|
|
The Suburbanite
  • Freddy 'The Frog' Shaheen to be feted

  • When the community honors radio personality Freddie the Frog on Aug. 16, honor will be paid for the success Fred Shaheen has found with his familiar voice.
    • email print
  • When the community honors radio personality Freddie the Frog on Aug. 16, honor will be paid for the success Fred Shaheen has found with his familiar voice.
    Respect also will be paid to the man, however, for the acts of kindness that came from his large and generous heart.
    Likely you know the sound of Shaheen’s voice.
    Perhaps you‘ve heard Shaheen over the airways. He has assumed his radio identity for decades, first on WAND 900 AM in the 1960s and most recently on WRQK 106.9 FM, from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays.
    “From 1970 to 1985, it was Sunday Morning Oldies and from 1985 to the present days it’s been Classic Rock Oldies,” Shaheen said. “I’ve taken one Sunday off in 32 years, when I went to my niece’s wedding.”
    Or, maybe you’ve heard him — with his extensive collection of music — as a deejay for parties and events. Shaheen started doing dances at the YWCA for grade-school pupils and continued with All-City Night dances for high-schoolers at the YMCA.
    “I bought a $99 portable PA system with a turntable,” he recalled. “I played 78 rpm’s and 45s. It was 29 cents apiece for 45s.”
    It is likely, too, you have heard and seen Shaheen introducing acts at local music performances, including those for the Hall of Fame Festival.
    Shaheen was on the parade committee in the festival’s early years, worked the style show luncheon when it was at the Onesto Hotel and is a regular introducing performers that his radio station has sponsored for the festival’s Ribs Burnoff.
    “I’ve introduced just about everybody at the Ribs Burnoff going back to 1997, when we brought in Donny Iris,” said Shaheen.
    Still, Shaheen speaks just as loudly at moments when music is merely the vehicle for supporting causes that are dear to his heart. When the songs and the sincerity of his commitment to helping the community find themselves in the same space, there is contentment for Freddie the Frog.
    “I love Motown,” he recalled. “I can take you back to 1970, in November, when we brought Stevie Wonder to the Civic Center to back the March of Dimes.”
    SHAHEEN SERVED
    Shaheen, who has found time between his radio career and community activities to operate Fred’s Carpet since 1970, was the president of the March of Dimes campaign for several years. He also appeared on many local Muscular Dystrophy telethon broadcasts. And he is a sponsor of Special Olympics athletic events.
    He also has worked to raise funds and awareness for the area’s mentally challenged children.
    Page 2 of 2 - Appearances at local annual celebrations — he has been the deejay for the Sebring homecoming for more than three decades — also are examples of his service to the community.
    “You give and you receive,” said Shaheen, who through his store often donates prizes to fundraisers. “When I was battling cancer, I got more than 4,000 get-well cards from listeners and customers.”
    MANY FRIENDS
    Indeed, most of Freddie the Frog’s listeners consider themselves friends. When they call into his show, more than likely they will reach Freddie the Frog.
    “For the three hours I’m on, I do everything from fielding my phone calls, playing the records and doing the commercials,” said Shaheen. “We keep obscure cuts that nobody else ever has. We play the full long versions. If I don’t have it, I go get it and play it the next week. I carry my own collection to the studio. It’s five cases and each case had 400 disks in it.”
    Even a routine day at the studio, however, is likely to include time spent helping individuals in the community — most notably disabled veterans. “We (his family and listeners) have adopted a family,” said Shaheen, who has been married to his wife, Charlotte, for more than 50 years and has three children, Tony, Joni, and Renee. “He’s a Vietnam vet. He’s a listener — skinny with long hair and he loves music — and everybody waits each Sunday morning for his request. He’s old school, a rocker who used to play guitar in a band.”
    Listeners send in contributions to help the veteran, a man named Mike. They buy food cards for his family. They offer words of support — for both the veteran and for Shaheen’s sense of urgency in reaching out to help such individuals.
    “It’s been very rewarding,” said Shaheen. “The show has helped a lot of people I didn’t know it helped, through the music.”
    Shaheen was reminded of that by a letter and a contribution that was sent to him by a woman listener who began by writing, “Dear Freddie the Frog.”
    “Please forward this gift to Mike. You are a good man who cares. I admire you for your heart and soul. God bless you.”
    Inside the envelope was a $100 bill. Shaheen was touched, smiling in the retelling of the story.
    “I actually cried.”