Bob Jones

Posted by on Apr 20, 2013 in Legacy DJs | 0 comments

Legacy WNEW Radio Personality Bob Jones Bob Jones joined WNEW-AM in 1973. Growing up in New Haven CT. he listened to Martin Block, William B. Williams and Art Ford.  According to Bob, “by the time I was eleven I wanted to do The Milkman’s Matinee, it was always my goal”. In 1976 Bob took over the evening slot replacing Bob Hickok on “The Nightmare Show”. Soon Bob started to transform the time slot: “I brought my own personal copy of “The Milkman’s Matinee” theme and played 50 of the greatest records I could think of starting with “Because of You”. The next day the secretaries told me that the phones did not stop ringing all night. Who was that guy playing all the wonderful music? Every time I did the show I called it “The Milkman’s Matinee”, pretty soon there was a “Milkman’s Matinee” again. In 1980 Bob left “The Milkman’s Matinee” to host the evening edition of “The Make Believe Ballroom”. Bob Jones attributed his success at WNEW to veteran of the early days at the station. He maintained that: “What I know about music programing I learned by listening to WNEW and about presentation I learned from Williams and Ford and Block”.  Bob continued on at WNEW until 1986 prior to the stations closure. In 1994 Bob Jones would join the WNEW replacement station WQEW alone with other former WNEW talent Bill Quinn and Jonathon Schwartz. WQEW shut down operations in 1998. Listen to Bob Jones “I just think it’s criminal,” he said in 2003, “that in New York City, you can’t hear Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald on the radio.” Bob passed away on December 29, 2012, he had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma several years...

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Martin Block

Posted by on Aug 1, 2012 in Legacy DJs | 0 comments

In 1935, while listeners to New York’s 1130 WNEW in New York were awaiting developments in the Lindbergh kidnapping, Martin Block built an audience by playing records between the Lindbergh news bulletins. This led to Block’s show, Make Believe Ballroom, which began February 3, 1935.  Block borrowed the concept and the title from West Coast based disc jockey Al Jarvis. The idea was to create the illusion that the broadcast was from a ballroom with the nation’s top dance bands performing live. Block bought records from a local music shop since WNEW did not have a record library.  Block purchased five Clyde McCoy records, selecting his “Sugar Blues” for the radio show’s initial theme song.  In doing so, Block became the first “Disk Jockey” in the city of New York! Block was told by the station’s sales staff that nobody would sponsor a radio show playing music, so he had to find a sponsor on his own. Block, a trained salesman, found “Retardo”, a diet pill manufacturer.  Within a week, the sponsor had over 3,000 responses to the ads on Block’s radio show. Martin Block’s style of announcing was considerably different than the usual manner of delivery at the time. Instead of speaking in a voice loud enough to be heard in a theater, Block spoke in a normal voice, as if he was having a one-on-one conversation with his listeners. Block’s personal style was a big seller of products. One of Block’s sponsors offered a sale on refrigerators during a New York snowstorm; 109 people braved the elements for the bargain refrigerators Block advertised on air.  Blocks success did not go unnoticed.  By 1941, potential sponsors for his show had to be put on a waiting list for availabilities.  Block was famous for throwing away the sponsor’s advertising copy and then developing his own text free style. Make Believe Ballroom was nationally syndicated in 1940.  Block and Make Believe Ballroom made the cover of Billboard magazine in April, 1942.   By 1947, there were two daily editions of the Make Believe Ballroom: one in the late morning and another around dinner time. In 1950, he celebrated his 15th anniversary on the air. Variety devoted an entire section to Block and his career. Block co-wrote the Glenn Miller hit, “I Guess I’ll Have to Dream the Rest”.  Miller also recorded a version of the Make Believe Ballroom theme, titled “It’s Make Believe Ballroom Time” which Block was credited with the  lyrics.  The theme was used for the show up until the end of terrestrial WNEW-AM in 1992. Fannie Rose Shore auditioned for the Block’s radio show singing “Dinah”.  Block declared that “Dinah Shore” had won the spot on his radio...

