Life is funny. Sometimes, an idea that starts off as a joke turns out to be one of the coolest things ever. I guess that’s how a lot of life’s greatest visions formulate.
I’ve known Chris “Shady” Torres since the summer of 2011, when he started refereeing for American Championship Entertainment. An outstanding official and overall nice guy, I never understood why his nickname was Shady. Regardless of which, I found that, through years of conversations, both Shady and myself share a passion for WCBS-FM 101.1 and the greatness the station has brought throughout the years.
“New York’s Greatest Hits” has been a staple of my life since the early 1990s. Every morning before I went to school, my mom would always have Harry Harrison on the kitchen radio. While I ate my oatmeal or pancakes, “the Morning Mayor” would unwrap every day like a precious gift and bring a classy, yet entertainment radio program to the airwaves. At 7:20 every morning, Mr. Harrison would announce people’s birthdays, while enjoying a witty banter alongside weatherman Mr. G, giving heads up to those on windy days with a “toupee warning”. Phil Pepe would be there with sports, and Al Meredith read the day’s headlines every half hour. That was my morning ritual every day for 10 years. Once Mr. Harrison left morning weekday radio in 2003, my mornings feel a little empty, especially without “the Morning Mayor” guiding my day to a positive start.
Thankfully, my folks also introduced me to other great jocks on 101.1 FM, with the likes of Cousin Brucie, Norm N. Nite, Dandy Dan Taylor, Ron “Hello Love!” Lundy and Bill Brown with the Brown Bag! However, I stopped listening to 101.1 FM on the dial due to the JACK experiment we don’t talk about…EVER. When the “oldies format” returned in 2007, I was nervous to listen after having my heart broken, so I just didn’t.
Yet, after frequent conversations with Shady at ACE and online about what I felt about the “glory days” of WCBS-FM in 2012, Chris got me listening once again. Although the older days were gone with the jocks mentioned, newer jocks came in on a full-time basis. Naturally, radio pioneer Scott Shannon gave the station an extra boost in the morning with his arrival in 2014, but besides the great Bob Shannon, two newer jocks to the station brought that local New York flavor with the turnover in 2007. One was Broadway Bill Lee, a very talented jock; however the other was a gentleman Shady personally told me to listen to and enjoy: Brooklyn’s own Joe Causi.
Joe Causi is a smooth character. At first listen, you could hear the passion in his voice as it comes to the greatest city in the world, Brooklyn, and music. Doing my research, I had no idea that the Bensonhurst native was one of the last dancers on the dance floor of 2001 Odyssey, which was the dance club seen in Saturday Night Fever, which is my all-time favorite movie. I also did not know he was a major focal point of playing disco music on KTU on 103.5 FM during the 1980s before KTU became a more modern station. Throughout his over 10 years on WCBS-FM, Causi has built a very reputable name as one of the most beloved DJs in station history, and one of my favorites going today.
Shady’s passion towards WCBS-FM and the jocks on the station got me back into listening to 101.1 on more of a regular basis. On my drives to ACE in both Union City and Wallington, as well as treks to my girlfriend’s house on Fridays, the station would be on. More importantly, an infusion of songs started to come in from the 1990s. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where the story truly picks up. This is where the beginnings of the #SmoothTag come into play.
HOW THE #SMOOTHTAG STARTED - One night in the fall of 2015, I was driving on the Garden State Parkway. In my car, I tuned the station to WCBS-FM, as I was headed to my love’s house in the midst of my 25 mile drive. I’ll never forget it. After Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” played (another personal favorite of mine), a familiar song from my teenage years played. A strong guitar riff and the voice of Matchbox Twenty singing started filling my ears. Naturally, I recognized that it was “Smooth” by Santana featuring Rob Thomas on vocals. For those that need a basic gist on the background of the song, I’m taking the basic description of the song from Wikipedia:
"Smooth" is a collaboration between Latin rock band Santana and Matchbox Twenty vocalist Rob Thomas. The song was written by Thomas, DeGaetano, and Itaal Shur, produced by Matt Serletic and sung by Thomas. It won three Grammy Awards: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals. Not only was it the final number-one Hot 100 hit of the 1990s, it was also the number-two Hot 100 hit of the 20th century. "Smooth" is the only song to appear on two decade-end Billboard charts. As of 2013, "Smooth" is ranked the second most successful song of all time by Billboard.
