Musicradio WABC Interviews

Over the years may of the famous names that worked at WABC have granted interviews about their experiences. There are many insights here. Interviews allow the WABC people to step back from their roles and explain how they did it. 

These interviews are not presented in any particular order.

Thanks to Scott Benjamin, we have an exclusive interview with Bob Hardt.   On August 1, 2003 Scott interviewed Bob for an hour at the New York ABC Radio news studios.  Bob discusses his career, how he got his job at WABC, what it was like being on the air at such a huge radio station and some of the people he worked with. Bob offers some terrific insights into WABC and the importance of radio news.  He also tells how he wrote the newscasts he did for eleven years on Dan Ingram's afternoon show and how he delivered them in a way to hold the music audience.  Bob is incredibly articulate and this interview is a great listen. Thanks to both Bob and Scott!


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Bob Lewis passed away on January on January 23, 1987.  Well known New York radio personality Dennis Elsas did a terrific tribute to him two weeks later on WNEW-FM.  Dennis speaks about meeting Bob, his radio and voice over career and his own admiration for a terrific talent.  Included are airchecks from the stations Bob worked at, some of his voice-over work and his own comments about his career (courtesy Dennis Elsas):


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Scott Benjamin interviews Chuck Leonard on November 29, 2002. In this interview, Chuck discusses his early days in radio,
how he got his job at WABC and some of his experiences at at the station.  Chuck also speaks of what he has done since WABC. It's a great interview with Chuck! (courtesy Scott Benjamin)


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Thanks to Dave Vieser, we have a Dan Ingram interview that was recorded in August 1965.  It's  interesting because it was done while Dan was just becoming a star rather than a recap of his experiences years later. Dave and Garry Armstrong (who conducts the interview) were students at Hofstra University and worked for its student radio station WVHC. They wrote to Dan at WABC about doing an interview.  Dave tells the story:

The interview was conducted after one of Dan's PM drive shows by Garry Armstrong, who was the assistant PD at WVHC at the time.  We simply wrote Dan a letter and asked if he would agree to be interviewed.  Within a few weeks, he called, agreed, and we set it up. He couldn't have been any nicer about it, which just shows again what a class guy he is. I was just a lowly engineer who went along for the ride.  Believe me, meeting Big Dan at WABC's west side studios was the thrill of a lifetime for me.

Dan talks about the pacing of his show at that time, the set up of the WABC studio, the WABC Music Meetings, his budding commercial voice over career, his reaction to fans, how he got into radio, where he thought his future was headed and he then does some promos for WVHC:


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Dan Ingram... Like you've never heard him before! In November of 1969, Dan was interviewed on WABC-FM by Mike Cuscuna who was then doing mornings on "FM". This is a VERY different sounding Dan Ingram (you won't believe it)! Keep in mind all of the WABC-AM airchecks from this same period. It makes you wonder if Dan was auditioning for "Progressive Rock".


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Dan Ingram and Jack Spector of WMCA were interviewed by Ted David on CNBC on July 10, 1993. They spoke about their careers, and the stations they worked at. Dan tells the story of "how he saved Ron Lundy's life (sort of)" and Jack tells why the music of the fifties and sixties is so important. (17 mins.)


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In November of 1982 Allan Handelman did an extensive interview with Dan Ingram on his "East Coast Live" radio program carried over WQDR in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is the longest Dan Ingram interview that I've ever heard. Allan spoke with him for more than two and a half hours playing airchecks and taking numerous phone calls from listeners who had questions for Dan. It is interesting because in November of 1982 WABC had only recently switched to talk (the preceding May). Dan's perspective on the station was from this point in time when it had only recently dropped music.

