Pete Fornatale, who was a New York City area disk jockey since 1964 on WFUV, WNEW-FM an WXRK (K-Rock), as well as an author and teacher, died on Thursday. He was 66.
Pete started in radio when he was a student at Fordham University with a free form rock show titled Campus Caravan. By 1969, he found himself at WNEW-FM, one of the leading progressive rock stations of the late 60s and the 70s. Together with Dave Herman, Scott Muni, Jonathan Schwartz, Allison Steele, Vin Scelsa, Dennis Elsas and Richard Neer, Pete was part of a stable of DJs who were knowledgeable and conversational, unlike the presentation of top 40 music on the local AM stations.
Until the late 70s, each DJ on WNEW-FM got to pick all (later whittled down to many, then some) of the music they played. If Pete was a friend, to me he was the friend with generally good taste who kept showing up with a record or two he loved for some reason I could not fathom. But like any good friend, I got past that.
By 1980, the era in which DJs had choice over what they played was over. Pete noted this by saying the DJs were like master chefs and they were now turned into waiters. Pete then created a specialty show, titled Mixed Bag on which he played pretty much what he wanted. Since 2001, Pete broadcast at WFUV, the station at Fordham University, where he started.
In addition to his radio work, Pete wrote several books (some with his son, Peter, a book editor) and in the late 60s also taught high school English. Working with him at that time was Dennis Elsas, who would also work with Pete at WNEW-FM and WFUV.