He has been rich, broke, drunk, sober, skinny, fat, famous and obscure.
Now in his 50s, Joey Reynolds apparently has found what he has been looking for, and it has nothing to do with money, booze, cocaine or fame.
"I've got peace of mind, I have a wonderful life, and I'm blessed," said Reynolds, a former rock jock who owns a place in Buffalo radio history.
For much of his radio career Reynolds played the role of a wild, talented jock, spinning records, talking trash and straddling the edge of sanity. Some say Reynolds is the personality who invented so-called "shock talk" radio 20 years before Howard Stern.
Reynolds, who is included in the radio exhibit at Cleveland's Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, was a star at WKBW in the station's halcyon days of the 1960s. KB dominated Buffalo radio, and Reynolds, a South Buffalo native and Timon High grad, was the big gun in his own hometown.
It couldn't last. The story goes that when Reynolds left KB after a dispute, he nailed a pair of his shoes to the program director's floor with a note: "Try and find somebody big enough to fill these."
Ah, the '60s, and those Big Chill memories. "Please, let's not get into that. I hate the whole rap about the '60s," Reynolds says in a telephone conversation from New York City. His current comeback finds Reynolds hosting an nationally syndicated overnight radio talk show, 1 to 5 a.m., on WOR-AM 710 in New York.
The show began a couple of months ago and already has 65 stations signed up, though it has yet to gain a station in the Buffalo market.
Reynolds' latest gig is another chapter in the life of a radio gypsy. His resume lists stops in about 30 cities, including Buffalo, Hartford, Miami, New York and L.A.
The scenario in each one was familiar: Joey was brilliant, Joey was a star, Joey was out of control, Joey was fired.
After three decades on a treadmill to oblivion, Reynolds seems finally to have learned his lesson. "Failure is what turned my life around," he says in an uncharacteristically quiet voice. "I lost everything, so I'm not afraid anymore."
Today's Joey Reynolds wears no masks. He says he has been sober for 17 years, regularly attends alcohol-related support meetings, is drug-free and a born-again Christian.
"What's interesting about Joey now is the way he has grown from his pain," said Elizabeth L. Dribben, like Reynolds a broadcasting star in Buffalo during the '60s who now lives in New York. "Joey has learned lessons from his pain, sorrow and loss.
"Now he's leading a different life, and he has this sense of discovery and he wants to share it. He's still an enormous talent and still has a sense of lunacy, but it's an endearing lunacy."
Reynolds is a single parent raising two daughters, ages 10 and 13. "My kids," he says, "are the focus of my life."
Radio is his other passion. Reynolds offers fun, warmth and wit on his current program. It's a far cry from his old style. "I don't want to hurt people and I don't want to put people down," he says. "What I do on the air now comes from the heart."
Despite the dramatic change in radio style, Reynolds is surprisingly comfortable and entertaining with the new show.
"It's an entertainment show with lots of listener calls and overnight backyard-fence talk," said David Bernstein, WOR program director. "Joey's interesting, funny, somewhat irreverent, and yet deals with the things that affect us all."
Reynolds' latest job came about by accident. He was working as a television executive in Los Angeles when he was asked to fill in for a week at WOR around Christmas time. He has been on ever since, and Reynolds is not surprised about his radio resurrection.
"In a way, it's not that different from the old days. Radio is still about personality and that's what I've got," he says. "I'm still at the top of my game."