Part 1: Dan speaks briefly about his voice over career, Jack Ellsworth (Dan's early boss from WALK in Long Island NY) surprises Dan and tells stories about his early radio days. Herb Oscar Anderson calls in and he and Dan trade stories. "Superadio" comes up and Dan speaks as to why it never made it to the air. Interestingly Dan blamed it on difficulty selling it to advertisers, not the the inability signing up stations (which is the reason usually given). Dan answers various listener calls including a question about the state of radio "today". Dan also gives out the secret of where he dug up his "Word of the Day" words. (1 hour 13 mins.)


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Part 2: Allan asks Dan how he felt about the growth of FM. One of Dan's former engineers, Tom Zarecki, calls in and he and Dan talk about the atmosphere of WABC at its peak. Allan tells the story of the study that showed Dan Ingram getting a greater response from listeners than even the music (this was a big story in Billboard Magazine in the early seventies). Dan gives his opinion of Imus (very positive). Dan talks a bit about Ron Lundy off the air. Earl Bailey (then of WNEW-FM) calls in and talks about the now famous tribute he did for WABC. Allan asks Dan about all the imitators that sprang up around the country and Dan makes a brief reference to Bob Cruz. The famous Dan Ingram WABC promo which ran to attract WINS listeners when it went talk in 1965 is discussed. Earl Bailey talks about the impact WABC's switch to talk had and Dan comments on the tremendous media attention from May, 1982. Dan then tells how he got into voice overs and how five seconds of voice over work for Winston cigarettes became famous. Dan gives his opinion on different kinds of music and also talks about his closing theme. (1 hour 40 mins.)


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Thanks both to Allan Handelman for his permission to post this interview and to
Peter Kanze for making it available.

More information about Allan's radio program is available at The Allan Handelman Show.

"Apple Bites" Interviews
courtesy Vince Santarelli

Vince Santarelli of the Apple Bites New York Radio Newsletter interviewed Bruce Morrow on June 13, 1998. Vince asks Bruce about his start in radio, the various stations he has worked at, what lead to his departure from WABC and if he ever plans on retiring. (15 mins.)


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Vince also interviewed Harry Harrison on June 13, 1998. Harry speaks about his New York radio career from WMCA through WCBS-FM and also talks about the importance of his listeners. Harry's genuine sincerity really shows through in this interview. (23 mins.)


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Dan Ingram was also interviewed by Vince June 13, 1998. Vince asks Dan about his early days in radio, the story of how he got his job at WABC, the JFK assassination and various other stories from his WABC days. (25 mins.) 


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Dan Ingram was interviewed on the "Tom Leykis Show" in Los Angeles on June 25, 1998. Dan was guest hosting the morning show on KRTH in L.A. that week and stopped by Tom's show for an interview. Tom asks about his years on WABC and Dan talks about the phenomenal success of his time there. There are also several phone calls from listeners one of whom comments how Dan inspired him to go into radio. (21 mins.)


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Roby Yonge was an air personality at WABC from late 1967 until October 21, 1969. Roby has always been a controversial figure in the history of Musicradio WABC because he is remembered for his final broadcast. On that fateful evening, he went on the air with rumors of the "death" of Paul McCartney.

Roby died in July of 1997 but approximately two years before, he did a recorded conversation with his good friend Rodger Skinner who radio fans may remember as John Paul Roberts of WQAM/Miami. Rodger donated this conversation to this web site. Roby tells how he was hired at WABC, who it was he was supposed to replace, how he had a secret "code" to use whenever he called WABC and what happened on the infamous night he was taken off the air.

Roby makes reference to two of his WABC shows; his first and his last. After listening to this interview you may want to listen to the airchecks for these shows. They are available in the Musicradio WABC Airchecks section under 1967 and 1969.(26 mins.) (courtesy Rodger Skinner)


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Top 40 radio on January 15, 1990. Public radio station WBEZ in Chicago did a segment on The program was inspired by the publication of a then new book by the Chicago Tribune's Wes Smith called "The Pied Pipers of Rock and Roll; Radio DJ's of the Fifties and Sixties". This program features Smith, famed WKBW/WLS disc jockey Dick Biondi and former WABC program director Rick Sklar. The interview was part of a program called "Studio A" hosted by Ken Davis.

