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WHDH AM 850 Boston Showcased Amazing Talents in the 60s, 70s and 80s

 When thinking of some of the greatest personalities in modern Boston radio history, the old WHDH on 850 AM (now WEEI) surely ranks amongst the best. They certainly showcased some amazing talents in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

Consider all the names that jumped out of your transistor radio, and what they brought to the airwaves. Jess Cain served as the morning funnyman but with a class and restraint that was more akin to comedians/TV talk show hosts Steve Allen and Dick Cavett rather than the screaming top 40 DJs of the generation. He was famous for the "The Carl Yastrzemski Song"...



For a while, Bob Raleigh anchored mid-morning and later went onto greater fame at WBZ AM's overnight shift.  The conversational Dave Supple had this warm personality and a slight lisp that made him an endearing personality -- like some one's favorite uncle. Frank Kingston Smith, originally of New York City radio fame, took on the late afternoon shift and had this great, stop-and-go Dick Van Dyke-type voice set to a slight echo. He was an incredible talent and had radio legend written all over him. Norm Nathan possessed the warmest radio voice ever, was an insightful humorist, and graced us with his vast knowledge of jazz and the American songbook, making for some truly listenable radio with his "Sounds in the Night" radio show. Norm and my dad were good friends and he would come over to our house or meet us for Chinese food at the China Blossom in North Andover. He was one of the nicest people I ever met -- so sincere, warm and authentic.

Additionally, Alan Dary had this wonderful Sunday morning show playing some of the greatest pop and jazz-influenced tunes ever set to vinyl. Mr. Dary didn't use any radio tricks or self-absorbed drama to show you how talented he was, instead talking to his audience as if the broadcast came from his living room. What a natural!

WHDH miraculously kept the high level of talented staff and well-chosen top 40 and pop songs (never any loud rock) going through the 1970s to the 1980s including the personable, articulate Tom Kennedy, Sean Casey with his subtle sense of humor and wacky "Chicken Man" cliffhanger segments, and the golden throat Bill Silver. I believe Mr. Silver initiated the famous phrase "But wait, there's more" as an advertising staple. Tom Doyle, who gained fame for his off-the-wall humor and deft imitations, became a co-host with Mr. Cain sometime in the early 1980s. Jim Sands, a military vet with a classic deep voice, became best known for his Saturday night oldies show. I remember meeting him at a live broadcast at Arlington Town Hall, and he was the nicest fellow (like a more gruff Norm Nathan). Mr Sands even let me say a few words on the air!

Additionally, WHDH had the very likeable Chuck Igo, one of my favorite radio personalities who has a morning show at Rewind 100.9 in Portland and is the author of an excellent book,"Taken Identity," a geo-political thriller.

That lineup playing top 40 and middle of the road songs set to catchy radio ID jingles and a news staff that was second to none -- including Vin Maloney, Nick Mills and Joe Klemente (hope that is the correct spelling) -- was everything you could ever want in a local radio station. I wish radio stations today could cultivate local talent the way they did back then on WHDH.

Sports also played a major role in the station's success with Don Gillis and Leo Egan handling the popular "Voice of Sports" show at different periods, Red Sox broadcasts bringing us the legendary Ned Martin, Ken Coleman and Jim Woods, and hockey and basketball with Bob Wilson, Fred Cusick and Johnny Most. Eddie Andelman and The Sports Huddle brought an entirely different take on sports, not taking itself too seriously and offering some of the funniest moments (including prank phone calls and memorable host-caller interaction) in contemporary, local radio history.

Like many AM radio stations, WHDH dropped its music format in favor of talk radio around 1987 and employed such legends as David Brudnoy and Larry Glick (both, better known at WBZ) and other huge talents like Avi Nelson.  I think, for a while, current WRKO afternoon talk show host and Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr had an afternoon talk show -- and facing stiff competition against the great Jerry Williams on WRKO.

WHDH eventually became WEEI, which became one of the most influential sports radio stations in the country. The local lineups on WEEI moved to 93.7 FM years ago, thus leaving the 850 AM dial position with syndicated sports talk radio. What a far cry from the incredible local talents that graced WHDH for so many years. I wish they could bring back a personality-driven oldies format that harks back to the days of the station in its prime. With WODS Oldies 103.3 dropping the oldies format in 2012, there is a big market for this type of station and with a powerful 50,000 watt signal on 850 could reach many interested people. This format has worked well at WROW-AM 590 Albany, New York, with its "Albany Magic" moniker, so why not Boston?

If it never happens, though, that's OK because many of us have these great memories of WHDH that can never be taken away!

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