Herb Oscar Anderson: Farewell to the Morning Mayor of NYC

Sad news for fans of 1960s New York radio—the legendary Herb Oscar Anderson has passed away, according to a post by his son, actor John James, on Herb’s Facebook page. HOA, as he was known to all of his friends and listeners, was 88 years old.

Herb Oscar Anderson was born on May 30, 1928 in South Beloit, Illinois. His mother (both of HOA’s parents were Swedish) spoke very little English, and when his father passed away, young Herb was sent to the Odd Fellows Orphan’s Home in Lincoln, IL. He eventually relocated to Wisconsin, and found his calling during his teen years while reporting on high-school sports. HOA wrote for the Jamesville (WI) Daily Gazette, whose parent company also owned radio station WCLO. He applied for work at the station once it dawned on him that it took the on-air personality some two minutes and change to read copy that he, Herb, had taken four hours to compile (and which would end up in the circular file at the end of its extremely brief lifespan). Deciding that devoting two minutes to a topic was better than four hours, HOA promptly switched careers and never looked back.

After working at various radio stations including WROK (Rockford, IL), WBBO (Orlando, Florida), and WBBM (Chicago, IL),  Herb was hired at WABC in New York. He hosted a show on the ABC network and sang live with a band, but eventually left the station. Almost immediately, Herb was snatched up by WMCA, also in New York, where he remained until 1960 when he returned to WABC just in time for its switch to a Top-40 format. Herb left WABC in 1968.

Herb resided on a farm in Hoosick Falls, New York, where he stayed during the warm-weather months; in the winter, Herb and his wife, Terry, lived in the Vero Beach area of Florida. During the last several years of his life, HOA hosted a weekly one-hour show called “Conversations” on radio station WOSN-FM, and kept in touch with friends and fans via his page on Facebook. In 2013, the late Tom Pierce shot a video of Herb as the latter was recording a segment for one of his shows; every couple of months or so, HOA would re-share the video to his own Timeline so that it would remain on top for all to see—and hear.

Herb Oscar Anderson passed away on Sunday, January 29, 2017. He is survived by his wife, Terry, two sons, and a daughter.

***

In addition to his informal title of Morning Mayor of New York, Herb was also known as the Singing Disc Jockey. His longtime theme song was this Lawrence Welk-influenced ditty, “Hello Again” (audio only):

Herb also famously re-imagined Bert Kaempfert’s buoyant “That Happy Feeling” with original lyrics (audio only):

Edit (1 February 2017)—Herb Oscar Anderson tribute video by Art Vuolo:

Additional sources for this writeup:

Profile of Herb Oscar Anderson by Scott Benjamin (on musicradio77.com)

Audio interview with Herb Oscar Anderson by Ronnie Allen (on jerseygirlssing.com)

Ain’t It Good, Ain’t It Right: Ode to a Classic

Andy Kim 1974

Forty years ago today (September 28), Andy Kim‘s enduring classic, “Rock Me Gently,” hit the top of the U.S. charts. Of course, back then the song wasn’t yet a classic, enduring or otherwise. The track had just been recorded a few months earlier, and the single was released in June, when it began its steady climb to the #1 position. For disc jockeys and program directors, it was little more than business as usual; records hit the streets, get included on radio playlists and loaded into jukeboxes, garner radio play, are purchased at retail outlets, and (hopefully) ascend the charts, with the lucky ones going all the way to the pinnacle. An everyday occurrence and nothing to get worked up over. For Andy, however, the process was nothing short of a miracle.

When Andy Kim finished composing “Rock Me Gently” in February of 1974, he knew he had come up with a winner. He could feel it in his very heart, through which the melody and lyrics had flowed with sublime ease during a ten-minute session on guitar. So convinced was he that this was the song that would mark his return to the music charts that he carefully put his guitar down and proceeded to do a hand-spring across his living room, followed by a return hand-spring back to his instrument and the window through which he’d been gazing as the poetry residing in his soul was made manifest. It was the sort of moment we all live for, when everything comes together and the less athletically inclined among us pump our fists in the air—”YES!” A moment of joy when our grins all but split our faces in two, and we feel at one with the Universe. For some people, this happens only a handful of times in a lifetime.

Yet Andy’s euphoria was quickly followed by a strong dose of reality: He had been without a record label since the previous year, and if his new creation was to see the light of day, he had to get that little dilemma solved. And fast. Though only in his twenties, he knew that time waits for no man; all we have is the present in which to act. This was a life and work ethic to which Andy held fast. He had had a run of success as a songwriter and recording artist on Jeff Barry’s Steed Records from 1968 to 1971, recording eleven singles and three albums for the label. Five of those singles, including his first effort, “How’d We Ever Get This Way,” hit the national Top Forty; his remake of “Baby, I Love You,” which has come to be as identified with Andy as with the group that originated it, The Ronettes, made the Top Ten and earned Andy his first gold record. After Jeff Barry discontinued Steed Records and relocated from New York to California, Andy was signed to Uni and recorded an eponymous album for the label, in 1973. The Montreal-born singer of Lebanese extraction was accustomed to moving forward; he hadn’t become a successful singer/songwriter by resting on his laurels or sitting on his ass. There was work to be done, arrangements to be made, music to record. Details such as booking a studio and finding a record company willing to press and release this new creation of his had to be seen to, as well as getting all of the promotional ducks in a row. Andy enlisted the help of his older brother, Joe, to help with the business end of his chosen profession; then he raided his piggy bank for the funds needed for studio time. The record wasn’t going to cut itself.

