Charlie Greer Tribute
by Scott Benjamin

 charlies1.jpg (24511 bytes)


Charlie Greer on WABC
January 14, 1967


Charlie Greer on WABC
August 5, 1969

 

Charlie Greer and Dennison have become almost synonymous. 

The men’s clothier on Route 22, Union, New Jersey began advertising on the Musicradio77 WABC all-night show in 1966 and six times an hour Charlie would deliver the commercials with the signature line: “Where money talks, nobody walks.” 

He was one of the original “Swingin’ Seven At 77” in December 1960 when WABC became a music radio station. He stayed longer than any of the air personalities on that initial roster, continuing with WABC through Aug. 7, 1969 – after the station had become the most popular in the country. 

He is best known for doing the overnight show, which due to the bounce in WABC’s signal during those hours was heard in 39 states and some foreign countries. However, he also had two stints as the station’s midday personality. 

Steve Thomas, who was only three years old when Charlie left WABC for WIP in Philadelphia, became a fan through listening to air checks and began a telephone relationship with the affable air personality in 1982 – the same year that WABC became a talk station. 

He and some of Charlie’s former colleagues offered some comments recently on his career. 

One of the colleagues, Les Marshak, who often delivered the news as an ABC staff announcer during Charlie’s final weeks at WABC, also describes what it was like to read the Dennison commercials after he became the overnight personality in Oct. 1969 following Roby Yonge’s famous firing. 

As the Sound Files section of Musicradio77.com states, the live commercials were “specifically written in iambic pentameter. . . just like Shakespeare.” 

As Les said, the copy was difficult to read since it was “free association” that sometimes didn’t make “literal sense.” 

Partly because of that and the store being open until 5 a.m., Dennison has become part of the New York City radio lore.

 

 Steve Thomas, a fan and friend of Charlie’s, phone interview, July 11, 2006 

Although he was only three years old when Charlie did his last show at Musicradio 77 on Thursday, August 7, 1969, Steve Thomas became his most devoted fan.

Growing up in New Jersey, Steve listened to WABC in the 1970's and early 1980's during the final stages of its glory days and the gradual transition to it becoming a talk station.

“In a weird way when WABC went all talk in 1982 it made me even more interested because the music wasn’t there anymore,” said Steve, who now lives in Elmwood, N.J. 

He said as he was growing up he acquired an appreciation for the New York City Top 40 stations of the 1960s through listening to air checks that he bought of the All-Americans at WABC and the Good Guys at WMCA. 

Just weeks after WABC went to its talk format on May 10, 1982, Jeff Conn, a friend who worked at WNTQ in New Brunswick, N.J., told Steve that there was a listing in a trade publication in which Charlie Greer was seeking work after losing his job at WHAM in Rochester, N.Y. The advertisement included Charlie’s telephone number. 

“I called him and he was very nice,” Steve recalled in a July 11, 2006 phone interview with Musicradio77.com. “He also was amazed that I would call him just like that.” 

“He was very humble,” Steve said of Charlie. “He never realized how important he was to the listeners.” 

“There was so much warmth and personality when he was on the radio,” Steve said, recalling listening to air checks of Charlie’s shows. “When he read a commercial you wanted to go out a buy the product. It was like an open invitation, a particular friendliness when you heard Charlie.” 

“He was exactly like that off the air,” he added. 

In 1989, Steve got to meet Charlie when the former WABC overnight personality was on the air for the second WCBS-FM Radio Reunion Weekend.  

“Charlie was my ticket to that, and everyone was really nice to me,” he recalled of his interaction with some of the other air personalities of New York City radio’s Top 40 heyday, as well as WCBS-FM Program Director Joe McCoy, who helped coordinate the event. 

Through the years, Steve asked Charlie if he had any tapes of his WABC shows. He said Charlie would always reply that they were somewhere in a shed. 

At one point, Charlie told him, “I found some of the tapes. They’ve not very good. You probably wouldn’t want to listen to them. After you listen to them you probably won’t want to talk to me anymore.” 

Steve said they also discussed Charlie’s departure from WABC to WIP in Philadelphia in August 1969

“He couldn’t take the all-night show,” he said Charlie told him.  “He told me that he had told [WABC Program Director] Rick [Sklar] that it was too long a shift and that it was putting a strain on him and his family. 

“He said that Rick had promised him that the overnight show wasn’t going to be a permanent thing when he was placed there for a second time in early 1966,” Steve said. “It’s ironic, because it’s the overnight show, more than anything else, that people remember about Charlie.”  

“But he had had it,” Steve said. “It was six hours with all of those live commercials for Dennison. Charlie said that he warned Rick several times that he was going to leave, but Rick didn’t believe that he would give up WABC and all of the listeners through the overnight when the signal bounced all over the place.” 

He said one day in 1996 he received a voicemail message from one of Charlie’s sons to call him and immediately suspected the worst.  

Charlie, who had moved back to Ohio where he had grown up, had died. 

Steve said he called former WABC air personalities Harry Harrison, then at WCBS-FM, and Chuck Leonard, who was at WQEW, to break the news. Both of them did brief tributes to Charlie on the air. 

A short time later, one of Charlie’s sons called to say that a box was on the way. The package included a 1967 WABC air check and an Aug. 5, 1969 air check, both of which had been recorded in the studio, as well as other tapes. 

