Traveling Back to the Future Via Radio in 2020
When Bruce Morrow started as a radio personality in 1961 at 77 WABC-AM in New York, the Berlin Wall was first being constructed to further separate West Germany from East Germany, Sikkim was still an independent monarchy from the seventeenth century, Syria abandoned the United Arab Republic it formed with Egypt, Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space with Alan Shepard not far behind, the Bay of Pigs invasion to overthrow Fidel Castro from power in Cuba failed, Studebaker automobiles were still being sold, the president of the United States was John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and songs such as Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor (On the Bedpost Over Night) by Lonnie Donegan & his Skiffle Group, Let’s Twist Again by Chubby Checker, and Take Good Care of My Baby by Bobby Vee were new songs on the charts.
Traveling Back to the Future Via Radio in 2020
With its new Top 40 music format launched in December of 1960, 77 WABC-AM embarked to become one of the most popular radio stations in the world of all time, playing songs all the way through noon on Monday, May 10, 1982 — which is otherwise known as the day the music died — when the radio station adopted a talk radio format. Bruce Morrow was only one of a stellar group of legendary radio personalities, along with the likes of Harry Harrison, Dan Ingram, Ron Lundy, and George Michael…
…but due to differences, Bruce Morrow — who is more popularly known as Cousin Brucie — left 77 WABC-AM back in August of 1974 after 13 years and 4,014 broadcasts to rival 66 WNBC-AM to replace Wolfman Jack, who rivaled him in the same time slot during that past year. With his departure from 77 WABC-AM from which he did not leave on the best of terms — and the fact that 77 WABC-AM has had a talk radio format for the most part for greater than 38 years — no one would have ever thought that anyone would hear Cousin Brucie play music on a regular basis at 77 WABC-AM ever again. It is like when the members of the Eagles broke up the band and vowed to never play together again.
Well, the Eagles released an album — which was appropriately named Hell Freezes Over — on Tuesday, November 8, 1994; and Cousin Brucie is once again a radio personality at 77 WABC-AM in New York, playing music from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s and taking telephone calls from listeners every Saturday night from 6:00 until 9:00 in the evening Eastern Time after an absence of greater than 46 years. This means that a new generation of those who love listening to the music of the Musicradio 77 WABC era of 1960 through 1982 can traveling back to the future via radio in 2020 and experience what radio used to be like before the advents of satellite radios, compact discs, portable electronic devices playing digital music, and streaming music services.
Over the years, the voice of Cousin Brucie — who was born in Brooklyn with the name Bruce Meyerowitz — can be heard in such movies as Across the Universe, Gas Pump Girls, and Dirty Dancing. Cousin Brucie had the enviable position of interviewing The Beatles at their hotel room in New York and hosting one of their concerts at Shea Stadium; and The Four Seasons even created a custom theme song just for him.
If you cannot listen to Cousin Brucie’s Saturday Night Rock n Roll Party program live tonight or any other Saturday night, you can listen to past recorded broadcasts here.
I grew up in New York and remember the legendary radio personalities — most of whom have unfortunately passed away — who were more popularly known as disc jockeys or DJs. They ran tight playlists while informing listeners of the time, weather, and traffic reports which were punctuated with jingles, station identification, news, and commercials. Timing and personality was everything back in those days.
You can listen to recordings — otherwise known as air checks — of what radio was like back then during certain times of the year, about which I have written articles such as this one. You can also go to such Internet web sites as Musicradio 77 to access an incredible amount of information, weekly and yearly charts of songs, photographs, and audio files as tirelessly compiled by a dentist named Allan Sniffen; or such YouTube channels as the one by Ellis B Feaster, who posts a vast collection of radio air checks from different radio stations and personalities from over the years to which you can listen…
…but if you want to hear what is arguably the last vestige of a live radio program from the glory days of music radio, tune in to Cousin Brucie every Saturday night. As a bonus, his radio program must be popular since it started last month, as he will be on for four consecutive hours starting next week on Halloween, Saturday, October 31, 2020.
Cousin Brucie just turned 85 years old on Tuesday, October 13, 2020; so he is not as energetic as he used to be, and his voice cracks and sounds a little weary at times — but he still turns out a good program, complete with all of the authentic jingles which used to be played. Among other classic jingles, listen for the Contempo Sig 18 jingle of 77 WABC-AM which used to be — and now, still is on Saturday nights — played at the top of the hour; and the WABC Chime Time jingle which means that the time will be told immediately after it plays.
Regardless — welcome back home, Cousin Brucie!
Finally — if you want to hear what Cousin Brucie sounded like during his heyday, here are two air checks — along with commentary by the aforementioned Allan Sniffen of Musicradio 77:
- Tuesday, October 29, 1963: “Movin’ and Groovin’ and having a ball with Cousin Bruce Morrow as he counts down the WABC All American Survey on October 29, 1963. There are many radio people who can never understand his enormous success. The answer is that he had an almost magical rapport with his younger listeners. His ‘eeeeeee’ approach made him very personable to his listeners and he never pretended to be perfect. To really appreciate his popularity, you have to understand his ability to talk right to you just as a friend would. Good DJ’s are not just radio people with good mechanics. Bruce always had a sincerity about him. It is hard to describe unless you were (or are) one of his fans. Much of that Cousin Brucie magic comes through in this aircheck.”
- Saturday, December 7, 1963: “On December 7, 1963 Bruce Morrow did his first ‘Saturday Night Party’ on WABC. It featured Cousin Brucie with a background music loop playing as he supposedly mingled around the party while generally cranking the kids up. As time went by this became one of WABC highest rated programs earning Bruce upwards of 25% of the available radio audience on Saturday Nights! Here is an aircheck from Bruce’s FIRST Saturday Night Party Show.”
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.