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Show History

An interview with Ed Walker, April 1974

For University of Maryland Oral History Seminar (Dr. Donald Kirkley, Jr.) and Broadcast Pioneers Library, April 1974. Source: Library of American Broadcasting, University of Maryland Libraries, L.A.B. Audio Transcript #410.

My name is David Carter. The following is an interview with radio announcer Ed Walker. The interview is taking place in Mr. Walker's office at WWDC Radio in Silver Spring, MD. Today is April 20th, 1974.

Okay, Mr. Walker, let's start with some basic information. When and where were you born and raised?

Okay, Dave let's see. I was born on April 23rd, 1932, and I was born in a little town in Illinois called Fairbury at the Fairbury Hospital. We lived in a town called Forrest, Illinois, but I went to Fairbury because Forrest wasn't big enough to have a hospital. And that's the reason for that. My dad was a telegrapher on the Wabash railroad, and Forrest, Illinois was sort of a watering town for the railroad. That's where I spent the first four years of my life.

After doing the research, I found that you started a record collection when you were only three years old. Is that right?

Ed during an interview Not quite that young, I was about five years old when I got my first phonograph from Montgomery Wards. That's not a commercial, but that's what it was. It was a little wind-up portable, and a few records; and in those days, of course, records were 35 cents apiece; but 35 cents was a lot of money in those days. So, I started my record collection instead of allowances. Or I'd get an allowance and save and get records every occasion. You know, instead of new socks, I would want records. Then friends of the family or relatives who were cleaning out their attics would come up with boxes of records that nobody wanted, but I would take them. I was eager to get my hands on all kinds of records, and that's how the record collection started.

You conducted radio shows in the basement with a mini-transmitter when you were about eight. Did you use these records for your shows?

Oh yes.

What kind of shows did you do?

Well, for Christmas I got this little thing. It was a mini-transmitter, and I put a little aerial on it, which is illegal. But you could hear it a couple of doors down, and go down and knock on neighbors' doors and tell them I was on the air and would they listen. I would make up commercials and announcements and play whatever records I had. As I got a little older and got a little more interested and a little more sophisticated, I added an extra turntable and kind of primitive mixer so that I could fade the music in and have the microphone and the record going at the same time. It just sort of sprung from that. And that's how I got started.

What were some of your favorite records and songs that you played back then?

Oh boy. Oh dear me (laugh). I still have some of them. They're buried somewhere. I liked all the old Bing Crosby - I had a lot of Bing Crosby records. I had some Horace Hite records and Kay Kaiser, and Orin Tucker with "Wee Bonnie Baker." Now that goes way back. "Oh, Johnny, Oh" anybody remember that? - 1939. 1 liked, I still do, as a matter of fact; I like all kinds of music depending upon the mood I'm in. If the music is performed well, then I can get into Just about anything. I like good country music, as well as jazz, or classical, or anything.

Did you tailor your program for the neighbors?

(Laugh) I'd do anything to get them to listen. Thinking back on it, we didn't have very good demographics in those days as they talk about now. It was a good experience. I loved radio when I was a kid because radio took the place of comic books and funny papers and everything else, and those were the days when we had a lot of dramas on radio. There was no television then. They had the kids' shows in the afternoon and the big variety shows at night. I just really liked radio, and I liked to listen and see how far away I could hear stations - out of town stations.

Were any of your neighbors, or your friends, or relatives perhaps, involved in the broadcast industry?

Well, no relatives. But we made the acquaintance of a guy when we first came to Washington who we met at our church. His name was Ted Belote, and he was an engineer at WOL, which was in those days Mutual Broadcasting System; and it was owned by the Cowles Publishing Company who owned Look magazine. Ted knew that I was interested and used to take me with him on remotes (a remote is a broadcast outside the station), and in those days they did a lot of remotes - the Navy Band and the Army Band and different places like that. And I'd get to go with him and carry a mike stand or do something that made me feel important. Just hanging around radio stations and being around the people, I picked a lot of the jargon and a lot of the things that they did and the way they did them. So that was my first exposure to broadcasting, and I think that Ted had an awful lot to do with maintaining my interest in radio. By the time I was ten years old, I was convinced that that was what I wanted to do professionally when I grew up.

What major schools did you attend?

Secondary schools: I went to the Maryland School for the Blind in Baltimore because they had no provision for blind students in the Washington area in those days. So I went there and would come home on the weekends. My junior and senior year of high school, they sent students to Baltimore City College, which was a high school, but it was there that we got the public school feel. After that I went to American University and got a BS degree in communications. I went to American University from 1950 to 1954, and then I went back for one final year of graduate work on a fellowship. But, unfortunately, I never did get my Masters Degree because I got gainful employment in broadcasting and just never went back to it.

You were the first and only totally blind student ever accepted at American University. Did this create any particular problems in classes that were not geared to teach the visually handicapped?

Yes, there were problems I was the first, but fortunately not the last. They've had several since then. The problem was the bulk of reading material because they just didn't have the textbooks in Braille. And Braille is much slower than print anyway, and I had to find sighted readers which we would pay by the hour. The Vocational Rehabilitation Service sponsored me. Then, as I got to know kids there and get into the fraternities and things like that, I could always find somebody to study with. I would even take a tape recorder to some classes. This is BC - before cassettes - so that we would have to take a reel-to-reel machine, which is kind of cumbersome, and then get the permission of the teacher to record the lectures. Or I would have somebody record chapter summaries, and then I would review the material that way. So I had a lot of help.

