EASTHAM — When Joe Rossetti was a kid, back in the 1960s, his family spent summers at a cottage in North Truro, just steps away from Highland Light and Coast Guard Beach.
The rest of the year, they lived in Hopedale, about 120 miles away.
When they were here, Rossetti recalls, “My dad would go beachcombing every morning, and he’d wake me up before the sun came up. I was all in, every time.” Now 60, Rossetti lives in North Eastham and is the host of the “Wicked Cool Morning Show” on WCIB-FM (Cool 102). He always knew he’d be back here for good: “It wasn’t a question of ‘if,’ it was a question of ‘when.’ ”
Rossetti, who is rarely seen without one of his many baseball caps, has worked in Cape Cod radio since 1989. On Cool 102, he’s on the air at 5 a.m., which means he’s up by 2:30 a.m. “at the latest.” When his Cool 102 show ends at 10 a.m., he’s on for the midday shift on WCOD (both stations are owned by iHeart Radio).
Rossetti rises early even when he isn’t behind the radio board. “The rest of the time, when I’m not with family, I’m out and about,” he says.
Three years ago, when his wife, Lynn, gave him a camera, his being out and about got more focused. He’s become well known for his spectacular photography of the Cape’s outermost beaches. He has shot stunning sunrises at Eastham’s Coast Guard Beach and documented the occasional unveiling of one of the “Three Sisters” foundations near Nauset Light at low tide. One of his most popular shots is of a snowy owl perched on the Darby Memorial during a “nasty morning” at Long Point in Provincetown.
“There was a snowy owl sitting on the cross next to the light,” Rossetti says. “I’m just sitting there taking pictures, saying to the bird, ‘Don’t wake up! Don’t wake up!’ To me it was solid gold.”
Rossetti’s not looking to turn his newfound craft into another profession. He took a photography course back in the 1970s, but never grasped the technical end of the art. “I’ve sold a few of my prints,” he says, but he’d rather just post his photographs on Facebook, especially on the Provincetown Photography page, where they’re among viewers’ favorites.
“People say, ‘You’re always in the right place.’ ” The secret to that, he says, is simple. “Actually, I just get out. If it’s a blizzard, I’m out there. If it’s a gale, I’m out there. If it’s the morning after a horrendous storm, I’m out there. If you’re the first one on the beach after the storm, it’s a whole new picture.”
Back in the ’60s, from late June until Labor Day, Rossetti kept busy with other vacationing kids by playing Wiffle ball near the edge of the dunes. “If you hit a foul ball 75 feet down the cliff, you just ran down there and got it,” he says. An old shack that was used as a lookout for spotting German U-boats during World War II was perfect for “playing Army.” His parents rigged up a loud horn to call him home for meals.
“We were just young hearts running free,” he says. “We were lucky.”
His radio adventures have introduced him to a slew of music celebrities, including Joey Molland of Badfinger, Peter Frampton, Rod Argent of the Zombies, and Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders, who autographed Rossetti’s copy of a Raiders reel-to-reel album.
“Here I am as a little kid, always listening to records in my room, and reading all the liner notes, the magazines, all that,” Rossetti says. “That was my library.” Radio work — the chance to have conversations with the people he had admired and listened to as a 10-year-old — was perfect for him.
Rossetti was introduced to radio in the late ’70s. His first full-time slot was at WXLO in Worcester in the ’80s.
During those inland years, he says, “I had one of those panoramic shots of the beach in North Truro over my bathroom mirror.” He used it as a guide star. “I kept saying, ‘I’m going back, I’m going back.’ ”
He finally landed back on the Cape with a job at WKPE in Orleans in 1989.
Rossetti and his wife were briefly co-general managers of the Cape Cod Baseball League’s Orleans Cardinals. During their time there, future Major League stars such as Nomar Garciaparra, Todd Helton, and Aaron Boone were sharpening their craft.
“It was fun watching the ball players,” he says. But it wasn’t for him. “I couldn’t watch the game the same way.”
His true games are radio and photography. And there’s no place he’d rather play them than Outer Cape Cod. “My heart lies here,” he says, out and about “from Eastham to P’town.”