The first part of the program features Dick Biondi and Wes Davis talking about the huge impact of the AM Top 40 radio stations in the late fifties and early sixties. Dick Biondi talks about the freedom the disc jockeys had in those days and the early days of WABC sister station WLS in Chicago. Rick Sklar joins the interview at about 17 minutes into the program and Rick goes on to speak about both WABC and WINS. He describes the importance of disc jockeys and the impact of WABC on WLS. Rick also talks about Payola, Alan Freed, the 1959 "DJ Convention", and how radio was changing by 1990 when this interview took place. The group also speaks about deregulation and clear channel AM radio stations and their impact.

This is an interesting program for anyone interested in Top 40 radio in the late fifties and sixties. It was a completely different era when compared with today for both those that worked in radio and the rest of us who listened to it. (courtesy Dan Gulino)


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When WABC switched its format to talk on May 10, 1982 NPR (National Public Radio) did a segment on the change. It features then WABC program director Jay Clark, Bruce Morrow and commentary on why the format changed. Interestingly, Jay Clark comments that he believed the switch to talk was a result of the impact of disco and not necessarily the better sound of FM. This is a view that former program director Rick Sklar totally disagreed with (check Rick's comments in the last two links on this page) and I'm really amazed that Jay Clark took this position. (courtesy Dan Gulino)


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The best radio "tribute" that I ever heard about Musicradio WABC was done just after its switch to talk in May of 1982. It was produced by Earl Bailey of WNEW-FM in New York.

At that time, former WABC air personality Scott Muni was program director at WNEW-FM. Under his guidance and the brilliant job of Earl Bailey, this two hour program covered many of the best parts of Musicradio WABC. It includes interviews with Scott Muni, Herb Oscar Anderson, Cousin Bruce Morrow, Bob Lewis, Chuck Leonard, and WABC program director Rick Sklar.

This is the entire show and has not been edited or "scoped" with the exception that the commercials were removed. If there is a single place on this entire web site where you can get a real feel for what WABC was all about, this is that place. It includes airchecks, music, interviews and analysis. It's worth every minute of its almost two hours if you're at all interested in WABC.

 

Part 1: The program begins with the song "Modern Music On My Radio" followed by airchecks, a Rick Sklar interview, the final sign off, phone interviews with fans of the station, and some great music with Dan Ingram doing the disc jockeying. Scott Muni provides some history as to the beginning of "pop" music on WABC and Bruce Morrow explains the "WABC phenomenon".


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Part 2: Begins with a telephone interview with Herb Oscar Anderson where he talks about his time at WABC and also speaks about why he believed it was a success. More airchecks and music then follow. Scott Muni talks about the incredible success of the "Principal of the Year" contest, Cousin Bruce then talks about general manager Hal Neil purchasing those famous raincoats for the WABC disc jockeys. Scott returns with a description of how the music was chosen at WABC and comments on how narrow the WABC playlist was. Bob "Bob a Loo" Lewis talks about the origination of his "Bob a Loo" theme song from The Eternals. Bob also speaks about his overnight shift, his desire to move to something else, and the format switch to Talkradio.


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Part 3: Begins with the ENTIRE Four Seasons Cousin Brucie Theme Song! Cousin Bruce then goes on to defend AM radio and laments the loss of "people" radio stations like WABC. The famous "brief showers incident" is featured and Bruce tells a story of how the power of WABC could get them into trouble. A very funny Dan Ingram "laughing" bit follows.

The Beatles era at WABC is discussed by Scott Muni and he tells about meeting them at the airport and the insanity of the female spectators. He also speaks about The Beatles at the hotel and how John Lennon could not stay there without wandering around New York disguised as an old lady! The famous aircheck of the ten thousand Beatles fans outside the hotel singing the WABC jingles to their transistor radios is featured. Program director Rick Sklar then tells a very funny story of a teenage girl who inadvertently came face to face with Paul McCartney in an elevator.