Andy Kim, 1970s

For a time it looked as if the record wasn’t going to be cut at all. But Andy was nothing if not resourceful, and he decided to bring Muhammad to the mountain, so to speak, by founding his own label, Ice Records—a fitting name for a Canadian-based company—and proceeding with the studio work on pure faith. After getting the track laid down to his satisfaction and with the remaining session time down to minutes, Andy made the decision that, rather than his recording another song as a “B” side for “Rock Me Gently,” its flip would be the instrumental backing track (which would be entitled “Rock Me Gently [Part II]”). Actually, the decision was made for Andy by his newly svelte piggy bank, which vetoed the idea of paying for another session.

Andy had done all he could. Things were now in the hands of the gods … who came through with flying colors when the folks at Capitol Records heard “Rock Me Gently” and decided to sign Andy to a record deal and to release the single, with its instrumental counterpart on the B side. Andy was on his way, and the song itself was on its way to attaining hit status.

The rest is musical history. “Rock Me Gently” began a steady climb to the top of the (U.S.) charts and would reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on September 28, 1974. It would go on to hit the #2 spot on the U.K. Singles Chart two weeks later, on October 12, 1974, and subsequently garner a second gold disc for Andy (which was intercepted and informally presented to him by John Lennon at the Capitol Records building!). In the years since, the song has stood the test of time and become a pop standard. It remains in constant rotation on classic rock radio stations and is probably being played somewhere on the planet at just about any given moment. It’s even been used in commercials. And, in 2012, Andy Kim himself good-naturedly recorded a parody of the song, entitled “Mock Me Gently,” for Toronto radio station CHBM-FM (Boom 97.3)’s Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest.

Andy Kim - Gold Record

“Rock Me Gently” came into being at the perfect time. First of all, it’s a wonderful dance tune, so it’s fitting that it became a hit as disco was emerging as a musical genre. Second, and perhaps more important for reasons of longevity, the song is classy; it makes perfect sense that it became a classic. “Rock Me Gently” is both romantic and sexy, without being blatantly sexual or using explicit lyrics of any sort; the physical intimacies are hinted at rather than baldly spelled out, with whatever may have been taking place between the sheets laying between the lines. It’s the perfect song for amorous couples to listen to during romantic nights in front of the fireplace, and in fact the track has shown up on more than one CD compilation of love songs. It’s safe to say that Andy Kim’s financial investment has paid off many times over—and his personal and emotional investment continues to pay off, with  multiple generations of music lovers reaping the dividends. Thanks to the dream and vision of Andy Kim, “Rock Me Gently” has become part of the world’s DNA.

Videos

Andy Kim – “Rock Me Gently” (official video):

Live Performance of “Rock Me Gently” by Andy Kim on Top of the Pops (UK, October 1974):

TV Commercial for Jif Cleaner (UK):

2008 Jeep Liberty “Pouring In” Commercial feat. “Rock Me Gently” (US, 2007):

Andy Kim (with Blair Packham) performing “Mock Me Gently” for Boom 97.3 FM’s Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest (Toronto, 2012):

Distinguished Artists: Interview with Andy Kim (2009):

Happy 80th Birthday, Dan Ingram!

Dan Ingram, Musicradio WABC

Happy 80th birthday to the greatest Top 40 deejay of all time, Mr. Dan Ingram! Actually, to call Dan Ingram a “deejay” is to greatly oversimplify things—he was (and is) so much, much more than that. Funny, witty, with such a fast, clever mind—and an extremely commercial-sounding voice, which he used to great advantage over the years, providing voiceovers for countless TV and radio ads. An ability to talk up each record right up to the point where the artists began singing, as well as the ability to deal with broken “carts” and unexpected dead air (and, on at least one occasion, a major blackout!). AND, most important to me personally, an ability to make listeners double over with laughter at his jokes and ad-libs. To this day, listening to Dan’s old airchecks from 77 WABC (which I do quite often), I frequently end up crying from laughing so hard! Big Dan, a very happy birthday to you and many more. You have brought so much joy and happiness to my life, and although I wasn’t what could be called a battered child, you did cheer me up many many times when things at home were not so great. You’ve lifted so many of us up, made us smile, made us laugh, and inspired countless folks to go into radio. You’re my absolute favorite radio personality, then, now and always. Thank you for sharing your wonderful talents and brilliant mind with the world … and thank you for being you. Many happy returns, Kemosabe.

