Lou Al Chiaramonte
On a Saturday In early 1981, Tampa’s community radio station WMNF invited the general public to visit the station’s studios. Among the visitors that day was Lou Al Chiaramonte, who struck up a conversation with Roy Bodden, program host of WMNF’s weekly three-hour “Country Music Memories” radio show. The two talked about Lou Al’s record collection that, at the time, totaled close to 300,000 LP’s, 78’s, 45’s, and open reel tapes. The total would eventually swell to almost a half-million. Roy was also surprised at this man’s knowledge of classic country music.
Lou Al told him that when he was about 12 years old, he got a reel-to-reel tape recorder and began taping local ‘live’ country music programs on Tampa radio stations, including WHBO, WDAE, and WFLA. He had over 300 "Daisy Mae" programs alone (by that time she had been divorced from her husband, Old Brother Charlie, as he was known). That reel-to-reel collection of airchecks numbered into the thousands! Needless to say, their friendship was bonded!
In 1984 Roy and his wife, Reva, got to talking about the many Tampa area musicians who loved the old, traditional country music and thought that a club or society could be established that would meet once a week to jam and reminisce. So, with Lou Al and some others, The Society for the Preservation of Early Country & Western Music, Inc., was formed. Through the early '90's, Lou Al served as president for five years and also was a member of its Board of Directors, along with others, like WMNF deejay Tom Henderson.
Because he was so knowledgeable, Lou Al was a guest quite often on Roy’s WMNF radio program, especially when he aired specials on Tampa area country and western music in radio’s early days. While he also loved pop music of the 1920's through the mid-50's and classical music, his passion was traditional country & western and its various sub-styles.
In 1991, Roy left WMNF to go to work for Radio Cayman in the Cayman Islands and Lou Al was a natural choice to take over his "Country Music Memories" show since he had been a guest on the program so many times. His knowledge of the music was considered impeccable, but for whatever reason, by 1994 the program was cancelled by WMNF.
In private life, Lou Al, who had great skills as a computer programmer, worked for local financial institutions, including the Central Bank of Tampa, and retired from General Telephone. The lifetime Palmetto Beach, Tampa resident passed away August 25, 2014 at the age of 73.
(Special thanks to Roy Bodden & Dick Wheeler for their help. Photo: Roy Bodden)
1991 - 1994 Other Tampa Bay Area Stations (On Air Personality)