Top 5: More Hall-of-Famers

Whatever happened to all the famous DJs?  The best-known jock in America right now is probably Ryan Seacrest, although he’s less famous for being on the radio than for hosting American Idol. It used to be Howard Stern, but he’s been a talk show host for years, and he’s disappeared into the anonymity of satellite radio—a good move financially and for his freedom of speech, but not one that’s likely to build his fan base. True, there are lots of people doing solid work in cities across the country, and some of them end up with national gigs, but national gigs ain’t what they used be, given the number of stations, both terrestrial and Internet-based.

Take a look at this survey from WABC in New York dated April 20, 1963, and specifically at the jock lineup. Several of these guys became national radio celebrities, and three would be first-ballot choices in anybody’s Hall of Fame. A couple others would deserve consideration, too:

Dan Ingram would stay at WABC until 1982 (when it abandoned music for talk) and then work at WCBS-FM from 1991 to 2003. I’ve quoted a line of Ingram’s for years, one that I heard when he was on a panel at a radio convention attended, that the key to becoming a great DJ was to be able to go to the bathroom in three minutes or less, the length of a typical record. (Ingram’s version was a bit more scatological, however.)

Scott Muni followed Ingram every night, and would leave radio briefly in the mid-60s before returning as one of the pioneers of free-form “progressive” radio, spending three decades on afternoons at WNEW-FM. He hosted several nationally syndicated series and specials throughout his career.

Bruce Morrow, the legendary “Cousin Brucie,” would be on the air in New York daily until 1977 before hosting oldies shows locally in New York and in national syndication, most famously Cruisin’ America. He’s been on the Sirius/XM ’60s channel since 2005.

Herb Oscar Anderson was present at the creation of Top 40, working for Storz Broadcasting’s WDGY in Minneapolis. He joined WABC when it went Top 40 in 1960. “The Morning Mayor of New York” left WABC in 1968, claiming that he didn’t like the newer music he was being asked to play. (Anderson’s son is actor John James, a 1980s heartthrob on Dynasty.)

Sam Holman was the program director who put WABC’s Top 40 format on the air; he later did the same at WLS in Chicago, and worked on-air there as well. He eventually became the head of programming for all of ABC’s Top 40 stations during the 1960s, and is one of the genre’s forgotten pioneers.

As for the music on WABC this week in 1963, it was girl groups aplenty: the Chiffons, the Cookies, the Shirelles, and the Orlons (actually three girls and a guy), plus Little Peggy March and Ruby and the Romantics, were all in the Top 10. There was a liberal sprinkling of MOR singers: Andy Williams, Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, Jack Jones, Eydie Gorme, but also some rock ‘n’ roll pioneers, including the Beach Boys and Roy Orbison. And some classic hits, too: “Surfin’ USA,” “Puff the Magic Dragon,” “On Broadway,” “Da Doo Ron Ron.” It’s easy to say—and I’ve done it myself—that by 1963, the British Invasion had to happen, to shake American pop music out of its post-Elvis funk, but there’s plenty on this chart that’s still worth listening to 46 years later.