What type of broadcast related training did you receive at American University?

Well, the first two years I didn't take too much broadcasting because I started out as a sociology major out of necessity. Because to be sponsored by the Vocational Rehabilitation people, they didn't feel that there was much of a future for a blind person in broadcasting; and the burden of proof was on me. I had to show them within two years that it was feasible; and, naturally, your first two years in college are pretty basic anyway. I signed up as a sociology major; soon started hanging around with the people that were interested in radio and television because A.U. did offer that course; and several of us found some equipment that had been used for simulating broadcast situations in the classes; and we got another mini-transmitter and started WAMU, which was the campus radio station. That was in the summer of my freshman year. And, then, that very summer I met Willard Scott, who was coming into A.U. as a perspective student. He was just looking around, and we met at the radio station. Then, the next year we realized that we worked well together on a microphone; so, the next year we got a weekend job at WOL, and by that time the Vocational Rehabilitation people allowed me to switch my major because they felt that I really had some sort of a future in broadcasting.

I would like to get you to talk about the development of WAMU. Would you share those experiences with me? Were your ideas readily accepted?

There had been a radio station at A.U. prior to my arrival there. It was called WAMC, and they had a fire or something one night, and the station was destroyed, and nothing much had happened with it; and then two other fellows and myself wanted to get a campus radio station going, and we would beg, borrow, and literally stole things to get on the air. We got some space in a temporary building out on the campus, and we started in the summer. Actually, nobody was listening because nobody was there. But we were doing sort of a dry run to get the kinks out; and we got on the air limited hours and would ask people at radio stations as they were throwing out their records to please remember WAMU; and that's how we started to build up a record library. And then we went to the student council and tried to convince them that it was a good thing, and they gave us a little bit of money.

They weren't too excited about it. The main problem was you couldn't hear the station all over the campus because you're restricted to what they call carrier current, that is, you have to hook the transmitter into the power lines; and wherever a radio plugs in on those power lines, you can hear the station. But it's not supposed to radiate more than fifty feet, or something like that, from the power line. So, not being an engineer, not a really technical guy, we had to wait until we could get some other help. And then we finally got a little better transmitter, and over a couple of years we started being heard on the campus, and then the student council accepted us and would let us travel with the basketball team. At A.U. their big sport was basketball. And we would broadcast the away games and feed them back to the campus, and this went over very, very big; and I, most of the time, got to go along as the engineer. I guess they figured I would concentrate on my work. I wouldn't be distracted by looking at the game. So, I could sit up there and listen on headphones to the guys doing the play by play. Within a year or two the station was fairly well accepted, and then we wanted to try to get an FM station going. We were working on that my senior year and had actually purchased a used FM transmitter. But by this time, the radio and television department had moved into a brand new building on campus, which was paid for by the Evening Star Broadcasting Co. -- they own WMAL and WMAL TV, and they didn't want any competition from another FM station. So that was kind of nipped in the bud. Since that time, of course, WAMU-FM has gone on the air, and it's a very potent educational radio station in the area.

How many announcers did you have on WAMU, and what type of programming was there?

Oh, gee, I have no idea. It was all volunteer, of course. We had a lot of kids that would come in for maybe an hour or two a week. And then there was a nucleus of maybe ten of us that really lived at the station (radio and television majors), and I must honestly say that I learned more about broadcasting from that station than I think I did from any classes because this is really practical application. So, we would just literally live at the station. Studying was almost secondary because we tried to sell time to local merchants, and we tried to run it like a radio station with a traffic department, and we had daily logs, and we had a music librarian. I was the chief engineer for a while until we got a guy who was a better engineer. As I said earlier, I'm not really an engineer; and then we got another chief engineer, and I became the manager for a year or two.

You also had a program on WAMU called "Walker's Wax Works." What types of things did you do on your program, and when was it running?

(Laugh) It was on various times. Most of the time I think it was on from midnight until one in the morning, I think it had been on at various different times, but that seemed to be the time when a lot of the kids were up in the dorm; and for a radio station on the campus, that was a good listening time. I played as many of the new records as we could scrounge up. The thing I did mostly then was to lift voices off of comedy albums or fifteen minute dramatic programs which were still put out - the Red Cross and the Veterans' Administration would put out little dramas, and you could lift lines out of these and cue them up while a record is on, and you could say something and have somebody answer you. We used to call them gimmicks, and we would do that and try to be light humorous stuff. I was working alone then. Willard wasn't even a radio and television major. He was a philosophy major if you can believe that. So "Walker's Wax Works" was sort of a forerunner of the kind of stuff that I did do on the air later; and there again, it was excellent experience for me.

Wasn't this a great work overload? You're managing the station; you're working as the engineer; you have your own program; and trying to go to classes at the same time.

Yes, it was pretty hectic I must admit. I was young enough then that it didn't really ruin my health. I got pretty tired; but I thrived on it, and I think that when you're really involved in something, it's amazing how little sleep you can get by on. I don't think I could do it today, but I'm sure there are a lot of people in college who are working their way through school who keep pretty rough hours, And I did, but I loved every minute of it. I wouldn't trade it in because I had a tremendous drive to be successful in broadcasting, and I felt this was essential for me.

