordinary.” His persistence in the face of job struggles is a lesson for all of us, especially during this economic downturn.

      Thanks for the comment!

      -Wade

      Reply
  3. Carl GottsteinJr.

     /  July 29, 2010

    Al,
    You are a local treasure!
    WE are very proud of you here in the capitol district.
    I am very happy your back in business!

    Carl Gottstein Jr.

    Reply

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