When I started in professional radio, 51 years ago this week, there was a gentleman broadcasting that captivated my attention, his name was Paul H. Aurandt. The radio audience knew him better by his middle name, Harvey; Paul Harvey.
He broadcast six days a week, just like all radio personalities did back in those days. It was a time when all radio was delivered LIVE. Paul Harvey was heard over the ABC Radio Networks with his News and Comment week day mornings and middays. His Saturday noon-time broadcasts were extra special broadcasts that were always sure to surprise and delight his audience of as many as 24-million people a week. Paul Harvey News was carried by 1,200 radio stations in America, plus 400 American Forces Network stations broadcasting all over the world.
The first commercial break in each broadcast was clearly announced with the words, “now page 2.” And it caused me to turn up my radio and give Mr. Harvey my full attention as he told me about another great product that he personally used. The ad copy, just like the news and comments, were all crafted by the mind of Paul Harvey.
I bought my BOSE WAVE radio due to Mr. Harvey telling me how wonderful music sounded coming through its speakers and baffle system design. It started me on the path to owning several BOSE products as a result.
Paul Harvey News had a waiting list of sponsors to get on his program. In 1986 his News & Comment broadcasts were rated #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5 in network radio programs when he was the focus of a CBS 48-Hours broadcast commemorating Paul Harvey’s 70th birthday.
Bob Sirott did the profile piece and it showed Paul Harvey as few ever saw him. I encourage you to watch the segment on YouTube by clicking HERE
Paul Harvey News
On April 1, 1951, ABC Radio Network premiered Paul Harvey News and Comment. His Chicago based broadcasts were often called “the voice of the silent majority” or “the voice of Middle America.”
Paul Harvey was making so much money for ABC, they added a third daily broadcast to the schedule on May 10, 1976 called, The Rest of the Story. These broadcasts were written and produced by Paul’s son, Paul Harvey, Jr. for its 33-year long run.
While Paul and his son maintained this entertaining feature which was based on true stories, not all critics agreed, including urban legend expert Jan Harold Bunvand.
I know from my own personal experience of the two times Paul Harvey included stories based on my hometown of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, that Mr. Harvey played fast and loose with the facts of the events to tell a good story. It made me wonder how all the other stories I heard might have been so “massaged.”
In 2000, I was managing a cluster of radio stations for Connoisseur and Cumulus. We carried Paul Harvey on my 100,000-watt KOEL-FM. It was the only thing, other than local news in morning drive, that stopped the flow of the best in country music.
I remember being in my car at the time Mr. Harvey’s noon-time broadcast came on the air and hitting the scan button to hear Paul Harvey News and Comment on virtually every station my car radio stopped on. In media, that’s called a “road block,” the same program or advertisement, broadcast at the same time on multiple radio or television stations.
$100 Million Dollar Contract
In November of 2000, Paul Harvey had just inked a new 10-year contract with ABC Radio Networks when a few months later he damaged his vocal cords and had to leave the air. It wasn’t until August of 2001 that Paul returned to the air waves, but only with a reduced clarity and vocal presence in his voice.
I remember this very well as I was now back in Atlantic City running a cluster of radio stations, and my AM radio station WOND-AM1400, was the Paul Harvey radio station for South Jersey.
I had been cajoling Mr. Harvey’s secretary in Chicago for months before he lost his voice for customized promotional announcements to be voiced by Paul Harvey to promote his daily broadcasts over WOND radio.
One day in the fall of 2001, a reel-to-reel tape came in an envelope from Chicago addressed to me. It contained my customized, Paul Harvey voiced, WOND announcements. I was thrilled, but just a little disappointed when we played the tape due to the hoarse, raspy sound of Paul’s voice when he recorded them.
Before the end of 2001, Paul Harvey was back to full vocal dynamics.
Touched My Heart
It was after watching the Bob Sirott piece produced for 48 Hours a second time and then sharing my personal Paul Harvey memories with the love of my life, Sue, that I found myself choking up and tearing up about the heartfelt emotional impact that this gentleman from Tulsa, Oklahoma had made on me.
Using only wire copy and his manual typewriter, Paul Harvey crafted a broadcast of words that vividly created in the mind of the listener exactly what he intended. His full vocal range, the power of the dramatic pause and dynamic inflection completed his radio magic, what most like to call radio’s “Theater of the Mind.”
Could you imagine Paul Harvey doing podcasts?
I have no doubt that they would have been as popular as the original SERIAL podcast was from NPR.
Paul Harvey didn’t use any music or sound effects.
Paul Harvey created great radio, that was welcomed into homes all across the globe by his great writing ability and vocal acting talents.
Paul Harvey died on February 28, 2009 at the age of 90.
Three weeks after his death, ABC Radio Networks cancelled the entire News and Comment franchise.
At the time of his death, he had less than two years left on his 10-year contract.
Paul Harvey called himself a salesman, not a journalist, newsman or anything else. He loved his sponsors saying “I am fiercely loyal to those willing to put their money where my mouth is.”
He never would have promoted his broadcast as “commercial free,” as he understood that this free, over-the-air medium called radio, was a powerful way to move product for his advertisers and that it was those very folks that paid all the bills for him and the ABC Radio Networks.
Imagine that, radio ads that were as cherished to hear as the rest of the broadcast itself.
That’s the definition of “GREAT RADIO.”