You mentioned earlier your weekend program with Willard Scott on WOL. What type of program was that?

Well, we called it "Going AWOL." Originally we were on Sunday night at eleven o'clock, which is probably the worst time of the week to be on the radio, unless maybe it's Sunday morning at six or something like that. In those days we wrote skits. We would actually sit down and script the show. It was a half-hour show, and we would try to do parodies on commercials that were big that day or parodies on quiz programs like "Strike It Rich." A lot of these shows were on television then, you see. This was in '52. Then they moved us to Saturday and Sunday, and on Saturday night we kind of developed a pretty good audience because the A.U. crowd would all come up there. It was a cheap way to end a date because it didn't cost anything to come to the station; and they would bring us a cup of coffee and a hamburger; and we ended up with a studio audience almost on the show; and it was really a lot of fun.

And then they sold the station; and just prior to selling the station, Willard got a job as a staff announcer at WRC, which is the NBC station. He had been a page there. Anyway, and he got that job; and, of course, he could no longer work at WOL. So I worked there alone for a couple of months; and then the station had been sold; and then I concentrated very heavily again on WAMU until 1954, my senior year; and I got a job at a brand new radio station called WPGC; and I worked there for two years.

Was WPGC in the Top-Forty format then?

Well, they certainly weren't as into it as they are now. They weren't as polished. Radio wasn't quite as frantic in those days as it is now. We were playing the contemporary music. I guess you would call it Top-Forty, but we were playing all the big hits of that day - The Crew Cuts and The McGuire Sisters, and all of the groups that were very popular. They didn't have the production aids and things that people use today, the jingles and stuff like that. We were just getting into that in broadcasting.

Going back to when you were working with Willard Scott, whose idea was it to work as a team?

It was kind of a mutual idea. As I said earlier, we realized the first time we met - it was at the radio station - that we had a certain rapport going; and then we did a little work for fraternity dances and parties; and we realized that we could make people laugh. While we have different personalities, our interests are very different, and we are two individuals. But in broadcasting we think a lot alike in many areas, and it's just been a very unusual relationship. I don't think you can take two people and put them in a studio and say, "Okay, you guys, be funny." Because we've been going so long now that we can almost second-guess one another, and that's just something that developed. I can't explain it. I guess chemistry is the word I want.

Have you ever encountered any problems working as a team that you might not encounter working on a solo show?

There are problems in that, perhaps, when people want you to appear as a team for a charitable organization or something, and you can't always speak for the other member of the team who has other outside interests. Today, of course, Willard is a television personality in his own right; and that takes up a lot of his time; and then I do other things. I free lance and do a lot of things other than the show; but as we have grown up in the business, we really don't see as much of each other as you would imagine, as we did in those college days - in those early days - because we each have two individual careers, and a part of those careers is that we do a show together, if you follow what I mean.

You moved from WPGC to WRC. What year was that?

Well, I actually worked at both stations for a period of time. I started at WPGC on June 4, 1954, and in 1955, in March I think it was, Willard called me up and said, "I've got permission for you to audition with me." He had a little record show then in the evening, and he said, "They're going to let you do an on-the-air audition for two days." So we did that, and they taped it, and I never heard anything from the station. And I thought, well, it must not have gone over too well. This was in March, and in July 1955, I get a call that they wanted to talk to me at NBC. It took them all that time. They work very slowly. Then they hired me for a half-hour a day to work with Willard doing a half-hour show, which wasn't a living, you know. So I got permission to stay on at WPGC and do both shows as sort of a trial thing, and I continued that from July 1955, until November 1956. Now let me get my facts straight. I left WPGC in June of 1956. I was there two years to the day, and then I did some summer work at WRC that summer, and then Willard went into the Navy, and then I inherited his afternoon show.

Okay, you're at WRC, and you're working with Willard. Was this the "Two At One" program?

That was the "Two At One" program, until Willard went into the Navy.

Was this the only team radio show on the air in the Washington area at that time?

No, believe it or not, Harden and Weaver had been working together about long as we have. Now we will have been together twenty-two years in May of 1974. Harden and Weaver were doing a little fifteen-minute show on the ABC network. They were both staff announcers at WMAL. They had been on about the same amount of time that we had, as a team.

In 1956 Willard goes into the Navy and you carry on alone. Did the program format change drastically?

It had to with only one person doing it. The accent wasn't so much on the clever stuff. I did a few voices. I would talk to other people. By this time I was in a station where we had engineers; and you couldn't handle the equipment; and it wasn't as easy to set up these little one line voice things that I was talking about earlier, so I just started doing my own voices and talking to people of my own creation. The show kept getting longer as the soap operas were dying off on radio. You see, there were all these fifteen-minute afternoon soaps, and they were falling like flies, so I ended up on for four hours in the afternoon from two to six. All that time used to be network time in radio, but it was all going by the boards. Then Willard came back, and we started again in the afternoon - afternoon drive - and about a month after he had been back, they bought the "Bozo the Clown" series for television; and they needed a Bozo, a host, so they picked Willard; and they sent him to California to go to clown school. He didn't really need that. He was pretty much of a clown anyway. So then Willard would be on the show with me for a half-hour, and then he would run up and do television, and I'd do the rest of the show myself. And it went on and on that way, and, that's basically what happened.

Let's go back for just a moment. While Willard is in the Navy, you were doing "Twilight Tunes" from 2 to 6?

