Harry Harrison was in radio for over a half-century, including more than 45 years in New York.
During his time in the top market (WMCA, WABC, and WCBS-FM), Harrison proved his staying power with each new gig outlasting the previous one.
That was then and this is now.
The retired radio voice, last heard regularly in 2005, hasn’t kept up with the industry changes.
“I don’t listen to the radio that much anymore,” Harrison admits. “I don’t know much what’s happening in radio today. …If I hit the radio button it’s mainly to listen to the news now.”
Harrison discusses voice-tracking and the lack of personality radio after the jump.
Harrrison recognizes that the state of radio, and broadcasting as a whole, is much different since his “Morning Mayor” days.
Part of the changes since Harrison’s zenith is voice-tracking.
“Of course, I don’t like it, because I was a so-called radio personality,” Harrison says. “I think the audience can certainly tell when somebody is voice-tracked. It takes away a live personality on the air.”
However, he realizes in today’s radio world, station owners are more concerned about their bottom line.
Money isn’t the only thing lacking in today’s radio climate.
“Where are the personalities today?” Harrison ponders.
Harrison is curious how people would react if asked who they listen to on the radio.
“Of course, I’m prejudiced,” Harrison admits. “I was around during what I think, and many people think, were the “Golden Days of Radio.”
Are those “Golden Days” of yesteryear ever to be seen again? Harrison isn’t so sure.
“Do these radio stations want personality? Do they want to pay them what they should get?”
To this day, people will come up to Harrison telling him how much he is missed.
“It is very flattering, but what am I supposed to say?” Harrison tells FishbowlNY.
Despite his legendary career, which includes induction into the New York State Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame in 2009, Harrison is happy to be dissociated from the business today.
Harrison says the stations he worked for didn’t experience any of the economic struggles that impact radio now.
“Those were great days,” Harrison remembers.
Not only were they great days of classic Top 40 radio (and later Oldies on WCBS-FM), they led to great moves for him.
“God was watching over me and put me in the right place at the right time.”
His New York career was launched at WMCA in 1959.
“Ruth Meyer [program director] wanted to build a personality station, and the Good Guy image. …We all really dug each other, we liked each other, and we were different personalities,” Harrison reflected.
He says it was the same idea when he joined WABC in 1968, only formatted tighter.
Once at WCBS-FM, where Harrison followed-up with another 23 years, it was looser, allowing more personality than at his previous gigs.
“We could do a little more shtick.”
Looking back at the secret to his success, Harrison says, “I had a great time. I really enjoyed what I did, and I’m happy to say it came over on the radio.”
It certainly did, and Happy Birthday!