Remembering A Lifelong Radio Man And His ‘Big Broadcast’

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. Walker recorded the show from Sibley Hospital while battling cancer. (Listen to the show here.) “We were pleased to be able to record this final show with him, and grateful for the years he shared with WAMU and the entire Washington region,” a WAMU statement reads. “He was one of a kind.” Walker, who was born blind, was the first blind student at American University and was one of the founders of the university’s radio station, WAMU in 1951. He and fellow broadcaster Willard Scott, the well-known weatherman from NBC’s “Today Show,” created The Joy Boys, which became a popular radio show. “We interviewed everyone,” Scott said in a recent interview with Washingtonian. “We interviewed Milton Berle, Jack Benny. 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.

Of his former partner’s passing, Scott told Washingtonian, “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. “We were with him yesterday for a few hours and the day before.” But to Scott, he and Walker were like brothers. 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. 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. So, it’s true, I mean, that opened a lot of doors for me.” At AU, Walker met a man who would become a longtime friend, both on the air and off: Willard Scott.

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. 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.

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