No, I guess it was from 4 to 6, Monday through Friday.

And "Record Session" from 10:35 to 11:00?

I had forgotten... (laugh) That is right. That is right.

You mentioned the "Twilight Tunes" you did voices, and I believe you also interviewed personalities. What type of people were they?

Whenever possible, yes. Well, people like Johnny Mercer. This was about the time that "Lil' Abner" just came out, and he was in town, and we had Morton Gould -- I remember was in town one time and was going to perform a musical composition called Declaration. He had been commissioned by the radio station to write this for the Fourth of July to be performed at Constitution Hall. So we interviewed him, and we interviewed The Four Aces (a vocal group), Betty Johnson was a singer, The Breakfast Club out of Chicago, and Lou Ann Simms who was with Arthur Godfrey. Maybe you can refresh my memory. Who do you have down there?

The research didn't indicate anyone, so I don't have any!

(Laugh) Well, there were others.

What type of show was "Record Session"? I assume being late at night it was a lot different than "Twilight Tunes."

Well, it was more music because there were less commercials. It started out as a half-hour show of popular music, maybe more album things. The station was not playing the rock and roll music. We played a lot of albums, the bands, and the better vocalists, and so forth. And it went to eleven o'clock; and then it got expanded to a later time; and then after eleven I started playing dreamy, mood music, Mantovani and things like that. And I would come in every few records and identify it and try to work into the microphone with a deep voice and sound restful. A complete turn-around from the afternoon.

Willard comes back, and you begin working as a team. When did you change from the "Two At One" to the "Joy Boys"?

Well, since we weren't on at one o'clock anymore, the "Two at One" didn't mean anything. That was the whole title of the show, two guys at one o'clock, "Two at One." So, some engineers actually got us the title of the "Joy Boys." Some of the engineers used to sing a song that they had learned at the Capital Radio Engineering Institute, which was over on 16th Street. The tune is the old Billboard Circus March, and they used to go around singing that song "We are the Joy Boys of radio. We chase electrons to and fro, etc.", and we picked it up, and we recorded it. The closing theme on our show that I use today is the original "Joy Boys" theme that I recorded in 1956, and I do all the voices on it. My voice was a little higher then, so it may not sound like me; but we're still using that same recording. We sang along with a band recording of the Billboard March; and then after Willard came out of the Navy, that's when we started calling ourselves the "Joy Boys."

You produce the "Joy Boys" program, don't you?

Well, if you can call it producing. In other words, when you are on the air somebody has to call the shots. Producing doesn't really mean that I have the last say on what goes on the show. No. All it means is that I sit there and tell the engineer what sequence we're going to follow - what commercials we're going to do, and then Willard fills in the lag. He does the visual work for me. We have a very loose format, but you have to decide how many commercials you're going to do here, and how you're going to separate competitive car dealers and restaurants and things like that, and try to keep within the station format - have the ratio of music to commercials that they try to get here at the station and keep that sound. So that's kind of my job. It always has been for some reason. I think mainly because Willard doesn't like to do that. I tend to be a little methodical, whereas Willard is very happy go lucky and always comes out of it sunny side up. But he doesn't tend to like detail work as much as I do. I don't like it too much myself; but as I say, somebody has to do it.

What do you try to accomplish with your program?

We try to entertain. Basically we don't try to educate anybody. Occasionally we will have our serious moments but depending upon the time of day you're on. Now when we were on in the evenings, for a long period of time, we could really get close to an audience because we had a lot of time. We weren't rushed. We have the heavy commercia1 load, and we could talk for longer periods of time -- talk about things, whether it be a serious subject or a light subject. Somebody would call up and want to know who set a record for something or other in the Guinness Book of Records. We'd look it up or ask about it, and someone would invariably call up with the answer. So, we worked very closely with the audience.

Then we'd do our skits, parodies on soap operas and things like that. We try to entertain people. They took a survey once. I think it was Thompson's Dairy. They're not even in business anymore, but the Thompson's Dairy people took a survey. They never bought our show as a result of the survey, incidentally. But the survey was very flattering to us; and it proved, according to them, that we had a preponderance of ministers and doctors and psychiatrists listening to our program. This was at night. We analyzed that and figured out that a lot of these guys were making house calls at that time - counseling calls. Our program was kind of an escape mechanism for these guys. When they were in their car for a few minutes between stops, they could take their mind off of somebody else's problem and listen to what we were doing; and it was so much foolishness. We don't make any claims of doing anything that's going to go down in a time capsule anywhere; but if we can make somebody - if you can get a couple of good laughs in the course of a show, then I think we've accomplished what we want to do.

Do you remember when that survey was conducted?

It was back in the sixties. It must have been about 1965 or 1966, I would guess.

This question has probably been asked many times before, but I have to ask it. What is a typical day in the life of Ed Walker like, because I know that you're very busy?

A typical day today might be where I would arise at about 6:30 in the morning and have breakfast and go to a recording studio to do some commercials. I do some freelance commercial work around town, and I might have an 8:00 or 9:00 o'clock recording call which might take an hour. Or some days, if I'm not doing that, I might go down to the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind where I have a job as the assistant to the executive director - mostly in promotion and things like that working with the Columbia Lighthouse. Other days if I'm not out at the recording studio or down at the Lighthouse, I would be in my little office in the basement of my home conducting business on the telephone, either for the Lighthouse or picking records, (I have quite a large library of records,) not for the music content but getting ideas for skits or a song I might want to make up for that day's show.

