"A Conversation With Dan
Museum of TV and Radio, New York City
October 25, 2001
From hand notes recorded by Allan Sniffen
(additional sound files courtesy of musicradio77.com)
October 25, 2001
Dan was terrific at the Museum of Television and Radio. He was entertaining, engaging, emotional and informative just like he is on the radio.
The program began with pictures and airchecks of various points of Dans career followed by his introduction. Ken Mueller (the Museum Curator) then led Dan through a series of questions as he reviewed some of the highlights his 43 years in radio. That was followed by a question and answer session with the audience.
The Career Review
Dan started by acknowledging his parents both of whom were musicians. His father was a saxophonist and his mother a cellist. His background in attending music sessions with his father was part of his inspiration to go into radio. He spoke of his early day at WALK radio on Long Island and how WALKs Jack Ellsworth was a big influence. He also commented on his two years in Connecticut at WNHC doing mornings (and also broadcasting under the name Rae Tayler at competing station WICC doing a program called The Chamber).
Dan speaking about his father in 1981
Dan credited Al Jazzbeaux Collins for influencing him because he had the ability to talk to the audience one on one. He believes part of his success is his ability to have that "one on one" with everyone in his audience. He also commented that his use of the word Kemosabe was his way of talking to his listeners regardless of ethnicity, sex, age or anything else. Dan also commented that Alan Freed and his energy level was an influence. Freeds habit of banging on the phone book during his shows made an impression on him. He jokingly commented that everyone imitates someone!
A discussion of KBOX followed. Its owner, John Box, hired Dan and his time in Dallas included meeting and learning from Bob Whitney on how to really do Top 40 radio. When he started in Dallas, KBOXs chief competitor, KLIF, had 51% of the audience. In fact, KLIFs over air promos stated that it had more audience then every other station in Dallas combined. After Dan spent a year at KBOX, KLIF had to drop that claim as it slipped to having only 26% of the audience with KBOX just behind at 24%.
Dan on KBOX February 27, 1960
Next Dan went to WIL in St. Louis where he took the morning show from a 0 ratings share to a 48 share! It was there that Dan met Ron Lundy who he referred to as a dear friend and the nicest person I ever met.
Dan on WIL
Next, Dan moved back to New York to work for Mars Productions. It was a company headed by Bob Whitney that created promos for radio stations. At Mars Dan also met Stan Kaplan who he referred to as the quintessential salesman. Dan stated he made $21,000 a year there plus 5% commission. While at Mars, WMCA program director Ruth Meyer contacted him. He commented he had previously spoken to Ruth when he was in Dallas and now she was interested in having him go to work at WMCA in New York in afternoons. Dan did an audition for Ruth and WMCAs general manager (Steve Lubunskialthough Dan did not name him) offered Dan the afternoon drive job for $25,000. Dan turned it down (he was making more money with Mars) thinking that WMCA would increase its offer. It didnt. Instead they told Dan Goodbye. Dan commented that as he walked back to his car he had a bad feeling that he had just made a big mistake.
But the WMCA offer got Dan interested in radio again so he approached WABCs general manager, Hal Neal, about a job. Dan was in and out of WABCs offices because Mars did production work for the station. Dan told Neal that WABC's afternoon DJ wasn't the best fit for the station (Dan didnt name him but the description was of Fred Hall). Neal was first annoyed with Dans approach, told him to shut up but then asked him who he thought could do better. Dan responded with me and gave Neal copies of tapes he had from his days at KBOX and WIL. The next day Neal called Dan in Connecticut and told him that he liked the tapes but wasnt sure how he would sound on WABC. Dan said he would create a tape to show him and have it on his desk by 7AM the next morning. Neal said that wasnt necessary but Dan insisted he would do it. He then went into a Mars production studio and created a tape of himself doing a WABC show by editing out DJ Jack Carney from a WABC aircheck and dubbing himself in his place. It was an aircheck that had been recorded from WABC-FM so the quality was good. He worked until late evening on it and then fell asleep in the ladies bathroom (the only place in the building with a sofa!) before waking up just in time to drive to New York City with the tape to deliver to Hal Neal. He bribed a guard at WABC ($10) to let him up into Neals office (before anyone was yet at work) and put the tape on Neals desk by his pen set with a taped note that said, I always keep my word.
By 10:30 that morning, Neal called Dan in Connecticut and told him to meet him at the Stamford train station that afternoon. Dan did so and Neal hired him. Dan could not start for a month and told Neal he had to finish his work for Mars first. So, a month later Neal called and asked Dan to fill in for Chuck Dunaway on the late night show to learn the ropes of working at WABC. At that time it was complicated because the DJ had to work with two separate producers (one was the engineer who ran the control board, the other was an engineer who cued up records). So Dans first WABC shifts were on June 30 and July 1 1961. He didnt use his name on those shifts and only commented that it was the Chuck Dunaway Show without Chuck. Dan commented those were the busiest nights ever for the WABC switchboard operator. Dans official first shift (now using his name) was on July 3, 1961. 9 months later Dan commented that afternoons had moved up to number one for WABC.
