Harry Harrison started in radio at the age of 14 while living in his hometown of Chicago, IL. He suffered a bout of rheumatic fever and was in bed for a year. As a result, radio became his best friend. After his recovery he approached WJJD in Chicago for a job. They put him in contact with the educational station in Chicago, WBEZ. Incredibly, he moved to Chicago's WCFL as a summer replacement and stayed for eight months!
Harry next moved to WPEO in Peoria IL as its program director. There, he hosted a top rated morning show as the "Morning Mayor of Peoria" and even performed in local television! He made WPEO the top station in six months. As Harry became well known in the Midwest with his rapid success, New York City's WMCA came calling.
In 1959 Harry joined WMCA. Early morning personality Joe O'Brien followed by Harry Harrison gave program director Ruth Meyer a formidable "one two punch" in the New York radio ratings every morning for over eight years. Harry refined his personable style which became extremely popular with housewives. In fact, one of Harry's best known features on WMCA was his "Housewife Hall of Fame".
About WMCA, Harry says "We had the greatest promotions. One time we had a picnic. We said, 'we're going to invite you to a picnic, but you're going to have to figure out where it is', and we gave hints on the air. Thousands of people showed up; the police were there!"
WABC program director Rick Sklar took note of this. When Herb Oscar Anderson decided to leave WABC in 1968, Rick hired Harry to become WABC's morning drive air personality. Among his many talents, Harry is able to drop in weather forecasts, time checks and traffic reports with ease and Rick was quite impressed by this and, especially, Harry's great appeal to women. WABC did not have the appeal with women that Harry did.
One famous Harry Harrison WABC story was that he once received a letter from a lady who gave him up for Lent as a sign of great sacrifice. In her letter she commented that she was late for work and missed getting up on several occasions as a result!
Harry remained at WABC until 1979. Times were changing and music stations on AM were struggling. Harry left WABC in November of 1979 to the cries of his many fans. But, he wasn't off the air for long. He became the morning personality at Oldies WCBS-FM in March of 1980 and remains there to this day as New York's "Morning Mayor". On April 25, 1997 New York City Mayor Rudolph Guiliani honored Harry and issued a proclamation naming April 25th, "Harry Harrison Day."
Harry has a number of "trademark" phrases he uses on the air. "Every brand new day should be opened like a precious gift", "Stay well, stay happy, stay right here" and "Harry Harrison wishing you the best... that's exactly what you deserve". Harry also has a Holiday greeting titled "May You Always" which he plays every year over the holidays.
So, how has Harry done it for 39 years in New York? "I think the secret is that I come across as an ordinary guy, which I am" says Harry. "I spend time with my family, go to the movies, run errands, read books". On getting that first job at WMCA in 1959, Harry goes on to say "How many chances do you get to go to New York? Most people, when they come here, think they have to change. I didn't. I do just what I did in Peoria. To me, people are people".
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