ALWAYS TRUST WIKIPEDIA.
With the worldwide popularity of Smooth, I know that it’s a legendary track, but I didn’t expect to hear it on WCBS-FM, especially with the song only being 16 years old (at the time). After playing with the radio dial for a few moments, just to confirm my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me, I felt three different emotions at once:
Joy, due to the excitement of one of my favorite songs playing
Shock, due to Smooth actually being played on WCBS-FM
Melancholy, due to feeling old that a song from my generation was now on rotation on the “oldies” station
With a flush of feelings running through my mind and body, I jammed out with the speakers on blast in my car. Ironically, the DJ playing the song was Joe Causi.
I saw Shady the next day at an ACE show. In mere words, I told what I had heard on WCBS-FM. In mere moments, Shady told me that more and more 1990s tunes were finding themselves into regular airplay on 101.1 FM. In stunned shock, I told him how I felt. In Chris’s own words, he put me into a more positive mindset by saying that once Scott Shannon found himself at the station, more of an influence of 1990s music would be on the station. Mix in the fact that 1990s tunes aren’t heard at ALL on terrestrial radio nowadays, this would ultimately be a positive move. Shady was right.
Quickly, over the coming weeks, Shady and I would joke with each other whenever WCBS-FM was on and “Smooth” hit the radio. We would Facebook each other with a quick #SmoothTag comment at the exact moment it was on. It was silly, but entertaining. Thus, the #SmoothTag was born. However, it didn’t start to pick up until we brought it to another level: the #HardwayHQ Podcasting Network.
THE NEXT CHAPTER: THE HARDWAY PODCAST – In 2016, I really started to reboot the mothership of #HardwayHQ, the Hardway Podcast. Knowing that I was looking to kick off this very website in the summer of 2016, I needed to revamp the Hardway into a shorter, more condensed show. Although the Shorter Podcast Theory was months away, this was a precursor to it. Shorter interviews combined with fun segments, the Hardway needed one thing to put it over the top. Beating my brain, trying to think of an idea, I saw that Shady gave me heads up on another #SmoothTag and an idea was born. Shady would introduce the #SmoothTag to the podcasting realm, video recording it for a quick clip, and sending it to me so I could incorporate it on the podcast. However, knowing me, I knew I wanted to make it a competition. ENTER ‘Stu Hart’.
If you listen to the Hardway, you all know the deal with ‘Stu’. He’s not here, but in the HQniverse, he’s alive and kicking. ‘Stu’ challenged Shady to a #SmoothTag competition. ‘Stu’ and Shady combined to unleash a plethora of #SmoothTag on #HardwayHQ. Here is an example of such during an episode of the Hardway back in March.
This was a lot of fun for both of us to do. Of course, Shady, ever the creative genius, took the competition to Instagram and really made it work. (Follow him on Instagram at Shady1227) The coolest thing about using #SmoothTag was that he would record a video and then tag me, #HardwayHQ, WCBS-FM, and the DJ on the air at the time that played the song. Shady is a smart man. That is why it was even cooler when September 17, 2016 rolled around.
JOE CAUSI RECOGNIZES THE #SMOOTHTAG – On 9/17, while I was enjoying a Fudgie the Whale cake 2 days prior to my 31st birthday, Shady went and hit up the 90th Annual Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy, in which “Brooklyn’s Own” was the grand marshal of the parade! During the festivities, Shady went up to Mr. Causi and asked for an autograph. Mr. Causi recognized Shady and simply said, “SMOOTH TAG!” In shock, Shady then knew that Mr. Causi paid attention to the #SmoothTag “phenomenon” that Shady created and watched every video EVERY TIME Shady tagged him. They got a photo and became Instagram friends.
On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Shady Instagrammed me a message with this video from Mr. Causi’s Instagram account:
With that said, we knew that the #SmoothTag was officially cool. The coolest guy in the room just vindicated it. I officially knew that the #SmoothTag was a fun deal.
So kids, when you try a million things, one might just stick out, even on the world of social media. A joke between Chris “Shady” Torres and me became a recognizable hashtag and running Instagram story that our favorite DJ on WCBS-FM, Joe Causi, did a video on.
Thank you Mr. Causi for making us cool. Thank you Shady for starting a very small, but fun movement. And most of all, thank you Carlos Santana and Rob Thomas for your song. If not for you, the #SmoothTag wouldn’t be possible.
“Because you're so smooth…”