Chuck Leonard talks about getting hired at WABC and then Bob Lewis, Herb Oscar Anderson, Bruce Morrow, Scott Muni and Rick Sklar talk about the reasons for the demise of Musicradio WABC.


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Two days before his retirement, Ron Lundy was interviewed by Vince Santarelli, editor of the "Apple Bites" broadcasting newsletter. Vince asks Ron about his early days at WIL in St. Louis, his hiring at WABC, how he was switched to middays from overnights at WABC, and his years at WCBS-FM. Vince also asks the question that was on everybody's lips in September of 1997... "Why are you retiring?"


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Dan Ingram, Ron Lundy, and Scott Muni were interviewed in New York City on Channel 7, WABC-TV, on August 25, 1971. The interview was recorded from a show called "Good Morning New York", which later grew into "Good Morning America" on ABC. The interview was conducted by John Bartholomew Tucker (who, incidentally, is now well known throughout the country as a top voice over artist. He's also known from TV's "Candid Camera" and a game show called "Treasure Isle".).

Most interviews with WABC people have taken place after the fact. This one is different in that WABC was still very much a Top 40 music station and none of the people in this interview had any idea as to how famous they would eventually become. One interesting segment is a telephone caller who comments that he worked in radio and patterned his show after Dan Ingram. This phenomenon of "copying Dan" is an amazing thing and has been going on for many, many years as illustrated here!

The interview includes Ron Lundy talking about his early days in Mississippi radio, Dan Ingram speaking about being on the air after the assassinations of the sixties, and Scott Muni speaking about his first NY radio job.

Here is some perspective to keep in mind when listening to this interview:

In 1971 WABC was recognized as the biggest Top 40 radio station in the country. Its chief competitor, WMCA, was switching to talk ("Dialogue Radio"). FM stations, while growing, were still far from being a threat to WABC. Dan Ingram had just celebrated his tenth anniversary and Ron Lundy was about to celebrate his sixth anniversary. While Scott Muni had been at WABC he was, by then, the Program Director and DJ for Metromedia's Progressive rocker WNEW-FM.

Some notes for "radio fans": References are made to Todd Storz. He has been credited, along with Bill Stewart, of coming up with the idea of "Format Radio" which then evolved into "Top 40 Radio". Also of some interest here are some sarcastic comments made by Ron and Dan about WOR-FM. In 1971, WOR-FM was the Drake/Chanault station in New York. For those who are not familiar with it, this was an extremely tight and very successful format devised by Bill Drake for KHJ/LA and used on such stations as CKLW/Windsor-Detroit, WRKO/Boston, WFIL Philadelphia and others. It is sometimes referred to as "Boss Radio". Its key elements were DJ's with fantastic radio voices emphasizing things like "and the hits just keep on coming". Personality was much more limited on these stations than on WABC. In 1971 there existed a "tug of war" between these two approaches to Top 40 radio programming.

WOR-FM later evolved into WXLO in 1973 and 99X in 1974.

Special thanks go to Ron Waters for contributing this interview! (20 mins.)


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Richard "Ricky the K" Kaufman is a huge fan of WABC who did an oldies show on KOMA Radio in Oklahoma City. On April 13, 1991 he interviewed Dan Ingram by telephone. Also present in the studio was Bill Meeks who was President of PAMS Jingles from 1951-1976. PAMS created the WABC jingles from 1962-1974.

Richard donated this interview for this web site. The interview is divided into three sections:

Part 1: Dan talks about his earlier years at KBOX in Dallas and WIL in St. Louis and the early years of Top 40 radio. He also speaks about WABC and Hal Neal (who hired him), the hiring of Rick Sklar, how WABC got those terrific Beatles exclusives, and the "brief showers incident". (10.5 mins.)


