Radio icon ‘Big Al’ Warren remembered for quick wit, love of WICC

MILFORD — Though Salvatore Capello’s name and face were not especially well known, his voice was instantly familiar to a generation of radio listeners.

Capello, 86, who was better known by the on-air name Big Al Warren, died on March 26. He was a longtime radio broadcaster for WICC600 in Milford.

Allan Lamberti, WICC’s program director, said the Big Al Warren radio persona was completely genuine.

“Listeners who were fortunate enough to meet him in person would quickly learn that the Big Al Warren they loved to listen to on the radio as a broadcaster was just the same in real life,” Lamberti said.

On Sunday, March 27, WICC600 posted on its Facebook page a statement saying it is with “a heavy heart” that the station announces the death of Big Al.

“Big Al was a wonderful broadcaster and fixture at the radio station since the 1960s and will be truly missed by all of us at WICC,” the statement concluded.

Capello started his broadcasting career for WNAB in 1965 when he finished college, where we would read the local news every night from the newsroom of The Bridgeport Post.

Before starting his career at WICC-600, he worked for 10 other AM radio stations in Connecticut and New York.

“That WNAB gig got me a job at WWCO in Waterbury. I was working part-time, but it turned out to be about 40 hours per week,” Capello said in 2012. “I was there for a few months, and then I got the job at WICC, and I’ve been there, for the most part, ever since.”

One of Big Al’s listeners, Steve Mannix, said he used to work in a grocery store in the 1980s and would go to his car during his break time to listen to Big Al.

“I listened to him play oldies on my break in the early 1980s, but only recently heard him back on the air with the Oh Wow Oldies Show on Saturday nights,” he said. “Now, when he was working on Saturday mornings, I tuned in on my portable radio while working in my truck all day. He was good to listen to, and I enjoyed having his company while working.”

Lamberti said working with Capello was an honor.

“He had an encyclopedic knowledge of both the music industry and the history of WICC,” Lamberti said. He added that Capello possessed “an incredibly quick wit, and he was a true pleasure to be around.”

But what always impressed Lamberti most about Capello was his work ethic.

“After his retirement, we were fortunate enough to bring him out of retirement to host Saturday mornings, but just for a few short years away from radio, the technology had changed dramatically,” he said. “Despite that, he was eager to learn and develop new skills and hit the ground running. With the popularity of Al’s return to WICC, we’ve expanded our weekend music programming and will continue to do so.”

In 1989, Capello was one of 34 staff members let go from his radio job after the sale from Tribune Broadcasting to NL Media. Needing work, he took an announcing gig at Danbury’s WLAD, 800 AM, where he stayed for two years and won an award for having the best radio show in Fairfield County.

In 1991, WICC took him back.

“It’s a great radio station, and a lot of big people went through its doors,” he said. “Bob Crane. Christopher Glenn of CBS. Steve Young, who’s with CNN now. Sam Rosen, who’s the announcer for the Rangers.”

For a time, he was on the air at three radio stations simultaneously. WICC, WWCO in Waterbury and WCC in Hartford. He also worked part-time at Hartford’s AM station WTIC and New Haven’s WNAC.

Capello retired from WICC600 in June of 2012.

Editor’s note — This story has been updated to correct a spelling error.