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All-aboard! Night Train keeps on rockiní

MASON CITY — It’s after 8 p.m. on a dark and chilly North Iowa night, and the strobe light on the phone is flashing again in the studio at KLKK- FM 103.7, The Fox. Bruce Wasenius picks up and takes a couple requests from a caller — one for a song and one for a shout-out. By Joe Buttweiler.|By Joe Buttweiler

MASON CITY — It’s after 8 p.m. on a dark and chilly North Iowa night, and the strobe light on the phone is flashing again in the studio at KLKK- FM 103.7, The Fox.

Bruce Wasenius picks up and takes a couple requests from a caller — one for a song and one for a shout-out.

He makes his notes and soon is back on the air. “It’s the ‘80s at 8, going till … 9 o’clock. Sounds good to me,” Wasenius coyly says into the puffy microphone, emphasizing the pause as if the ‘80s at 8 might go on even later.

Then in his usual mellow, laid-back voice he rattles off several shout-outs to listeners on the airwaves and online. “Wherever you’re listening tonight, I appreciate it,” he says.

The feeling’s mutual.

“He’s very popular. The phones are always ringing (or flashing) when he’s on,” says Scott Taylor, who’s manning the adjacent KISS Country studio this evening at North Iowa Broadcasting in downtown Mason City.

So popular, Taylor said, that he’d like to see a groundswell of support to get Wasenius inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

As host of The Night Train on 103.7 The Fox for the past three years, he’s been an entertaining, creative and friendly companion to North Iowa fans of classic rock. From 7 p.m. to midnight weekdays and 3 to 7 p.m. on weekends, they get to hear great music and interesting rock facts and anecdotes from an old-school DJ whose career has spanned five decades.

After coming to North Iowa in 1978 to work at KZEV-FM 103.1 in Clear Lake, Wasenius worked with the station’s founder, Darryl “The Mad Hatter” Hensley, in putting together the first Buddy Holly tribute in 1979. It featured Wolfman Jack, Del Shannon, The Drifters and many others. The station received worldwide attention from the tribute, which continues to bring hundreds of rock fans to Clear Lake each year.

It’s been a fantastic journey for Wasenius, meeting more rock legends than he’d ever imagine, and getting to introduce listeners — in person and on air — to some of the greatest rock music and musicians of all time. “There’s so many bands it would be impossible to list them all,” said Wasenius.

Unlike a lot of radio personalities, he’s been Bruce Wasenius throughout his radio career except for a stint as Jim Day with the Midwest at Night in Yankton.

Wasenius enjoys arranging the songs he plays on a given night ñ most chosen by the station director, James Shaman, others called in as requests ñ for listeners’ maximum enjoyment. Wasenius fills the between-time with amusing anecdotes and subtle humor.

He thinks of it this way: If all he had for entertainment was a radio, what would he like to hear?

The father of three ñ daughter Melissa and sons Julian and Anthony ñ Wasenius said the most fun aspect of the job is being able to relate with listeners.

His devotion to throwing a cool musical party on-air is easy to hear as he glides through his shift, answering phones, giving away tickets and airing classic rock.

“It’s funny to be playing music now that I did 20, 25 years ago,” he said, like AC/DC, Metallica and Motley Crue. Asked his favorite band, he paused as if it was almost painful to name just one. He said he’s been into the Red Hot Chili Peppers lately. Favorite guitarist isn’t so tough. Carlos Santana.

So how long will The Night Train keep on chugging?

“Paul Harvey did it until he was 93. I don’t think I’ll go that long, but as long as I can still remember who played guitar for the bands …”

No doubt many listeners are hoping it’ll be a long way down the tracks before Wasenius steps off the train, and that the Hall will come aboard well ahead of that last stop.|

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