Then I come in here to the station at about noon and go into production up in the production studio and record anything that I want to pre-record for that afternoon. Like if I have a character that I want to have a talk with on the air, I may pre-record half of the... you know, we call it an open-end interview, so that I would have his voice on tape; and then I can answer his questions live, and it would sound like two people. It doesn't sound like one person trying to do two voices. Or I might record some commercials to go into a news cast so that you can get a few minutes to go out of the studio and get a cup of coffee, because four hours strapped in that chair is a bit long. Then the show is on from 3:00 to 7:00 P.M.; and then I usually come back down here in the office and listen to cassettes that have been made by the traffic department of the new copy that I have to have for the next day - a commercial or something for the next morning or for the next show; and I'll Braille the copy. Then I'll get home and have my dinner at about nine o'clock that night.

Let's talk about, for a moment, the latter part of 1972 - October I believe it was - when WRC is changing to a Top-Forty format, and you're leaving. That was a pretty hectic time I imagine.

Yes, it was - a very hectic time, and we knew it was coming. It was one of those things where... it's like knowing that you're out on the limb of a tree, and the limb is going to break off, but you don't know exactly when. Because we knew it was coming. We'd heard an awful lot of rumors, and we knew that the chain of NBC owned-and-operated stations was going in that direction. They were playing contemporary Top-Forty radio; and the station, WRC, had real rating problems with the split of FM and AM for 50% of the time. We could see a lot of our audience dwindling at night because of the signal problems at night. There are certain areas where - when the station was first licensed, the suburban area of Washington didn't stretch out nearly as far as it does today. And there were certain parts of Virginia that couldn't hear us at night except on FM, but FM was doing something else.

So, anyway, they had these problems; and it was decided, on a New York level, that they wanted to make the station a Top-Forty station. They put a lot of money into it to promote and give away money and contests; and they also had to spend a lot of money to buy off contracts, both mine and a lot of other people's; but it was a mass house cleaning. I have no bitterness about it. That certainly is their prerogative; and I feel, having been there seventeen years, that for this business that is a very, very long time. The longevity of a guy on the radio is pretty short by comparison in other jobs because trends change, tastes change, management changes. A new program director comes into a station, and he has his pets - some guy that he worked with in Duluth, Minnesota that he thought was the best morning man in the business, and he wants him to work at his station. That sort of thing. So Willard and I had survived a lot of changes at WRC, but this one was just bigger than we were. Of course, Willard was still there on television, but they have completely divorced the radio and the television operation. So, I got my notice, and at the same time I had just bought a new house, and my wife was in the hospital. All these things (chuckle) happened at the identical same time.

We were very fortunate in that the public response... We had gotten some excellent coverage in the newspapers - guys like Bernie Harrison, and Larry Laurent, and Tom Shales; and the columnists were highly incensed and wrote articles about the fact that they were making the station like every other station and that it was one of the few programs that had a little creativity and did different things. And people started to write in, and then we started looking around. We obviously started calling radio stations. The problem was a lot of stations, I'm sure, would have liked to have had us; but the budget didn't allow for hiring two people. Then we started getting calls from our advertisers; and being on at night all those years, the advertisers were mostly local guys; and we got to know them. And they said - and the agencies that represented them said - "When you leave, we're pulling off the station; and you let us know where you get settled; and we'll bring the business with you." Now that was a big help to us. It gave us a tool to work with in negotiating with other stations. Then we felt that psychologically if we didn't get on the air very quickly, the team would die - just like that.

So we made an arrangement to work; and, believe me, we had not signed any contract. We had not made any arrangement to work at this station (WWDC). The only arrangement we made was that we were going to do guest appearances on the Johnny Holliday program in the morning for a week for a dollar a day apiece. We each made a dollar a day, and that was our big finale on the last Friday afternoon show on WRC. When we signed off, nobody knew we were going to do this. We saved this for the big kicker. Well, we had Johnny Holliday call us. That had been pre-arranged, and we had him call us and invite us to be on his show. And then as we signed off, we said, "So long. It's been nice, and we will see you on Monday morning on WWDC with Johnny Holliday." Well, I'm sure that didn't go over too well with the new management of WRC, but we felt that psychologically it was the best thing we could do. And then, as a result of that week with John and the response and the letters, the mail that we brought over to the station - we were able to negotiate a contract here.

Was there ever a time between when you knew you were going to leave and you were doing the shows with Johnny Holliday when you thought maybe your radio days were over?

Well, I never thought my radio days were over, but I did think that the possibility of the "Joy Boys" as a unit was over. I was going to continue in broadcasting even if I just had to free lance or do outside work and maybe get some other kind of a job to buy the bread and milk. I planned to stay in the business. I didn't know in what capacity I'd remain in the business. There were a lot of questions in my mind for a few months. I'll tell you that was an awful few months to live through.

Do you remember the date of your last show on WRC and when you started here?

The date of the last show was October, I believe October - I really have forgotten. I want to say October 21st, but I'm not sure. Isn't that funny? I remember when I started, but I don't remember when I left.

Now you are doing evening drive from 3:00 to 7:00 P.M. here on WWDC. Do you prefer the evening drive slot, or would you rather work a morning show?

