The voice of legendary disc jokey Dan Ingram was forever stilled on June 24, 2018. Yet his legacy will continue to live on not only through his heirs, but through the many airchecks and videos that survive from his glory days during the 1960s, ’70s and early ’80s at powerhouse station 77 WABC AM, and his dozen-year stint at WCBS-FM from the 1991 to 2003 (as well as other “guest” appearances before retiring permanently from the airwaves in 2007).
What can one say about someone like Dan Ingram? Words are the tool of a writer’s trade, yet words fail me when trying to describe the man known variously as the Thinking Man’s Deejay, the Greatest Top Forty Deejay of All Time, and the Deejay’s Deejay (just to name a few of the honors bestowed upon him). Big Dan, as he was also known, was so many things to so many people—a husband and father, a friend and colleague, a public figure whose work was very well known even to people who were unaware of the name and face behind the voice. It’s not an exaggeration to say he was idolized. He worked at several different radio stations during his storied career, but to millions of people who grew up in the New York/New Jersey metro area during the ’60s and ’70s, he will forever be remembered for his radio show on WABC-AM, which he would often refer to as “the Ingram Mess,” “the Ingram Flingram,” or “the Ingram Travesty.”
Daniel Trombley Ingram was born on September 7, 1934 in Oceanside, New York, to musician parents. He began broadcast work while in his late teens and was heard on several radio stations, including WIL in St. Louis, Missouri, before landing what would arguably be his best-known gig: Afternoons* on New York’s WABC, where he remained until the station switched to a “talk” format on May 10, 1982. Twenty-one years is a long time to be doing anything, and for the entirety of his tenure at the 50,000-watt station—which at night could be heard in at least 38 of the 50 U.S. states—Big Dan managed to make every day, every show, fresh and new by combining routine elements such as the “Ingramisms” he would become known for (like “Kemosabe,” his affectionate salutation for fans, friends and listeners; and “jeg elsker deg” — Norwegian for “I love you”—a phrase with which he frequently ended his shows) with totally unplanned, unrehearsed jokes, wisecracks, and one-liners. His ability to “talk up” the intro to a song, his words perfectly timed to end just as the vocals of the song began, was awe-inspiring.
Dan’s passing at the age of 83 shouldn’t have come as a shock. After all, he was getting on in years and by many accounts had been suffering from ill health for a long time. Yet it was a shock, as it often is whenever someone larger than life, who seems to just keep going and going and going like the Energizer Bunny regardless of any health issues, departs our planet. After all, Dan outlived many of his WABC contemporaries, including Ron Lundy (his best friend and another former WIL alum), Chuck Leonard, Charlie Greer, Bob Lewis, George Michael, and Herb Oscar Anderson (who left us in 2017) just to name a few. But in a very real sense, the passing of Big Dan Ingram was, not to overuse the phrase, the end of an era. Paraphrasing something that Allan Sniffen, proprietor of the excellent Musicradio WABC tribute site and Rewound Radio, said during his live-and-now-archived tribute to Mr. Ingram on June 26, it wasn’t as if there was any chance Dan would be returning to radio even on a part-time basis. That ship had sailed a long time ago. Yet just knowing he was still here among the living, that he was still breathing the same air as us, was comforting. That this is no longer the case is little short of devastating.
Just as there will never be another phenomenon like The Beatles in our lifetime, so there will never be another Dan Ingram. May he rest in peace.
*except for a brief period doing the morning-drive show
Keep scrolling for more content, including relevant tweets, Facebook posts, audio/video of select airchecks and commercials (one of Big Dan’s best-known “side gigs” was that of a voice-over artist), and additional online writeups.
Dan Ingram page on Wikipedia
For a great read, check out Chris Ingram’s book about his father, Hey Kemosabe: The Days (And Nights) of a Radio Idyll. (Click on the image below to go to the Amazon product page.)
On the Web:
Dan Ingram, Irreverent Disc Jockey, is Dead at 83 (New York Times)
Commercials and Airchecks:
Dan Ingram on WABC-AM, June 12, 1964 (from this page on the fantastic WABC Musicradio 77 tribute site, a destination highly recommended for its wealth of airchecks, photos, and reminiscences)
The following is a perfect example of Dan Ingram’s ability to think on his feet: A portion of his broadcast from the afternoon of November 9, 1965, when unbeknownst to him a major blackout was about to hit most of Northeast America; and the start of his show the next day (November 10)
A typical ending to Dan Ingram’s show, featuring his closing theme, an edit from Billy May’s “Tri Fi Drums”
Dan Ingram on WABC-AM, July 4, 1968 – from the Audiomack uploads of Mark Yurko (who’s shared a bunch of gems on his page from WABC among other stations!)
The last cigarette commercial Dan Ingram ever did
Dan in the flesh! A couple of miscellaneous videos
Daniel Trombley Ingram
September 7, 1934 – June 24, 2018