A partial Dan Ingram timeline (courtesy Wikipedia):

  • 1958 — WICC, Bridgeport, Connecticut (under the name Rae Tayler)
    1958 — WNHC, New Haven, Connecticut
    1959 — KBOX, Dallas
    1960 — WIL, St. Louis
    July 3, 1961 — May 10, 1982 WABC, New York City
    April 1984 — December 1986 Hosted CBS Radio’s “Top 40 Satellite Survey”
    1984–June 1985 — WKTU-FM, New York City
    October 1991–June 2003 — WCBS-FM, New York City

For a more comprehensive history of Dan Ingram’s radio career, the best single source on the web is Allan Sniffen’s fantastic website, Musicradio 77 WABC, which contains a wealth of airchecks and interviews. A great place to start is the WABC Airchecks page. For a great example of Dan’s wit, scroll down to 1965 (airchecks are in chronological order, by year) and listen to the audio file that features Dan’s intro and outro to Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger,” which is pure genius but so typically Dan. Another wonderful page to check out is the Interviews section, which has a bunch of, well, interviews with Dan (among others) through the years; the one with Allan Handelman of WQDR in Raleigh, North Carolina, from November of 1982, is particularly noteworthy as featured within the interview is a treasure trove of airchecks from as early as 1954(!), including some belly-laugh-inducing commercials that Dan read live on the air on 77 WABC; listen to his creativity with those for Bohack Supermarkets and Marcal Paper Products! And there’s a page called The Evolution of MusicRadio WABC which features airchecks solely by Dan Ingram, from his first year with the station, 1961, to 1982 when 77 WABC switched its format to talk radio.

—> EDIT (9/7/16): What better time than Big Dan’s 82nd birthday to include this link to Allan Sniffen’s fantastic tribute to Dan, The Life and Times of Dan Ingram: In His Own Words. This wonderful six-hour retrospective originally aired on Rewound Radio on July 2, 2016. Extremely well conceived and edited, a fun history lesson disguised as entertainment (or vice versa), this show is a must-listen! <—

A few samples of the genius of Dan Ingram:

Aircheck from the summer of 1969 (so pristine it appears to have been recorded from the FM simulcast), on Airchexx.com. Great example of Dan at his best!

Castro Convertible commercial (audio), with which Dan sings along (sort of) and goofs around a bit, but then reads the copy with his usual professional aplomb

Dan Ingram’s closing theme, which is actually an edit from “Tri-Fi Drums” by the Billy May Orchestra. (From the Musicradio 77 WABC website.)

Hawaiian Punch ad (audio only), featuring one of Dan Ingram’s many commercial voiceovers

The Northeast Blackout (audio from November 9, 1965)—like most of the rest of the northeastern United States, Dan had no idea what was happening when the lights began dimming and his music, jingles and prerecorded commercials began slowing down, but listen to how he gets through it until the station completely lost power during the news broadcast, then his professionalism the next day after everything had been restored to normal

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Casey Kasem, Radio Icon, Dies at 82

Casey Kasem

The honeyed voice that urged America to reach for the stars for decades has been silenced.

Casey Kasem, the legendary radio DJ whose syndicated radio show was the most popular radio program in history, passed away Sunday — Father’s Day — in a Santa Monica hospice after a battle with Lewy Body dementia. He was 82.

Read more:

via Casey Kasem, radio icon, dies at 82 – Entertainment – TODAY.com.

The Beach Boys Perform Three Songs on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

Awesome performances by The Beach Boys on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (May 7, 2012). The Boys sang “In My Room,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” and their brand-new single, “That’s Why God Made the Radio.”

The Beach Boys Perform Three Songs – Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

“In My Room”

http://www.nbc.com/assets/video/widget/widget.html?vid=1400310

“That’s Why God Made the Radio”

http://www.nbc.com/assets/video/widget/widget.html?vid=1400323

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice”

http://www.nbc.com/assets/video/widget/widget.html?vid=1400322

Herb Oscar Anderson: On the Air at WOSN FM

Legendary radio jock Herb Oscar Anderson, who was the morning deejay at Musicradio WABC (770 AM) in New York City from 1960 to 1968, continues to serve up some wonderful music at his current station in Vero Beach, FL. HOA can be heard every Saturday from 2:00 – 3:00 PM on WOSN, 97.1 FM. Although the station doesn’t stream over the Net, Herb’s shows are archived on the site every week.

Herb Oscar’s radio programs are very entertaining and well formatted. He starts off each week’s show by singing his theme song, “Hello Again,” live with prerecorded music; and during the show he will sing another song or two, quite often a tune from the Big Band era. He presents songs from multiple eras and genres, mainly from the 1960s and ’70s, the recordings many of us grew up with, and quite a few of which he’d presented during his tenure at 77 WABC. You never know what you’ll hear during HOA’s broadcast; his shows are always full of pleasant surprises.

To read more about Herb, and to listen to and/or download Herb’s Saturday shows, please visit this page:

97.1 Ocean: WOSN FM.