Remembering Ruth Meyer, a Trailblazing New York Radio Programmer

At a time when women were at home playing the role of housewife (think 1950s sitcom standards The Ozzie and Harriet Show and Leave it to Beaver) Ruth Meyer was playing the role of accomplished radio manager.

A disciple of Top 40 pioneer Todd Storz, Meyer, sadly today, is largely a lost figure in the industry—except to those who knew her best.

Hired in 1958, for much of the next decade, no one wielded more influence in the market (including Rick Sklar at top rival WABC) than Meyer as WMCA program director.

Meyer died on January 21. She was 80.

“She was a super person,” Harry Harrison, WMCA midday jock under Meyer, says. “She and Steve Labunski [general manager] brought me to New York at WMCA from Peoria [Illinois]. It was late 1959.” (A saddened Labunski was informed by FishbowlNY of Meyer’s passing.)

Meyer first got to know Harrison’s style when he did voice-overs when she worked for radio stations in Kansas City.

“When they were looking for DJs, happy to say, they thought of me.”

At the time, Harrison had one other offer on the table.

“If I remember, the money was better in St. Louis,” Harrison chuckled.

Thankfully, Harrison chose New York and WMCA. (Harrison still has the telegram that Meyer and Labunski sent him offering the job.) He would be a mainstay of the famed “Good Guys” jocks throughout the 1960s, until leaving in 1968 for WABC.

“She put together the ‘Good Guy’ team, of course. She thought up winning ideas [and] promotions,” Harrison says. “She wrote all the lyrics for the famous …’Good Guy’ songs that we sang.”

Overnight announcer Burt Sherwood predates the Good Guys, starting at WMCA in 1953.

“I had a great relationship with Ruth. We were good friends right up to the end,” Sherwood says.

Sherwood overlapped with Meyer until 1961.

“If you had known [her], you loved her. She had a great of sense of humor,” Sherwood recalls. 

Herb Oscar Anderson, although the WMCA morning man in 1959 and 1960, missed out on the “Good Guys” camaraderie.

But he didn’t miss out on the magic of Meyer.

“Ruth knew what she was doing,” Anderson says. “She was a great addition to the radio business.”

Anderson, who would go on to his biggest success during an eight-year run at WABC, recalls being at loggerheads with Meyer on several occasions.

“She wanted to be from block A to block B…Of course, a lot of personalities at the time, they just resisted with every known means available to them,” Anderson remembers.

Anderson, who hosts a weekly one-hour show in Vero Beach, Florida, was one of those personalities who didn’t always see eye to eye with Meyer.

Despite that, Anderson recognizes her special qualities as a manager.

“I really respected her very, very much,” Anderson says.

Going one step further, the morning jock was quick to add that “as a station owner, I probably would have gone out and hired her.”

Joe McCoy didn’t hire Meyer. In fact, he didn’t even work for her. But, as the longtime WCBS-FM program director, he built a staff with many notable jocks from the WMCA “Good Guys” days.

“I always thought that WMCA was more New York to me than WABC was,” McCoy reflects. “I thought the only person on ABC that was really New York was ‘Cousin’ Brucie. When you look at ‘MCA and the things that they did with those little corny songs…it just reminded me that it was New York.”

Because of that connection with listeners, WMCA as a 5,000 watt “David” became a strong alternative to 50,000 watt “Goliaths” WABC and WINS (pre-1965 when they switched to all-news).