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William B. Williams

Posted by on Jul 18, 2012 in Legacy DJs | 0 comments

William B. Williams was hired as a staff announcer at WAAT in Newark.  According to Williams “the guy who did the all-night show had just been fired for being bombed on the air.”  Six weeks later, a staffer at WNEW heard Williams on the air at WAAT and invited him to apply for a job at the station. He was hired at WNEW and worked several time slots before being fired by station manager Bernice Judis in 1947. An article in the New York Daily News suggested that Williams was fired for his aggressive tactics with management in his role as shop steward; however, WNEW’s official story was that he was fired after Judis caught him one evening in the studio with his feet propped on the desk clad in bright red socks. She was apparently horrified by his lack of style. Williams worked at several others stations, including WOR, but was rehired at WNEW in 1953 following a management change. While at WNEW, Williams hosted The William B. Williams Show in the morning hours, and Music in a Sentimental Mood in the afternoon. By 1958 Williams was hosting The Make Believe Ballroom, the show created in 1935 by Martin Block.  Williams would host the show until his death in 1986 Williams marked the broadcast as his own, using the distinctive sign-on, “Hello, world”, and occasionally identifying himself as “Guilliermo B. Guilliermos” or “Wolfgang B. Wolfgang,” although to listeners and friends he was known simply as “Willie B.” He combined intimate knowledge of music with his personal anecdotes to create a smooth style that captivated listeners. Williams developed lasting relationships with the top singers of the Great American Songbook, including Lena Horne and Nat King Cole.  Early in his career, he befriended Frank Sinatra when the crooner recorded broadcasts at WNEW. On one broadcast, Williams mused that since Benny Goodman was the “King of Swing” and Duke Ellington was a duke, then Sinatra must have a title as well, suggesting “Chairman of the Board.” Sinatra learned of the comment and embraced the title. As Rock and Roll emerged as a dominant force and interest passed on The Great American Songbook, Williams persisted in playing Sinatra’s music and is credited with a key role in keeping Sinatra’s career afloat. Sinatra, to whom loyalty was a key virtue, never forgot Williams and lauded him to any and all who would listen. In the 1960’s, while WNEW was still playing pop standards, soft rock was a big part of the format, making them a MOR station. Williams disliked most of these songs but played them as required.  In the 1970s WNEW became more of an adult contemporary radio station mixing in very...

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Ted Brown

Posted by on Jul 18, 2012 in Legacy DJs | 0 comments

Ted Brown attended Roanoke College in Salem,Va.  He got his first taste of broadcasting at a college dance when the master of ceremonies failed to show up and he filled in. After college he joined the United States Army Air Force during World War II. He was a tail gunner in a B-17 bomber.  He was shot down over Germanyand spent 18 months as a prisoner of war. In his early days of broadcasting, Brown broadcasted from his basement studio at his home in Riverdale, the Bronx. A uniquely humorous man on air he would sing his theme song to the melody of: “Am I Blue?” ”Am I blue? No, I’m Brown Got a smile on my puss, not a frown. Every morn from seven ’til nine We play discs and commit general crime.” Ted broadcasted with WNEW in the early 1950′s, during what was considered the golden age of AM radio when melody and lyrics still mattered in popular music. Upon his exit from WNEW to WMGM, station manager Bernice Judis commented “Don’t ever let him in the door again”. Ted Left WNEW in the early 1950’s, but would return triumphantly to WNEW in the late 1970’s.  Back at WNEW he served as the afternoon drive air personality. He moved to mornings in 1978. When WNEW began evolving in 1979 from Adult Contemporary to Adult Standards/Big Bands in 1981, Ted was in his element playing Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Duke Ellington. Ted continued working at WNEW until 1989 when he shifted to semi-retirement. In the 1990s he helped host the New York Giants football games on WNEW. Regarding the early rise he commented: “I lie to myself, I set the clock for 4:30, and then push it ahead.  So what I am doing, I am getting up at 4.  I’ll say I am getting up at 4:30, that’s not so bad. Most people get up at 5:30, but it’s really 4? I love it. I turn on WNEW, and the minute I hear that music I can feel my blood start to move.” Ted Brown loved the microphone and his fans loved him. He loved the Giants. More importantly he always reminded his listeners that he loved “Kids and Dogs and People”. He also shared his love for his family, he loved his wife Renee and often played her favorite song–”Satin Doll”–and he really loved his daughters Jamie and Sam, entertaining listeners with their home phone calls. On his broadcasting style Ted commented: “I would do the same thing if I were sitting at home in the living room.  I am the same way with my kids.  I am just the same at home.” Fellow DJ Jim...