I think everyone in radio would like to work the morning show. That is the prestige number. That's when people would like - everyone who is a radio personality - would like to have the morning slot. Although, I'm not complaining because I think that we have an excellent morning man here at the station. We've often wondered if the town were ready for two teams in the morning. There is a team on in the morning, Harden and Weaver. I like afternoon drive. It's busy, and we've had to change our concepts and try to tighten things up and make them in miniature. We don't ramble the way we did at night. You just can't do it, as much as we loved it. That very personal approach we had at night, unfortunately, is not prevalent in radio today. The Godfrey approach of taking a long time to do commercials. He pioneered in that. Even he is no longer on the radio. So radio has changed, and I think that the important thing that we have learned and that we are trying to do, is to be adaptable and to change with it.

We have been lucky so far to last twenty-two years and to appeal to... We're now in our second generation, and I'm thrilled about that. We have people of all ages listen to us. I think it's great. Kids like us because we are silly; and a lot of the people our age identify with us; and the old folks seem to like us, some of them. There are those, of course, not going to delude myself into thinking everyone likes our show because there are a lot of people who think that we're just silly; and they have no use for that kind of show. But that's why there are so many radio stations. If everybody listened to us, the others might as well pack up and go home; and, of course, it's not that kind of a ball game.

You have alluded to several times the fact that radio has changed from a live orchestra and soap opera, and star oriented medium to one of, we might say, repetitive music. What do you think about radio today, as opposed to the thirties and the forties?

Well, I think radio is back on the upswing again. I think it went through a very had period in the early fifties when everybody predicted doom for broadcasting, and the big national sponsors pulled out and put their money into television. Radio was really in bad shape financially. Therefore, they evolved to this lower budget type of operation, music and news. But now, for many reasons I suppose, I think television is giving us a lot of bad stuff. They start repeating in March. The expense is so great in television, and I think people are tired of television. I think people are rediscovering radio, especially with FM Stereo. A guy goes out and spends a thousand dollars for a nice Hi-Fi system, and he will listen to the radio. He'll listen to music. The background music stations are doing exceedingly well. I listen to them myself, if you have guests and you want music and don't feel like changing records. I still like to be talked to once in a while; and I question the selling effect of a background music station because while the music is in the background, the advertising is also in the background; and you can try this as an experiment. When you're in a room and one of those stations is on and you hear somebody talking, ask the guy you're with after they go back into a record what was he talking about because you can't hear it because it's not in the foreground. It's in the background.

We're seeing a resurgence of radio drama. Do you see that as the way of radio in the future?

It could come back. I don't think that it will ever be as dominant as it was before, but I think it certainly is possible that we'll have more of it. There are a lot of programs in syndication. You can get The Lone Ranger on radio again. You can get The Green Hornet and The Shadow, a lot of these old shows which had been saved; and people are selling them at reduced prices. Rod Serling is producing a radio package called The Zero Hour, which I understand Mutual is going to carry; but it's also available to individual stations on a syndicated basis five half-hours a week. The CBS Mystery Theater has gone over so well, I think there is going to he even more. National Public Radio would like to get into that if they had the funds for it. The material is available, and the talent is available. Radio acting is a real art form. It's unlike any other kind of acting. It's not like being on the stage. It's not like being in the movies. There is a knack to being a radio actor, and I think it might come back. It will never be number one, but it could come back. Think of what you could do with it in stereo. You could do some really sophisticated things, like Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater back in the thirties. If we had another real genius and with the support that was necessary, it would really be great, I think.

You do your own dramas, of course, on the "Joy Boys." You do "As the Worm Turns." How did that come about?

(Laugh) Well, that came about as a result of the prevalence of hospital oriented soap-operas on television. Obviously, there is a soap opera called "As the World Turns," and we just paraphrase that and call it "As the Worm Turns;" and it caught on. We've been doing it now for almost three years. It won't last forever. We found that's true about that kind of thing - the skits. You do them when they're topical; and then as they cease to be funny, then you look for some other vehicle. We used to do a drama on the old show on WRC called "Clayton Place" back in the days when "Peyton Place" was big on television. We used to do a thing called "The Sodbuster," a take-off on the old "Gunsmoke" stuff when "Gunsmoke" was in radio. We try to latch on to something or some gimmick that is successful and parody it, do satire on it so the people can identify with it.

I have a quote from Mr. Bernie Harrison of The Evening Star, May 19, 1972, and I wonder if you have a comment. Mr. Harrison writes that "As the Worm Turns" is:

"...the best serial on the air, in terms of quality, performance, and writing, and Ed could also get a special citation for the best impersonation of an entertainment personality that is a distinct improvement on the original, namely, Georgie Jessel."

(Laugh) Well, bless Bernie's heart. I think we were the only soap opera on the air on radio, so there wasn't a whole lot to choose from. Bernie has been a really great supporter of the "Joy Boys." Bernie's of the school that liked that kind of radio. There isn't that much to critique. Being a radio and television critic, there isn't that much radio to critique. It's all music and news, and so we both appreciate Bernie's...As I said earlier, that had an awful lot to do with us getting a job so quickly. We're indebted to Bernie Harrison, (In Jessel voice) "including Georgie Jessel," Of course, there again we don't use the real names. We'll take a guy like Georgie Jessel; and we'll paraphrase his name and call him Georgie Jawful, "because he always talks like he has something in the side of his mouth;" and we'll have him write songs. "The problem is that the fellows that we do are getting older, and they're dying off." So the problem is to learn to try and do contemporary voices, which is tough because these old guys - these old actors had distinct voice qualities that a lot of the new people don't have. So it's a constant struggle to come up with new voices.

