It was an attempt at humor when I used to jokingly say that I hope Paul Harvey has already pre-recorded his own eulogy because no one else could do one better. Yet, there was nothing to smile about when the bulletin came across the news that Paul Harvey had died at his winter home in Phoenix, AZ Saturday February 28th.
When his beloved wife, Lynn “Angel” Harvey passed away from leukemia less than a year ago, I feared we would not able to enjoy this radio icon for very much longer. Even his vocal quality seemed to lose its vibrant and distinctive sound.
After Angel died, Harvey was off the air for several weeks, and some of his affiliates felt he might not come back and dropped his morning and noontime news and commentary reports. WJR Radio in Detroit was not one of them, and kept the program on the air with a number of substitute reporters for weeks on end.
The first time I met Paul Harvey, at his North Michigan Avenue studio in Chicago, I knew I was in the presence of greatness. He was born in 1918 as Paul Harvey Aurandt, but professionally used his middle name as his last. He was as nice as any broadcaster I have ever met and since I was a fan since the early 1960’s, it was truly awesome to be sitting in the same studio with him as he fed his noontime report down the network to thousands of stations across the country.
I recall a trip to Chicago when I went up to see the famous studios of WLS Radio on the 5th floor of the Stone Container Building at Wacker and Michigan Avenue. Down on the 4th floor was the FM, known then as WDAI, but also on that floor was the office and studio for Paul Harvey News. There he was pecking out his newscast on a manual typewriter and I just walked in and said hello. I told him a cute story about my mother who, at that time, worked as a lecturer for Weight Watchers. He found the story funny and used it that day in his famous final story.
“Our for what it’s worth department hears from Amy Vuolo of Ann Arbor, Michigan whose Weight Watchers class featured a bumper sticker that reads ‘my spare tire is in the trunk.’ Well one of the ladies in her class put it on her car, which was then broken into and they stole the spare tire!….Paul Harvey, Good Day.”
By the end of that day, people from all across the country had heard about my mother on Paul Harvey News.
Through the years we saw each other at countless radio conventions, and at one NAB confab he actually introduced me to Dr. Amar G. Bose, who founded the company that makes the famous Wave Radio and top-quality speakers. Mr. Harvey was a longtime spokesman for Bose Sound Systems.
When WGN Chicago morning personality Bob Collins was killed in a light plane crash in February of 2000, Paul Harvey, who was carried by the powerful AM station, did an on-air eulogy that could make a grown man cry. He concluded with a statement that “someone will take his job….no one will take is place.” That certainly applies as well to Mr. Harvey himself.
My greatest thrill was being able to videotape his riveting 17 minute address at the R&R (Radio & Records) Talk Radio Seminar at the Marina del Rey Marriott on March 8, 2003. Numerous people said to me “do you realize what you have there?” I said “yes a really great keynote from a radio legend.” Most, however, insisted that I might have just taped Paul Harvey’s last speech to the radio industry, and indeed it was. I treasure that recording now, more than ever.
Truly, the Voice of America has been silenced, Paul Harvey and his soul-mate Angel are together again, and the radio waves are washing ashore in a way that suggests that our audio landscape is a little less colorful as broadcasting’s most articulate wordsmith moves on, with a distinctive pause…..to Page Two.
Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.