I’m guessing not many of you remember long-time New York City radio DJ Harry Harrison.
For me, growing up there, he was as much a part of the morning as breakfast
Harry, 89, died last week. Affectionately known as “The Morning Mayor,” he had a long career in New York at stations WMCA, WABC, and WCBS-FM and was finally inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame last fall.
Harry was the kind of familiar voice from another era that was part of the fabric of so many communities nationwide, talking up records, reading commercials, giving constant weather updates, sending out birthday wishes and coming up with one funny or sort of funny line after another.
I’ll bet many of you remember radio DJs like that.
My grown kids look at me kind of blankly when I go on about people like Harry Harrison and “Cousin” Bruce Morrow, still heard Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays on Sirius XM’s “60s on 6” station. They wonder: Why would I want to listen to music that way?
That’s fair. From the dawn of iPods, they’ve been listening to what they wanted to hear when they wanted to hear it without any DJs or, heaven forbid, commercials. But for people of a different generation, DJs were a daily part of life.
I asked Deb Stello, one of my colleagues at The Daily Item, if she had a favorite DJ growing up. She quickly remembered Tom Kutza at the old WISL AM station in Shamokin.
Daily Item reporter Eric Scicchitano connected me with Tom by phone on Thursday. Describing himself as “77 going on 41 in my head,” Tom made me laugh more than once and sounded like he could easily be on the air right now. In fact, the 37-plus year radio veteran, who was known as “Shamokin’s Morning Mayor,” still occasionally makes an appearance on the internet revival of his old station at WISL1480.com.
A 1960 Mount Carmel High graduate who lives in Elysburg with his wife, Tom spoke about some of the “pretty neat people” he got to interview over the years, including baseball Hall of Famer Stan Coveleski and former Johnny Carson bandleader Doc Severinsen. But, he said “it was the everyday people I got to talk to,” that he most enjoyed.
After 15 minutes or so with him on the phone, l got the impression I would have listened if I’d lived here at the time.
I also spoke with Drew Kelly, a former host for Sunbury Broadcasting’s 94KX (WQKX, 94.1 FM) about his radio favorites. Kelly, now communications director at The Lewisburg YMCA at the Miller Center, immediately brought up Kid Kelly, another National Radio Hall of Famer.
Kid Kelly — no relation to Drew, but there’s a connection I’ll get to in a minute — is probably best known for his time at New York Top 40 powerhouse station WHTZ-FM Z100. He also created and still hosts the nationally syndicated radio program Backtrack USA, and just concluded 20 years with Sirius XM.
Drew came from Dornsife and attended Line Mountain High, but his mom was from New York City and they frequently visited.
“I listened to a lot of New York radio,” he said. Listening to Kid Kelly, he added, made him want to be a radio host.
Drew, whose real name is Andy Kauffman, said he changed it professionally to Drew Kelly when he got the job at 94KX — “They already had a host named Andy,” he said. The Kelly part of the name, Drew said, came from Kid.
Drew said he got to meet Kid at a Bucknell alumni event a few years back — Kid Kelly’s wife is a Bucknell grad — and they’ve been friends ever since.
That’s cool. I never met Harry Harrison, though I did once meet Bruce Morrow when he came to my high school in 1973.
Still, even though we weren’t friends, I felt like I’d lost someone I cared about when Harry died last week.
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