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“Religion and Rock,” a nationally syndicated radio program with Msgr. Jim Vlaun of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, airs every Sunday from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. on WBAB-FM 102.3 or 95.3 on the East End. And Saturday evenings at 11pm on "The Catholic Channel" on Sirius Satellite Radio channel 159 and XM Satellite Radio channel 117.

A Brief History of Religion and Rock Religion and Rock began as a concept in the mind of Fr. Bill Ehers in the 1970s. Our first show aired in 1975, with Fr. Bill as host. The show was only half an hour long then, and all the music was played from vinyl records. R&R was recorded onto audio tape reels and played on Sunday Mornings at 8:00 AM on WBAB, 102.3 FM. The early founders of WBAB, and the station management strongly supported such an endeavor as well as the knowledge that it would fulfill the requirement of the FCC to provide “Public Service Broadcasting” each week to the listening public.

In 1978, Fr. Tom Hartman took over as host of R&R. Fr. Tom had a knowledge of the music, and also a great sense of broadcasting. Sal Capanzano served as producer, Charlie Kavanaugh as production coordinator, and Dennis Daniels as engineer. Fr. Tom helped introduce Long Island to rock bands with a message that helped thousands. He played the Who, The Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, ELP, Neil Young, and the entire host of “Album Rock” bands that made the seventies and eighties such a great time musically. At times, even R&R fell prey to the pressure of the pop craze, we have one notation of Madonna actually being played one Sunday! Religion and Rock was now an hour long program, and was growing in popularity on Long Island. Fr. Tom worked diligently to get the message of R&R beyond the boundaries of Long Island. In 1985 he secured a national syndication for the show through C.T.N.A. (The Catholic Television Network of America). Religion and Rock was now heard throughout the country and the show met with great reviews! As time went on, Sal Capanzano brought a new addition to R&R, Christian Rock. He had a deep devotion to the music and it was expressed on three of the ten songs that were played each week. It was a new concept to WBAB, and the owners were accepting. This tradition continued until Sal’s last show as producer.

In 1988 Fr. Tom had written his first book with Rabbi Marc Gellman. Fr. Tom knew that his time was going to be limited, and R&R needed to find a new host. He approached Fr. Jim Vlaun, who was a newly ordained priest. He was also a listener of Religion and Rock himself, and a Rock and Roll devotee. Fr. Jim received the news with excitement and decided to give the hosting job a try. After a year or so, in late 1988 Fr. Jim hosted his first show. The script was written out word for word, and his voice sounded like a whisper. As time went on, Fr. Jim became more comfortable behind the mike, and he brought his gifts to the show. In addition, Sal Capanzano was no longer able to produce R&R, Charlie Kavanagh was retiring and Stephen Shaldone, who had taken over for Dennis Daniels as engineer in 1988, assumed the role of producer. The second week Fr. Jim hosted the show, he went to the water cooler at the station for a drink during a long song. He bunked into none other than Julian Lennon (John Lennon’s son) and asked him immediately to be a guest on the show. Julian walked right in, and breaking all protocol, became the first guest on the show. Afterwards, Fr. Jim and Steve thought it would be good to have more rock stars on the show.

Fr. Jim established ties throughout the music industry and was able to interview many of the rock world’s greatest musicians; Sting, Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, John Mellencamp, Stevie Nicks, and many others were soon a part of the history of R&R. Technology has grown tremendously throughout our history. Religion and Rock is now recorded on DAT and CD each week. Sunday mornings are impossible for Fr. Jim to broadcast live due to his Mass schedule. Fr. Jim and Steve are proud to be a part of the WBAB family. They are involved in many of the WBAB charities and community outreach. After September 11th, Fr. Jim broadcast live with Roger and JP for six consecutive days. Hundreds of Long Islanders called in for on air help or to feel cared for and listened to. A special memorial show was also produced and played a number of times throughout the September 11th ordeal.

R&R continues to receive support from WBAB after over twenty-five years of broadcasting. Fr. Jim is grateful for the continued support of his WBAB family and looks forward to even more developments as he and Shaldone continue to do God’s work on the radio! He has recently established a foundation, The Life, Love, and Laughter Foundation, which awards tuition monies to needy high school students. Look for a fund raising concert to celebrate R&R’s anniversary! They end every show with the words “Say a prayer”. They mean it, and believe that God is with us, in everything we do, especially in our music. THAT is good news!

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