Dan on WABC: July 13, 1961
Dan then spoke briefly about The Beatles and how the era of the British Invasion was when kids started to really have fun and their parents let them. The music WABC was playing was sometimes referred to as Animal Music by those how didnt like it but by this time that was beginning to change.
Ken Mueller than asked Dan about WABC-FM. Dan called his blues/jazz show there a labor of love that came about because the FM general manager told him that rock and roll DJs couldnt do that kind of radio. So Dan did a tape for him (much like he had done for Hal Neal six years earlier) and the G.M. sold the show to Avis Rent A Car. Hence, Dan created The Other Dan Ingram Show for WABC-FM. He commented it was basically the result of a dare.
Dan on WABC-FM: July 15, 1967
Dan addressed WABC switching from music to talk in 1982. He commented that he thought highly of then G.M. Al Racco but that Racco thought it was all over when the stations ratings fell to an 11.3. Dan told him he was wrong but it was too late. Dan commented that he felt WABC could have evolved into what CBS-FM became an oldies station with WABCs heritage. He conceded, however, that it probably wouldnt have worked since the music audience was switching to FM. He also commended WCBS-FM program director Joe McCoy for essentially doing exactly what Dan had been hoping for.
Dan then acknowledged his son Chris and wife Maureen Donnelly who were present.
Question and Answers
Q: Did you ever get into trouble for things you said over the air?
A: While Dan acknowledged pushing the limits from time to time, he commented that he always had a mechanism built into his head that stopped him from going too far.
Q: Who was your closest friend as a
Q: Who was your closest friend as a DJ?
A: Ron Lundy. Dan also commented that he and Chuck Leonard were good friends and they had just seen each other the a few days earlier (the picture below). Dan then told the story of how he and Chuck would exchange places when being introduced at publicity events. Chuck stood up when Dan was announced and visa versa. Dan joked half of Long Island thinks Dan Ingram is a skinny black guy and Chuck Leonard is a fat white guy!
Dan and Chuck at the Museum
October 22, 2001
Q: Why did Dan respond to
commercials as they were airing?
Q: Why did Dan respond to commercials as they were airing?
A: It was funny Dan gave the example of how he responded to the old Buick car jingle that went Wouldnt you really rather have a Buick? Dan would respond No Id rather have two! He also told a story of Bernadette Castro calling WABC after he commented, Castro Convertibles are on sale for a fraction of their normal price. Dan then said that fraction is 11/10. Bernadette called Dan because she thought it was so funny.
Q: How did Dan stay so upbeat at the end of WABC just before it went talk?
A: Dan commented that if he is paid x dollars I give you x + 1 dollars worth of work. In other words, if he were being paid to do a job, he would do it as best he possibly could. He also commented that he can turn it on when necessary regardless of how he feels.
Q: Tell us the Brief Showers Incident.
A: Dan did..
Jeff Berman (WABC production director from 1966-68) stood up to thank Dan for helping him realize what he wanted to do with his professional life rather than remain at WABC indefinitely. Jeff commented that Dan asked him Are you really happy here? He then helped Jeff get a full time position in radio production. Jeff also told Dan that it was a pleasure working with him on the WABC promos.
The Group That Made the WABC Promos!
l to r:
Glenn Morgan (Program and Production Director 1971-1979)
Dan Ingram (the voice on most all of the promos)
Julian Breen (Production Director 1968-1971)
Jeff Berman (Production Director 1966-1968)
Q: Are corporate takeovers in radio
causing DJs to lose their intimacy with the audience and if so, will it come back?
Q: Are corporate takeovers in radio causing DJs to lose their intimacy with the audience and if so, will it come back?
A: Dan commented on how most music radio now only has personality in the morning. He said that he believes those shows have an intimacy and that it was present during the recent World Trade Center tragedy. This lead to Dan discussing how he was the DJ who came on WABC after other tragedies. He specifically named the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. He commented that it was always hard coming on the air after such incidents and that he was frequently asked to do so because he seemed to be good at balancing the moment against the role of a music DJ. He commented he recently felt the same way after the World Trade Center Tragedy. During that recent CBS-FM show Dan had said that he felt like "a fool" playing music and kidding around but Ill give you my best shot. He said making funnies is never easy under such circumstances. In subsequent shows he tried to laugh a little because thats the job and part of his job is to be entertaining.
Dan Ingram after the World Trade Center Attack
WCBS-FM: September 22, 2001
Q: What about your voice-over career in documentaries and commercials in the seventies and eighties?
