BY Stephen T. Watson – NEWS STAFF REPORTER

on October 26, 2010 – 12:01 AM – Original article

After two years off the air, “Slick Tom” is back on the radio at his old home at 97 Rock.

The veteran, gravelly voiced DJ returns to his 7 p.m. to midnight time slot on WGRF-FM 96.9 beginning tonight.

Tom Tiberi, who was laid off in November 2008 by Citadel Communications in a cost-cutting move, said he’s thrilled for the chance to return to the airwaves and do what he loves.

“I can’t wait — I really missed it,” he said Monday in between promotional appearances on 97 Rock and its sister station, 103.3 The Edge, adding, “I had almost given up hope.”

Tiberi, who is 49, had worked in radio for the better part of 30 years and had served as the night-shift DJ at 97 Rock for 12 years before he was laid off.

Citadel, which reorganized after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year, replaced a number of night-shift DJs at its stations with prerecorded programming in an effort to save money, Tiberi said.

The last two years were difficult financially for Tiberi. He started a Web site, www.slicktom.com, and a daily podcast that gave him a forum to share his uncensored thoughts and interact with his fans.

In his very first podcast, from July 2009, Tiberi said he was glad to be free from “the corporate moguls, the corporate pigs, that rule what is now the vast wasteland of commercial radio.”

That doesn’t sound like the kind of place to which someone would want to return.

But Tiberi said he makes a distinction between the 97 Rock managers he likes and respects and the top Citadel muckety-mucks he believes are part of the industry’s problems.

“Well, you know, I’ve got to make a living,” Tiberi said with a laugh. “Let me tell you something — commercial radio has finally done something intelligent.”

The station received thousands of e-mails, phone calls and letters from Tiberi’s “ultra hard-core” fans after he was let go, said Citadel Buffalo general manager Chet Osadchey.

“In 20 years of being in this business, I’ve never seen a following like this,” said Osadchey, who added the station intended all along to bring back Tiberi as soon as it could.

Citadel’s financial situation has improved, Tiberi said, and an offer to return to his old full-time shift came earlier this month from 97 Rock program director John Hager and Osadchey. “I’m not making as much as I was before, but I’m back in the game,” Tiberi said.

He describes his show as “a talk show with music,” and he looks forward to calls from listeners and talking about football and news of the day.

“We think it’s going to be a smashing success,” said Osadchey, who said Tiberi’s return already is getting interest from advertisers.

Returning to 97 Rock on Monday morning, he said it seemed like he was just returning from a long weekend. The station even saved his sound effects and his settings on the control board.

“It felt like I never left,” Tiberi said. “I was joking: At least the Bills got better while I left.”

e-mail: swatson@buffnews.com

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