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Obituaries

Robert C. Alianiello, popular WCAO and WBAL radio DJ who introduced The Beatles at a 1966 concert, dies

Robert C. Alianiello, a popular WCAO and WBAL radio disc jockey known on the air as Robert C. Allen III among other names and who introduced The Beatles and The Rolling Stones at 1960s concerts, died of congestive heart failure Jan. 15 at Lorien Mays Chapel in Timonium. The Lutherville resident was 83.

Born in East Providence, Rhode Island, he was the son of Gerardo Alianiello, a golf course groundskeeper, and Rosa La Bella, a homemaker distantly related to the late Italian tenor Enrico Caruso.

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In retirement, Robert C. Alianiello recorded voice-overs and public service messages.

Mr. Alianiello graduated from Providence High School in 1956 and then joined the Navy.

While in the military he credited listening to a popular Washington, D.C., AM radio station, WEAM, now known as WZHF, as suggesting a new career.

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He served in the medical corps in Bethesda at the National Naval Medical Center, now known as Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

While posted there he met his future wife, Agnes “Judy” Yvonne Hankinson, a Pentagon secretary.

After leaving the military Mr. Alianiello attended the Northeast School of Broadcasting in Boston. While in school, he was hired part time at WHIL in Medford, Massachusetts, and later at WARE in Ware, Massachusetts.

He created the radio on-air name of Bob Allen and changed jobs more than once. He broadcast from Springfield, Massachusetts, on a morning radio show at WHYN. He also hosted WHYN-TV 40′s “Dance Party,” which welcomed major acts, including Roy Orbison and The Ronettes. Mr. Orbison brought along a then-unknown Bobby Goldsboro.

According to his autobiography, he moved yet again. Harry Averill, the general manager at WEAM Radio in Washington, D.C., recruited him in 1964.

For three years, Mr. Alianiello, whose name was now Russ Wheeler, established a presence in the Washington pop music scene during a time when AM radio was a dominant cultural force.

Among the acts he interviewed and introduced at concerts and record hops were Brian Hyland, Bobby Hebb, The McCoys, Brenda Lee, Sam the Sham and a Baltimore-based performer, Ronnie Dove.

As Russ Wheeler, Mr. Alianiello met and introduced The Beatles at D.C. Stadium on Aug. 15, 1966. He also introduced The Rolling Stones at Uline Arena, now the Washington Coliseum.

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Mr. Alianiello left WEAM in early 1967 for the production director position at KDKA in Pittsburgh, but missed being on the air and returned to Washington to join WPGC, where he operated middays as the first Bob Peyton on a show called “Peyton’s Place.” He also returned to WEAM for a while as Russ Wheeler.

During the summer of 1967 he moved again to WFIL/Famous 56 in Philadelphia and worked in production and on the air.

He resumed his Bob Allen persona, but soon became Tony Edwards at WIBG in Philadelphia.

In 1969 he grew tired of changing jobs and cities and moved to Baltimore to WCAO-AM. A station manager chose another new name — Robert C. Allen III. Mr. Alianiello took the morning drive-time slot and became a fixture at the station.

“Bob was a first-class person,” said Jack Edwards, who was another WCAO disc jockey and on-air personality. “I’d be coming off the night shift and Bob took over for me. He was one of the greats.”

Another career move came in 1977 when he hosted the morning show for a year at Baltimore’s WLPL as Robert C. Allen.

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Mr. Alianiello moved to WBAL Radio as the station’s afternoon music show host. He later had a stint as an overnight talk show host.

“I recall being on the school bus going to Mount Saint Joe,” said John Patti, former WBAL-Radio news co-anchor. “Bob would be broadcasting the school lunch menu.”

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He returned to WCAO in 1985 to host middays as R.C. Allen until the station went through a format change in 1991. He later became morning drive host of an oldies program on WWLG.

Mr. Alianiello, in his autobiography, said he enjoyed his radio career and preserved an archive of his on-air tapes from his career in the 1960s and 1970s.

“Bob had a great sense of humor. He was a great friend to me and was a caring and compassionate person,” said Joseph “Joe” Evelius, a radio historian. “He was a warm and engaging on-air personality.”

In retirement, Mr. Alianiello tended a backyard Lutherville garden and recorded many voice-overs and public service messages that aired on radio stations.

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“He could put a stick in the ground and it would grow,” said his son, Dr. Robert G. Alianiello. “He once raised a tomato plant to a height of 8 feet.”

Survivors include two daughters, Janice M. Shagena of Kernersville, North Carolina, and Teresa “Terri” R. Potter of St. George, Utah; a son, Dr. Robert G. Alianiello of White Marsh; and seven grandchildren. His wife, Agnes “Judy” Yvonne Hankinson, former Pentagon secretary and homemaker, died in 2016.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be Friday at 11 a.m. at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church at 8420 Belair Road in Fullerton.


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