WABC Staff Announcer George Ansbro
by Scott Benjamin


George Ansbro became a junior radio announcer about a decade after the medium was created, turned a soap opera about a mother caring for her two children into his calling card, read newscasts between Big Dan and Cousin Brucie’s shows, and after 59 years on the air ended his career as the booth announcer for a venerable television serial and as the host of a radio show in which he interviewed five different FBI directors.

His career was  “ a tale of the twentieth century, featuring characters from Al Jolson to J. Edgar Hoover,” according to a summary for his 1999 memoir, “I Have A Lady in the Balcony: Memoirs of a Broadcaster,” (McFarland & Company, 237 pages).

In the foreword, film critic Leonard Maltin, who reviewed movies for 30 years for Entertainment Tonight, wrote that George “has provided a word picture of life in New York City during the 1930s and 1940s, when a young man with a staff announcer’s job at NBC might run into Clark Gable at the Stork Club or be called upon to work with any one from Walter Winchell to Eleanor Roosevelt.”

From 1938 to 1956 George was the announcer on Young Widder Brown, a national soap opera about Ellen, a mother in her 30s who was raising two children while running a tearoom in Simpsonville, West Virginia.

He was one of 28 staff announcers in the 1960s that Musicradio77 WABC had access to for newscasts and station promos. That number began to dwindle in early 1968 when Bob Hardt and then John Meagher became the first reader-writer newscasters and did the bulk of the morning and afternoon duties at :25 and :55 on the hour.

Former Musicradio77 WABC Production Director Jeff Berman, who was at the station from 1966 to 1968, said the staff announcers represented “a lot of wonderful radio history.”

He recalled in a 2005 interview with Musicradio77.com that at the time in addition to George, the roster included the revered Milton Cross, who was the announcer for the national broadcasts on Saturday of the Metropolitan Opera and Fred Foy, who had been the announcer on both radio and television for “The Lone Ranger” and would later handle those duties on Dick Cavett’s ABC morning show and then his late-night television show, which was competing against NBC’s “Tonight” show with Johnny Carson.

Some of those veteran staff announcers had gravitated to ABC, -where they handled duties for both WABC and the ABC radio network along with Channel 7 WABC-TV and the ABC television network – because their careers on the radio soap opera came to a halt with the advent of television and Top 40 radio.

It was somewhat similar to the subsequent changes of AM Top 40 radio fading with the growth of FM and terrestrial radio now facing the challenge of satellite programming and podcasts.

Berman recalled that although he was gratified over working with Capital-A ace staff announcers he wasn’t able to use them much for promos and commercials in a rapid-paced Top 40 station format.

“The issue with those guys just [was] . . . most of them sounded old-fashioned,” he explained.

According to his memoir, in the early 1960s, George, who began at the NBC Blue Network which transitioned into ABC, gave  a ride to ABC sportscaster Howard Cosell – who didn’t drive -  after work to his home in Pound Ridge, N.Y ., not far from New Canaan, CT, where George and his wife, Jo-Anne, were living.

After Foy began working with Cavett, George succeeded him as the host for the ABC Radio show” FBI Washington,” where he presented information on the bureau’s activities.

In a letter to George, former FBI Director William Sessions wrote in 1990 that “you have a special way of making a guest feel comfortable because of your terrific personality and humor.”

He also did the station breaks and promos for some ABC television soap operas, including the venerable General Hospital.

George retired in January 1990, just days before his 75th birthday. He died in 2011.

For years, he appeared at the Friends of Old Time Radio’s annual convention in Newark, N.J.

You can hear him on the ABC Staff Announcers Reunion audio montage by clicking HERE!

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