You also do "Nut (Naught) Albright," which is one of my favorites.

Well, there is a Nat Albright here in Washington, and we do him. He's got an advertising agency. He loves it! He loves for us to do the scores and talk the way he did because he was a baseball announcer. (In Albright voice) "And everything is like this, you know, fantastic!" That's the way he talks. There again, he is a local type personality. That would mean nothing in another city. Baltimore is a neighbor of ours, Baltimore being forty miles away; and we are heard in Baltimore quite well in FM; so we've developed a Balmur guy. We call him "Balmur Benny;" and I lived in Baltimore a long time, went to school there; and I've learned to talk (In Benny's voice) "the way that the folks over in Balmur talk, and dis is da way dey talk. Dey talk like dis, and dey go over there and wash down the white steps on Saturday mornings, and get some har shell crabs and a casea National Beer, and sit around there and drink beer all weekend, and go to da ball game. That's the way da folks over there in Balmur talk." People like that. They identify with that sort of stuff, so we look for characters like that.

What about your early character, "Old Grandad"?

There again, we use his voice, but the format of the station doesn't permit the playing of that vintage of record. Grandad used to be playing music out of the twenties; and then when we got into the sixties, we upped him to the thirties. He was playing music out of the thirties. So we use the character, but we don't play the records. He used to have his own show, by the way, fifteen minutes a day across the board at WRC. When Willard went in the Navy, this is the truth, we retired Grandad. I didn't bring him with me at first when I started the show by myself; and we got a lot of letters; so we finally brought him back. And one letter in particular, I don't know if it was a lady or a gentleman, but thought that it was just criminal that we would take an old man, put him out of work, and have him go on relief. They really believed that it was a character and that we had treated him very shabbily.

Let's shift gears for just a moment, Mr. Walker. Has your blindness been a hindrance, or has it in effect really helped you in a radio career?

Oh, I think helped me in many ways. There are areas where it's hindered me because there are certain areas of broadcasting which I have to steer clear of. One would be sports casting. Another would be on the spot news coverage, but I think that it has helped me to develop a keener ear. I don't know if I would be able to do what I do now had I not been blind. There are things that it takes me longer to do. I always have to go through the process of having the material copied into Braille and having someone read mail to me. I can't be as immediate as the average announcer, let us say; but I think it has taught me an awful lot of discipline that I need for this business and made me do my homework.

Did you ever have any experiences with, perhaps, on the spot news reporting or sports cast....

Yes. Well, I've never done a sports cast, but I used to try to do the news because of the situation wherever I worked. I think you know the story, don't you? When I worked at WPGC, I worked Sunday afternoons my first few months there, and there was nobody else at the station except a high school girl who answered phones and took down people's addresses. We used to have these commercials where we were selling records and re-built vacuum cleaners, and people would call in. It was called a PI deal, a per inquiry deal. The station was paid by the number of inquiries they received. They would not let her do the news. They said, "You've got to do the news on the hour." So I had been working on this system in college, anyway, where I would wear a pair of earphones and listen to someone reading the news; and I would repeat it about a half a sentence behind them just as a court reporter does with a stenomask machine. I had worked out this system where I found another station that used the same wire service and had sold the time check on the hour, and they always started their news on time. So I would just back-time myself to come out the same time they were; and I'd put on my earphones and listen to this guy read the news; and I'd follow him substituting my call letters wherever his were given; and it was perfectly okay because I was reading the same copy that we would be getting on our wire service anyway. I got fairly proficient at this.

Then one Sunday I put on my earphones ready for the news, and I heard, "from Long Beach California - the Old Fashioned Revival Hour is on the air." Well, they had sold the time; and I didn't know it; and so there I stood with egg all over my face and rattled my pages and said, "Due to technical difficulties," which is the big out, "our teletype machine is not working properly, and we will be unable to bring you the news at this time." And that ended my illustrious news career.

Do you use any special devices or techniques in the studio because of your blindness?

I use a clock, a special clock. I've had several over the years. The most recent one is a direct digital read-out clock which has been modified with Braille numbers on the little windows that flip over every minute. I use that and a Braille typewriter; a Braillewriter, which I keep on the desk to copy down weather information and something that the newsroom might want to feed me in a hurry that I can copy down while a record is on. Good relationships with the engineers (laugh). Oh, and a cassette machine for copying the material into Braille, but those are basically the major things that I use. We do have in the newsroom an IBM electric Brailler, which is a machine that looks like an electric typewriter, has a standard typewriter keyboard, but the type is Braille so that a sighted person can sit down and type out a note to you in Braille letter for letter. Now this doesn't have any of the sophisticated abbreviations, and I don't recommend it for long pieces of copy, but we do use that on Saturdays. We have a guy in the newsroom who gives me overnight sports scores and things like that. He pulls them off the wire and sits down and types them out for me, and they come out in Braille. And then I do have a Braille labeling machine, which is like a Dymo Tape labeler, where I can paste Braille labeling tape on the records and tapes and identify them that way for myself.