A: Dan commented that he always loved getting money in the mailbox and doing commercials was an easy way to do that. He then provided some insight into the voice-over business of the sixties and seventies. It seems that after five years of doing commercial voice-over work Dan was able to become a member of what was called The Club. It was a group of New York voice-over artists who could complete a finished take of a commercial in ten minutes. Once in The Club he was able to receive a great deal of work.
He also commented that he has always been able to time commercial copy to fit into the exact length "just by feel". If someone told him to cut down a sixty and a half second commercial to sixty seconds, he could do it in his head on the first take. He also commented that he does much less commercial voice-over work now because so much of it has moved to Toronto, Canada. He said the he loves selling and always appreciates the sales staff at radio stations he has worked at.
Dan then spent a few minutes describing how sexist both radio and the voice-over business was and that women had a very hard time breaking into it. He has been a champion of womens rights for years (he is one of a few number of men who is a member of N.O.W.). When he first started, The Club had about 65 men and only 5 women in New York. He says that has since improved so that women now do about 30-35% of commercial voice over work.
Q: Did Howard Cosell get mad about some of the bits you did at his expense on WABC?
A: Dan told of how he met Howard back in the early days of the Mets when WABC carried the baseball games. Cosell and Ralph Branka used to do the pre and post games shows and Dan became quite friendly with Cosell. Dan commented that Howard always loved attention so he didnt mind that Dan gave it to him. Dan joked that Howard won $12,000 of his money playing Gin Rummy during the baseball games and that Branka sold Dan a life insurance policy!
Q: How can Dan be so funny without being a Shock Jock?
A: Dan referred to Don Imus as a pussycat (he likes him) but referred to Howard Stern as Howard Stool. Dan finds humor that is at the level of a little boy peeing on the church door and then snickering while thinking I can do that isnt for him. He never wanted to go that low and be that blunt.
Q: Did you encourage management to give black DJs a shot?
A: Dan told of how he recommended Chuck Leonard (then of WWRL) to WABC G.M. Wally Schwartz to get a job at WABC in 1965. Dan stated he didnt know if Chuck was black or not but he did know that WWRL was a black station. To Dan, it didnt matter. He just liked Chuck. When Chuck came in to interview for the job he told Schwartz Im not going to be anybodys experiment. At that point Schwartz told Chuck Youre my man!
Q: Are you having as much fun now in radio as in the sixties and seventies?
A: Yes. Dan commented it really is fun to be on the air and that he can still feel the warmth and acceptance that he always has felt doing live radio. He commented he could feel the same thing in the auditorium but that, interestingly, he doesnt feel it when doing taped shows.
Q: Whats the problem with you and Neil Sedaka?
A: Dan commented hes a talented performer but he and Neil just dont get along personally apparently due to some kind of argument 30 years ago.
Dan (with Ron Lundy) spoke about Neil on May 10, 1982
Q: Why dont you do your opening monologue on CBS-FM like you did on WABC?
A: CBS-FM needs its own identity and doing things the same as he did on WABC would make that harder. Also he loves the CBS-FM Frank Sinatra New York New York ID at the top of the hour.
Q: Dan frequently got such impressive ratings that he sometimes would beat shows in markets other than New York City thanks to WABCs signal and Dans incredible success. How did it feel to have so many people listening?
A: It was frightening and rewarding. In a way, Dan commented it allowed him to push it a little from time to time although he never really gauged how many listeners he actually had. He did say the he got mail from London and even New Zealand not to mention the many states WABC covered with its skywave signal at night. He also told the story of how he opened his show one time by saying the ratings are in and were only the #13 ranked station in Pittsburgh PA!!
The aircheck of Dan's Pittsburgh comment
Q: Chuck Leonard recently lost his job at WNSW. Why?
A: Dan didnt know specifically about this but he said that comings and goings of DJs is frequently mysterious. It can be due to ratings or some DJs can be unsaleable. In this particular case he just didnt know.
Q: Did Dan ever consider doing Talkradio?
A: Dan stated that WABC offered him the afternoon drive talk show on WABC when it became a talk station in 1982 but that he wasnt interested. At that point, he was more interested in doing commercial voiceovers and that the amount of work involved in doing Talkradio was more than he wanted to do.
Q: Who got Dan back into
radio after WABC?
Q: Who got Dan back into radio after WABC?
A: Mel Karmazin was running WKTU in 1985. The station wanted Dan to do its then hit music format so he took a job there in afternoons. He then told a story that he claimed had never before been made public. When he went to WKTU, part of his contract included a clause that was to pay him an extra $10,000 if the ratings in afternoon drive went up 1 point. Dan was only at WKTU for six months because it changed format to hard rock (his description). After the format change, the station was required to pay Dan his contract even though he was no longer on the air. Subsequently Howard Stern was hired and he did afternoons (before later moving to mornings). Stern pulled WXRK (the new call letters for WKTU) up by more than 1 ratings point. Since Dans contract called for him to get $10,000 if the ratings went up and Infinity had to pay Dan his contract, he got a $10,000 bonus thanks to Howard Stern!
