If you listened to radio between the mid 1960s and 1970s, there’s a good chance you were tuned to WABC. Even more likely, Dan Ingram kept you company on many of those afternoons. He was a constant at Musicradio 77 for 21 years, ending with the station’s switch to a talk format in 1982.
During that time, Ingram became widely recognized as the greatest Top 40 disc jockey of all time.
He has nine children spanning three wives (now married for a fourth time).
One of “Big” Dan’s children is Chris, who remains the most connected to radio.
Ingram, who got his radio start at WEEI in Boston, spent several years working behind the scenes at CBS Radio and TV as a writer and editor. (At WEEI, Chris met his now ex-wife, veteran WCBS-AM morning anchor Pat Carroll. The couple has two children together.) In the last decade, however, the younger Ingram made a career decision to become a DJ.
“Doing news really was making me sick because it was such a denial of who I was and what I wanted to do be doing.”
Ingram (below) says despite being a talented writer and producer, he couldn’t do the job for more than two years at a time. It was during one of those hiatuses, in 2002, that Ingram took a job in the Adirondacks. Starting out as news director, Ingram ultimately was named program director and DJ.
So in 2003, his suppressed dream was fulfilled.
“The only template I had for how to jock was from what I had been listening to all my life, and idolizing all my life,” Ingram tells FishbowlNY.
Thus began his radio career, taking what he absorbed over the years from his father.
“If you’re a plumber’s kid, you learn to plumb the way your dad does. If you’re a butcher’s kid, you learn to butcher the way your dad does.”
Instead Chris Ingram, 49, was able to grow up at the height of Dan Ingram’s WABC popularity.
That provided enough of an influence to the younger Ingram for entrance into the “family business.”
“It wasn’t really consciously, ‘Well, my dad did it, and I’m going to do it,’ but it just made sense,” Ingram admits. “I was familiar with radio stations, first of all, and radio equipment, and I was comfortable around this like that.”
After working in the Adirondacks, Ingram headed for WVOS in the Catskills, where he’s been the morning man since 2008.
Earlier in his career, Ingram wanted to create his own path by distancing himself from his legendary dad. However, as time has gone by, he has become more willing to discuss his famous father.
Dan, 76, has been besieged by health problems in recent years, but Chris points out that he’s “real well.”
He says the patriarchal Ingram, who now lives in Florida, is constantly working at getting better, but remains as “sharp as a tack.”
Listeners recognize his greatness, and countless jocks credit him for the reason they got into the business. For Chris, though, who was reared in Oyster Bay, N.Y., it was different.
“There was kind of a two-part parent. We knew dad at home, who was my guy and taught me to edit on his knee at age eight or nine. …Then there was the Dan Ingram everybody thought of when they were singing his jingle to us in the hallway [at school],” Ingram recalls.
Ingram says those moments or others surrounded by “Big” Dan’s notoriety didn’t bother him.
“He’s my dad. I love him….People might think of you differently, have an image of you in their head, or their father, but that doesn’t really apply when you get home after school.”
Spending time with his family (five childen, including Chris with his first wife) became of utmost importance to Dan. The younger Ingram remembers one weekend when his father, drawing a line in the sand, had a strike against working Saturdays at WABC.
“If anybody from ABC calls, do not wake me, even if it’s the second coming of Christ,” Dan had told his son.
However, GM Hal Neal did call and got Chris on the phone. He followed his father’s instructions to the letter. Dan Ingram did win his holdout, eventually getting freed from his Saturday shift.
Chris Ingram says that was an pivotal victory for him, because he didn’t see his famous father much during the week. Dan’s afternoon shift started at 2 p.m., but as one of the top commercial voice-over artists, his day would traditional start early and end late.
A short time later, Ingram recalls, his father was offered a live national Saturday countdown by ABC execs. But, true to his family commitment, he turned it down.
Weekends meant family time, but weekdays everyone else shared the “Ingram Flingram” on WABC. For Chris, he joined the millions of others listening on their transistors.
“If you’re a kid, and you like any kind of attention…you can’t help but really be impressed and in awe of it. …For me it was great,” Ingram says.
It was also great to watch dad firsthand at his wittiest. One particular visit to the studio was a special childhood memory.
“A teacher suggested I do a project, and go with him to work and come back and do a report. …I opened the show for him,” the younger Ingram remembers. “I got on mic and said, ‘This is the Dan Ingram Show starring Chris Ingram today.’”
Chris says, adding to his dad’s greatness, he rarely needed to prep for a broadcast.
“I think most of what he did was off the top of his head.”
He called his dad’s high-profile job a nice starting point for conversations.
Chris would try to keep the lineage private. However, privacy could only go so far, sharing the same surname. Invariably people would ask, “Are you related to Dan Ingram?”
Dan Ingram didn’t believe in nepotism.
“He didn’t want us to find ourselves, at some point, being nothing but his kids.” Chris Ingram says.
He remembers being taught by his dad, “not to be phony jerks.” Dan would tell Chris and his other siblings to “stand up on your own, and be outstanding in our own way, or not, but still take the blame or the credit on our own.”
Dan Ingram, of course, stood on his own with numerous awards and accolades over the years, including induction into the Radio Hall of Fame and a charter member of the Hofstra Radio Hall of Fame in 2009 (his alma mater).
Despite all of that success, or perhaps because of it, Ingram didn’t push his children to follow his footsteps into broadcasting.
“He was pretty realistic in the fact that opportunities were shrinking,” Chris says. “It wasn’t necessarily the greatest career path for a person.”
But fortunately it was the right career path for Dan Ingram.
“Before, I think he was busy in the moment on the air…he didn’t really stop and really reflect,” Chris says. “But now he’s got the time to reflect and it’s resonating.”
His son had asked him, “You have any idea how many people got into this business because they heard you?”
“Tell them I’m sorry,” Dan Ingram deadpanned.