In the early days, did you ever work without an engineer; and did that present any special problem, referring again to your blindness?

Not really. It would present more problems today than it did then. I've always been a frustrated engineer anyway, and running a board is not that hard. It takes a little coordination, and you do have to get a reference level. In other words, you don't want to run the volumes too high. But they have so much sophisticated equipment now that you can't. I mean, they have all these safety devices and transmitters that don't allow you to over modulate; and yet if you're under modulating, it tends to pull the level up so that everything is pretty even. The thing today would be that everything is on cartridges, and I'd have to label every cartridge so I could find them quickly. In the old days everything was on a record; and you have a cue position where, while one record is on, you can listen on your monitor to what the next is, or spot a commercial and count the cuts that are on the disc. So it would really be a little more difficult today than it was in my early days, but I love to run boards. I used to get a kick out of it.

While doing the research, I ran across a note which I was unable to find anything else about; and that was you were the host of an ecology program called "Waste Not." Could you tell me a bit about it - when it's on, the format, and the goal of the program?

I still am. The program is sponsored by the National Resource and Recovery Agency, which is a non-profit corporation. That's the opening of the show: "A non-profit corporation dedicated to solving solid waste problems." The show is a five-minute show, and it deals with what various cities around the country are doing to handle the solid waste problem. It's a once a week public service show, and it's now on about 1200 stations. It's on here, WWDC, on Sunday morning at 6:55 AM. Public service shows don't tend to get really class-A time. I've been doing the show for about two years, and I've never heard it on the air. Although, I've gotten response from people who say, "I heard you in Jacksonville, Florida," or "I heard you out in Ohio." "I was on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and I heard you on an Ohio station," and things like that. We record them once a month. We do four shows at one time. All I am is the announcer who says, "Today we are talking about solid waste disposal in Disney World," for example. They have a crew who will go out and record interviews with people at Disney World and the sounds of Disney World. I'll say, "We're talking to the grounds manager of so and so, and he will explain to you the elaborate vacuum system that they have that sucks up all the debris." And all of this is a four and one-half minute program. It's a very timely topic, and people are interested in that sort of thing now. I'm learning something just by doing the show. I don't write it or anything. I just go down and read it, but I find it's very educational for me.

You seem to talk with the audience rather than at them. Is this a conscious effort on your part?

Well, I sometimes try to make it a conscious effort. I guess when you feel that you're not doing it, but it's just the way I grew up. It's the way radio has always been to me, and that's the way I feel about radio. I think that is probably the most personal medium that there is because you take radios everywhere - in the bedroom, in the bathroom, in the car - everywhere you go people can have a radio. This is not my original concept, and I'll give the credit where it's due, and that is to Arthur Godfrey again. But Arthur Godfrey made the statement on his last radio program, and it really made a lot of sense to me. He said that in his early days he was a door-to-door salesman. He said that a lot of times a door-to-door salesman can get a door slammed in his face if the person opening that door doesn't like the looks of that salesman or doesn't like his manner, and I think the same thing applies to radio. You're asking people to take you into their house, into their home; and if you're offensive to them, and if you're unbelievable to them, then all they have to do is not throw you bodily out the door but just turn that dial, and you're out. That's it. That's the way I feel about radio. I think somebody is letting you come into their home or into their car and listening to you, and you owe it to them to be a decent type of individual.

In this time of radio people who simply play records, you are a personality rather than just a DJ. Is this also a conscious effort?

Well, we've been doing it for so long, and in all honesty I think - and this is all subject to change - but that is part of our worth because we have been able to sell for advertisers on the strength, both of us, on the strength of believability and involvement with the client. Kidding around with them but not maliciously kidding with them and identifying with a certain restaurant or with a certain car dealer, or whatever it may be. And while the person may not want to buy a car from this guy today, if you do get the image across about this guy, when he does think about buying a car, he'll say, "Who is the guy that these characters talk about on the radio?" Then he might go and see him even if he didn't buy the car, just to get an estimate. So that you do get referrals. As I said, we are changing to adapt to radio; but we are still trying to keep our personality into it. If I had to do just a robot type of radio, I think I would then really seriously get out of the business.

Well, I appreciate your time today, and I have one final question for you. Is there any subject that I didn't touch upon or any question that I didn't ask that you would like to comment on now?

Well, I can't really... You've been pretty thorough, I'll have to admit. You've done your homework exceedingly well! The only thing I want to add, I think, about the future of radio would be that I believe that the FM mode is going to really be even bigger and better in the years to come. I think more and more cars are equipped with FM radio. More and more of the home radios that are sold have FM. Less and less of the Hi-Fi tuners that people buy have AM, so that eventually I think that FM is going to be the superior medium to AM. The characteristics are a lot different. AM was an important medium in the days when stations were sparse, and they needed coverage, and you get this kind of coverage with AM radio. A 50,000 watt station can get you several hundred miles and even further at night, where FM is line of sight, high frequency transmission; but it's got this beautiful fidelity. The stereo quality is so great. People are into stereo now, and quad sound is coming in. So I think FM has been a real shot in the arm for radio and the transistor. Those two things, I think, have kept radio alive when a lot of doom was predicted for this medium. And I think radio is far from dead, and I think that it's going to be around a lot longer than we will.

Let me thank you very much. I know your time is valuable, and I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today.

I enjoyed it. Thank you very much.

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