Longtime DC radio host Ed Walker dies at 83

27 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Ed Walker, WAMU personality who burnished radio’s golden age, dies at 83.

For the past 25 years, Walker had hosted a program called “The Big Broadcast” that aired on Sunday nights. Editor’s note: Ed Walker, the host of member station WAMU’s The Big Broadcast, signed off for the last time this week after six decades on the airwaves of Washington, D.C.

Ed Walker, who amused and entertained a generation of Washington-area listeners as half of “The Joy Boys” radio team with Willard Scott and spent 65 years on the local airwaves as a deejay, news host and genial raconteur, died Oct. 26 at a retirement community in Rockville, just hours after his final broadcast.Ed Walker took the stage a final time this fall to a standing ovation from his colleagues and fans at an event held by the National Capital Radio and TV Museum. “My parents got me for Christmas a phonograph oscillator, which meant that you could play a record or something like that without hooking any wires to your radio. And I hooked an antenna onto this thing and I went down the street to somebody’s house, and lo and behold I could hear it down there,” he said. “That’s when I was eight years old. Washingtonian included the duo in its roster of newsmakers over the last half-century—longer, in their case—for the magazine’s 50th anniversary issue last month, with Scott recalling their broadcast glory days: “We did things that made people happy.

Bentley, to accept the school’s first blind student. “I remember going into his office and he, in his Scottish brogue, said, ‘Aye lad, how do you propose to get around the campus?’ I said, ‘Well, I got my cane here.’ He said, ‘Well, let’s see you use it.’ I thought, oh my gosh, here we are, my whole career could be going here,” Walker said. “So I got up and walked out of his office, walked down the hall, turned around, found the office, found the chair. Each week, he invited listeners to “settle back, relax and enjoy,” as he discussed and introduced replays of such golden-age programs as “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar,” “Dragnet” and “Gunsmoke.” He recorded his last “Big Broadcast” on Oct. 13 from a hospital bed while being treated at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington.

So they assembled last week to record one more, the last of the untold thousands of radio programs Walker has done since he broke into radio as a college student 65 years ago, when Harry Truman was president… He usually starts off with the adventures of Johnny Dollar — the man with the action-packed expense account — before treating listeners to Dragnet and Gunsmoke. The show ranks first in its timeslot, and its audience is remarkably young for a public radio crowd. “I get a lot of requests, believe it or not, from children — from kids,” Walker tells NPR’s Audie Cornish. “They have television, but I’ve gotten emails that say, ‘We don’t even turn the television on on Sunday night.’ And they love it, because with the good sound effects and everything like that, it is — somebody referred to radio as the theater of the mind, which it is.” Walker, who is 81 years old, was born blind, and his close connection to radio started when he was very young. “Radio was everything to me, not being able to see,” he says. “The sound on radio was important.

Mutual friend Roger Gordon talked Willard into coming into the studio. “And we had one of those two-sided microphones, and Roger said, ‘Slip across the table and say something smart to Ed and see what he does. But it held me in good stead when I went to [American University].” At college, Walker wanted to study broadcasting, but his tuition was to be paid for by a vocational rehabilitation service.

He visited lots of campuses with radio stations and heard the same thing: “You can’t do that, you can’t do that.” That just made Walker more determined, and soon he struck a compromise: “Rehab said, we will sponsor you for your college tuition if you’re agree to major in sociology and then you can become a social worker. And we just clicked,” Walker said. “We’ve been close friends for over 50 years.” For more than 20 years they were a two-man band, with Ed at the helm. And I said, ‘Nothing against social workers, but I don’t want to do that.’ And they said, ‘Well, if you can prove to us in your first two years there’s a future for you in broadcasting we’ll let you change your major.’ So I did. “The first year I got started with a couple other guys at the campus radio station which now is WAMU [88.5] FM.

They got their professional start in 1952 doing short comedy bits on a weekend radio show on WOL called “Going AWOL.” In 1955, they moved to daytime on NBC-owned WRC with a show called “Two at One.” Mr. For 25 years station listeners heard Ed kick off the show with these words: “And if you have any problems that you face in the coming week, don’t worry about them now, or any problems left hanging over from last week. They parodied NBC’s leading newscast, “The Huntley-Brinkley Report” with “The Washer-Dryer Report” and a popular soap opera with a continuing bit called “As the Worm Turns.” The duo took “Joy Boys” from the nickname used by student radio technicians at an engineering school in Washington, Scott said.

For years, they used a jaunty theme song: “We are the joy boys of radio; we chase electrons to and fro.” The program traded off the improvisational skills of the two men and their on-air chemistry. Walker recounted on his final “Big Broadcast,” the duo scored an interview in 1968 with the radio, TV and film star Jack Benny and performed a brief sketch with him. It was cancelled by WWDC to make way for the station’s switch to rock music, a change that reflected the growing dominance of baby boomers over Washington’s, and the nation’s, popular culture. Walker never attempted to conceal his blindness, but he didn’t often speak about it on the air. “When I first got into this business, I never let it be known on the air that I didn’t see,” he told The Washington Post in 1985. “Not that I was ashamed of it.

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