I was more than saddened at the news that ABC Radio fixture Paul Harvey had died. He was a member of B&C’s Hall of Fame, and just about everybody else’s, for that matter (click here for a list of his awards .
He was 90, and after his throat problems and surgery, his daily commentaries had been increasingly handled by his son, but it was still something of a shock. Look up “hardy” in the dictionary and if there isn’t a picture of Paul Harvey, there should be.
We disagreed politically, although his conservatism was the Midwestern pragmatic sort that was not that far from my own philosophy about work and responsibility. And his views were not set in stone. As the nation’s most-listened-to broadcaster, it would have been troublesome if Harvey’s opinions were knee-jerk or provacative for provocations’ sake or harsh or ugly or unreasonable. But they were not. He was a pro and a virtuoso at the microphone; perhaps the last of a generation that commanded so much of a listening audience now increasinly and incredibly fragmented.
But it is responsibility that sticks with me most when I think about Him. We talked on several occasions, and it is because of Paul Harvey, probably, that I wound up marrying my present wife. He gave me some good advice at a point where the road in my emotional life was at a fork and I wound up spooning with the right gal, as Paul would probably put it.
But I digress.
I interviewed him for this magazine’s “profile” page. He was courteous and generous with his time to a green reporter trying not to look foolish. He talked about how Joe Kennedy had helped him in the early days in Chicago, about how blessed he felt to be in the businesses, and about how fiercely proud he was of his son, Paul Aurandt (Paul senior’s real name). As I recall (forgive me, Paul Jr., if my memory has played tricks on me), Paul Jr. had been headed toward a promising musical career, possibly as a concert pianist, when an accident derailed those plans and left him searching for another path. He found it in “The Rest of The Story,” Paul Jr.’s skillful mini-bio’s of people or events, but with a twist.
But what I remember to this day is calling ABC Radio in Chicago at 5:30 a.m.–a good time to talk, he had told me–and heard that familiar, avuncular voice answer: “ABC Radio.” Even then he was pulling down the salary of a rock star and claimed, I think, half of the top ten spots in all of radio with his morning and afternoon and weekend and Rest of the Story broadcasts, he was the one answering the phone at ABC Radio, hard at work interpreting and framing the news in between testimonials for True-Value Hardware or Posturepedic or some other product he endorsed.
Paul Harvey and Jean Shepherd couldn’t have been more different, but they were just alike in their ability to command a radio audience and connect with it in a personal way.
For some thoughts from former President Bush, ABC Radio President James Robinson and others, click here.