“It was very bittersweet receiving those tapes,” he said. 

A friend, Don Tandler, an air personality on The Breeze 107.1, 99.7 FM in New Jersey, duplicated the reel to reel tapes. He and Steve provided copies to Musicradio77.com. The tapes of the 1967 and 1969 Charlie Greer shows are posted in the Sound Files section of the web site. 

 

Former WABC Night Air Personality Cousin Brucie, Phone Interview, Aug. 2, 2006

“Charlie was actually very un-New York in his personality on and off the air,” Brucie said. 

“He was a laid-back Midwestern person who was not right in your face the way people are in New York,” he added.  

“Although he did the mid-day shift at a couple of points, I think he was at his best on the overnight show because he was the perfect unseen overnight companion,” Brucie said. 

“We used to have a contest at the station at night called: ‘Where’s Charlie?’ ” he said, noting that the overnight personality wasn’t known for his punctuality. “The people working at night would guess how many minutes in front or behind he would show up.” 

“I will always remember him for having a great sense of humor and for doing the Dennison commercials,” Brucie said.

 

Former Musicradio77 WABC Morning Air Personality Harry Harrison, written statement, June 26, 2006

“Huggy Bear. 

“Charlie Greer – a great talker, a good natured kidder and a super D.J.” 

“He was the WABC radio personality that did such a terrific job with those famous “Money talks, nobody walks” Dennison commercials on his all night show.” 

“When I arrived at 77 in 1968 to do the morning show, I met Charlie. He told me that the WABC spa and health club was on one of the upper floors of the ABC building. He wanted to see how gullible I was.   I never did find it.” 

“Charlie could regale you with endless stories about his life and his years in radio. He was a fun guy, but could be serious and sensitive, too.” 

“During one of our CBS-FM D.J.. reunions, Charlie was on the air late night or early a.m. My wife, Pretty Patti, called him and they had a very pleasant visit on the air. I remember her telling me that she really enjoyed talking with Charlie and that he was such a great guy. She was right. We all loved Charlie Greer.” 

 

Former WABC air personality and former ABC staff announcer Les Marshak, e-mail message, June 19, 2006

 “I will remember him always as a quirky, funny guy who didn’t have a mean bone in his body.” 

“For me, a WABC neophyte jock in 1969, he was incredibly supportive and instructive.  

“I initially was on a summer relief staff announcer assignment in ’69, scheduled most of the week overnight on WABC delivering the news. Charlie lightened the tedium of those six dark hours. He made those Dennison commercials sing.” 

 

Former WABC air personality and former ABC staff announcer Bill Owen, phone interview, July 14, 2006 

“He was very well-liked. Of all of the original air personalities at WABC he was the wittiest one. One time were at a gas station and I asked what his wife’s name was, and he said, ‘Mrs. Greer.’ ”

 

Former WABC Overnight Air Personality Les Marshak on reading the Dennison Commercials on the Air, Phone Interview, July 7, 2006 

“The Dennison commercials were part of the lingo of the all-night show,” said Les, who did the overnight show from Oct. 21, 1969, following Roby Yonge’s abrupt departure until early February 1970 when Jay Reynolds was hired. 

“When I did the shift, you had six live Dennison commercials every hour for six hours,” he said. 

He said the commercials posed a challenge. 

“They were difficult to read because they didn’t make literal sense,” Les said. 

 “It was run-on free association that was gibberish,” he said. “I even pre-recorded some of them because by 4 a.m. it got a little crazy.” 

 “But it also was fun,” Les added. 

Former Musicradio77 WABC salesman Dan Aron stated in a June 2006 e-mail message to Musicradio77.com that another salesman, Larry Wynn, handled the Dennison account. 

Les said that Max Strelsin, who reportedly lived in a high rise building on 57th Street in the New York City borough of Manhattan, wrote the commercials for Dennison. 

 

Here is the script of a Dennison commercial that Charlie Greer read Tuesday, Aug. 5, 1969
just two days before his last show at WABC:
 

Dennison, the men’s clothier, Route 22, Union, N.J., wants you to know there’s a wise old owl sitting up in the tree who says, there’s no wiser bird than me. 

There’s nothing I can see during the day that would interest me. 

I buy at night, I buy right. But you better never buy at a men’s store that closes at 5 or 4.   

You’ll never make it because when you get there he’s not there. You’ll try the door, you’ll read the sign we close at four. 

So you take the next day off and lose 75 bucks in pay. Get back to the store that closes at four. You try the door, it’s locked like before.  

Now you see a sign. Lunch time: 12 to 1. You look at the time, it’s 12:30. Then you look again: 15 minutes to go 

And you blow your top.  You try the door. Then the rain came, and did it pour. 

Now you’re wet and sore. Then he came and the rain stopped, and you’re in the store. 

So you bought a $75 suit and the $75 you lost in pay adds up to $150. 

You got all wet and the suit you bought you can’t wear anymore. 

Now, Dennison says that for that kind of dough I will sell you three. 

So let’s go, if a man wears it we have it. 

Fill our till that’s nil. That’s Dennison Clothier, Route 22, Union, New Jersey. Open from 10 a.m. until five the next morning. 

Recognized charge plans accepted, and open right now. 

 

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