Dan on WKTU: April 5, 1985
Q: Tell us about your TV work.
A: Dan Ingram filled in for Dan Daniel on a show called AM New York which aired from 7 to 9 AM on New Yorks Channel 7 (it was the precursor to Good Morning America). Ingram did the show for Daniel (after Dan Daniel took an extended leave because of a heart attack) even though Daniels name stayed on the show. Eventually the program was cancelled and auditions were taken for who would get the job for Good Morning America. Bill Beutel, William Windom and Dan all did audition tapes. Beutel got the job. Dan eventually went to the producers to ask what they didnt like about his audition and he was told they didnt like the way he did the news. Specifically, he was told that he looked too New York. Dan recognized this as really meaning that he looked too Jewish for the rest of the country. Dan stated he was pleased to inform them that he was, in fact, Presbyterian and that he was glad they didnt know that. The experience soured him considerably.
Q: How Do You Pick the Honor Group of The Day?
A: Whatever comes to mind over a bottle Chardonnay or whatever he happens to think of.
Q: Why did PAMS jingles always sound better on WABC then those same jingles on other radio stations?
A: Rick Sklar (WABC program director) used to go to Dallas and personally oversee the sessions where PAMS recorded WABCs jingles. Dan commented that Rick was "the best promotions man in history and was a hip program director that could copy other stations (this was intended as a joke). Dan felt Sklars success was due more to his promotion ability than any other single thing.
Q: Who owns the Dan Ingram acappella jingle?
A: I do.
Q: Can you highlight a single thing in your career?
A: Dan told the story of a neatly typed letter he received at WABC where a listener commented, long before there was such a term as a battered child, I was one. One day as I was standing on the edge of the Brooklyn Bridge with my only possession, my transistor radio, you made me laugh and I didnt jump. At this point Dan got very choked up and took a few seconds to regain his composure.
Dan tells the story
Q: What did you do between 1982 and 1991?
A: Commercial voiceovers. (Dan didnt comment that he also did the CBS produced Top 40 Satellite Survey in the mid eighties and also the WKTU afternoon show in 1985).
Q: Why dont you do time checks anymore?
A: I hate them and dont do them. (Laugher followed)
Q: What does Jeg elsker deg (pronounced elske dai) mean?
A: Dans answer was the it means something that doesnt exist anymore and declined to elaborate further.
Q: How is the face of oldies radio changing?
A: Dan described it as a logical process where newer oldies must replace older ones in order to keep listeners. He kidded that WOR (710 AM) has an audience that is dying faster than it is being replaced. Dan commended Joe McCoy (WCBS-FM program director) for increasing the number of new songs in the mix and dropping a few 51 year old songs. He said it is necessary to bring in new listeners. Its a slow thing but necessary.
Finally Ken Mueller told a story where five years ago the Museum of TV and Radio opened another branch in Los Angeles. At that time they had a panel of L.A. based DJs give a presentation. Dan was also invited. Even though the program was in L.A. and even though the panel had mostly L.A. based personalities, it was Dan who got the greatest applause. Ken saluted Dan for his accomplishments and thanked him for the presentation.
A few final thoughts
Dan was emotional at various times during the evening. He is a compassionate yet resolved person who appreciates how much he has meant to so many of us. The audience could sense that and became more inspired as the time passed.
He is very committed to labor, womens rights and racial equality. Those things seem as close to his soul as you can get (other than his obvious affection for his wife Maureen and his children).
In spite of all the attention and borderline fanaticism of some of his fans, Dan rarely seems interested in showing off. As incredible as his accomplishments are, he rarely takes credit for it. Instead of bragging about broadcasting to an audience of millions, he highlights his impact on one battered child that he had influence over.
Those that truly admire and respect Dan are as committed as any group Ive ever seen. Most have success in the rest of their lives so his fans arent camping out at his doorstep or looking for him to explain the universe. Instead these people appreciate Dan as a professional and as a caring person who made them laugh, helped them cry and was always there the next day. Dan spoke of his ability to be a one on one personality and his success in doing so was shown by the many who packed the Museum to hear him speak.
It was a great night!
L to R:
Glenn Morgan (WABC Program Director)
Dan Ingram (the man of the hour)
Allan Sniffen (web master musicradio77.com)
Julian Breen (WABC Production Director 1968-1971)
Pat St. John (WPLJ and WNEW-FM Air Personality)
Jeff Berman (WABC Production Director 1966-1968)
Peter Kanze (WABC Rewound Producer)
Dan talks to fans and sign autographs
Dan and Jeff Berman chat
written by Allan Sniffen (10/26/01)
Dan and Allan Sniffen
(October 22, 2001)
WABC Musicradio 77