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Part 2: The 1964 April Fools Day joke on Dan, the Bob Dayton firing in 1965, 10,000 kids singing WABC jingles in the street, how WABC obtained the slogan "W A Beatle C", how echo (reverb) was added to the WABC sound, and the 1965 blackout (the actual airchecks of all of these events are available elsewhere on this web site). (11 mins.)


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Part 3: Dan compares radio today to radio in the sixties, why WABC ultimately became a talk station, and "what if" today's WABC changed format to become an oldies station. (3 mins.)


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Cousin Bruce Morrow tells the story of how the title "Cousin" was added to his name: (1.5 mins.)


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Charlie Greer, one of the original WABC disc jockeys, talks about his early days at WABC and how it felt when the first ratings book came in: (1.5 mins.)


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Dan Ingram, with Chuck Leonard, tells the story of how Chuck Leonard got his job at Musicradio WABC: (4.2 mins.)


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Rick Sklar Interviews

 

Howard Cosell interviewed Rick Sklar on July 1, 1984 as part of his "Speaking of Everything" radio program (and this interview was broadcast on WABC after it had become a talk station). This is a very interesting interview for all kinds of reasons including that Howard worked at WABC during Rick's tenure.  Howard asks Rick about the evolution of rock radio, how the WABC music meetings worked, the WABC "Mona Lisa Contest", the WABC DJ's, MTV, the growth of FM and a funny story about Muhammed Ali. (courtesy George Dennos)


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Kathy O'Connell, currently host of KID'S CORNER on WXPN in Philadelphia, interviewed Rick Sklar on her "Rosebud" program on WBAI in New York in 1984. This is an interesting interview because Rick talks about the various air personalities of WABC including Herb Oscar Anderson, Dan Ingram, Bruce Morrow and even the firings of Roby Yonge and Bob Dayton. He also talks about the "Principal of the Year Contest", the WABC Music Meetings and some anecdotes from The Beatles era at WABC. (35 mins.) (courtesy Michael Ackerman)


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Kathy wrote to me about this interview and commented:

I'm so delighted that my interview with Rick Sklar is on your Musicradio77 web site. It's truly an honor, since I spent my formative years listening to WABC and can still sing the theme songs for Muni, Morrow, and even Bob-A-Loo (if I stayed up late enough baby-sitting).

Rick Sklar was incredibly nice! WBAI at that time was on the 19th floor of an office building at 35th & 8th Avenue...not the greatest neighborhood in the middle of the night, when Rick came up. But he was very gracious and the interview was great...as your web site reminded me.

In August of 1984 WCBS-FM ran its first "Reunion of the Rock and Roll Radio Greats" weekend in New York. The weekend was magic. Bob "Bob-a-Loo" Lewis, as part of his show, did a terrific interview with former WABC program director Rick Sklar. Both Bob and Rick sounded great and spoke of themselves and both WINS and WABC in their Top 40 heydays. (courtesy Jonathan Wolfert).

Part 1: Bob Lewis introduces Rick and speaks of how he got his first job in New York City radio at WMGM. (2 mins.)


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Part 2: Bob and Rick talk about WINS, Alan Freed, Murray the K and the evolution Top 40 radio. (3 mins.)


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Part 3: A description of the WABC "Mona Lisa" contest and a great story of a joke played on rival WHN by Rick with the "Cousin Brucie Lisa" picture! (3.5 mins.)


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Other Rick Sklar comments:

Rick talks about first coming over to WABC:


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Rick talks about his relationship with Dan Ingram:


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Rick talks about his relationship with Bob "Bob-a-Loo" Lewis with introduction by Bruce Morrow:


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Rick talks about the demise of Musicradio WABC:

 


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Scott Benjamin interviews Tom Zarecki on March 20, 2003.  Tom was a relief engineer at WABC from 1972-1974.  He had an opportunity to work with all the DJ's who were at WABC at that time and has some interesting stories and anecdotes from his experience.  He also has insight into some of the reasons for WABC's popularity. (courtesy Scott Benjamin)


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