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Jim Lowe

Posted by on Jul 18, 2012 in Legacy DJs | 0 comments

Jim Lowe, a Missouri native, worked his way to Chicago as a disc jockey and singer/songwriter. He was signed in 1954 by Mercury Records where his recording of one of his own songs, “Gambler’s Guitar.” climbed in the charts. One year later Lowe switched cities and labels, moving in 1955 to Dot Records inNew York City. He quickly scored with the novelty songs, “Close the Door (They’re Coming in the Windows),” and “Green Door,” which became a #1 hit. Other Lowe singles including, “Maybelline,” and “Four Walls,” and two albums followed for Dot, as Lowe continued a transition from recording to radio. Jim Lowe joined WNEW in 1962 moving into the overnight “Milkman’s Matinee”. He also hosted “Jim Lowe’s New York”.  Lowe soon developed a strong reputation for his command of Broadway and showbiz lore and trivia. Jim left WNEW in 1969 and rejoined The World’s Greatest Radio station, WNEW, in 1973. As WNEW reentered the Adult Big Band/Standards format in the 1980’s, Jim took a leadership position as a program manager. During this period Lowe did an outstanding job of providing the listener a sample of the sophistication that was WNEW’s trademark. In this position, he continued to work with colleagues:  William B. Williams, who  hosted “The Make Believe Ballroom” a true professional and pal of the singer he called “Francis” and “Chairman of the board”; Ted Brown, with his cornball jokes and insatiable girl hunger; and the intellectual Jonathan Schwartz, a former rock jock, who brought a freewheeling FM sensibility to the AM stations. Jim continued through the 80’s hosting his 3pm show “Jim Lowes Music Hall”.  If it was Matinee Day, a visit to Charley O’s at Shubert Alley would find “Mr. Broadway,” afternoon disc jockey Jim Lowe, chatting it up with Cleo Laine and other performers or persuading the great Sylvia Syms to get up and hush the house with her songs. As ratings started to fade, management teams changed and formats were updated, the impact hit Lowe hard. Lowe was dismissed in 1987 after a total of two decades with WNEW. At the time Lowe commented in the press: “new management was unwilling to enhance and protect the station’s 3 share and created the hodgepodge in a bid for revenues that alienated the core audience. If you’re going to play Chinese bells on the air, that’s fine, but you’ve got to do it for twenty four hours,” Commenting on his broadcasting style Lowe commented in 1984: “In order to succeed in radio, particularly New York, you have to have a rough edge. You can’t sound like an announcer. Another prerequisite is that you can’t sound like a New Yorker, because New Yorkers don’t like...

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Al “Jazzbo” Collins

Posted by on Jul 18, 2012 in Legacy DJs | 0 comments

Al “Jazzbo” Collins started broadcasting at WNEW in 1950.  Just as Martin Block created the illusion that he was speaking from the “Make Believe Ballroom”, Collins claimed to be broadcasting from a cloud high above the city of New York, the show “Collins-on-the-Cloud” was born. Jazzbo significantly promoted Jazz and, more importantly, often promoted the east coast jazz scene and the respected artist that made up its core. Over the course of the 1950’s there were many challenges from station managers on the type of music to be aired.  By the late 1950’s Jazzbo moved on from WNEW and continued his radio career in many east coast and west coast radio stations. In 1981 Jazzbo returned to WNEW commuting back and forth each week to the west coast. Upon returning to New York and WNEW he created a new illusion, Jazzbo was now broadcasting from his inner sanctum, a place known as the Purple Grotto, an imaginary setting suggested by radio station WNEW’s interior design, as Collins explained: “I started my broadcast in Studio One which was painted all kinds of tints and shades of purple on huge polycylindricals which were vertically placed around the walls of the room to deflect the sound. It just happened to be that way. And with the turntables and desk and console and the lights turned down low, it had a very cave-like appearance to my imagination. So I got on the air, and the first thing I said was, “Hi, it’s Jazzbo in the Purple Grotto.” You never know where your thoughts are coming from, but the way it came out was that I was in a grotto, in this atmosphere with stalactites and a lake and no telephones. I was using Nat Cole underneath me with “Easy Listening Blues” playing piano in the background.” With this new imagery also came a new persona, Jazzbo became the little purple elf who lived in the grotto.  As with his broadcast in the 50’s, Jazzbo actively promoted jazz.  On his business card was his motto:  you never have too much Basie. Always a character there were many famous stunts by Jazzbo that perpetrated late in the evening on WNEW.  On one evening, Jazzbo locked himself up in the studio and played the Chordettes “Mr. Sandman” until six am. At one point the NYPD called the station to see if something was wrong. When not on air, Jazzbo could be found hosting a Count Basie concert making a personal appearance.  True to his new persona, Jazzbo would wear a little elf costume and perform one of his famous beatnik nursery stories. The host of “The Milkman’s Matinee” Jazzbo would leave WNEW and go back toSan Francisco...

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