Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Monday, November 3, 2014

Half of Click and Clack Dies

Tom Magliozzi died today from a long bout with Alzheimer's.  That prompted me to repost  what I wrote almost exactly two years ago.  I hope you will enjoy it.
I am Chairman of the American Institute of Wine and Food for Orange County, California.  As such I am in contact with National Officers and Chapter Chairs and others working with this group in their efforts to provide funds for Scholarships in the Food and Wine industry and Days of Taste; the program that brings good food knowledge to Title 1 fourth and fifth graders.  The other day I received such a call and, knowing it required my undivided attention I excused myself to turn off the radio.

“Radio!  You still listen to the radio?” asked an incredulous Daniel: chef, entrepreneur, and culinary school contributor from South Miami Beach.  I confessed my addiction to NPR, which Daniel admitted he listens to on Sirius XM as it streams from his car’s 12 speaker system.  When we finished our conversation I began to reflect of what part radio has played in my life.

Click and Clack
A fitting topic as this month marks the end of one of radio’s most popular shows, Car Talk.

The show had humble beginnings.  Tom Magliozzi was encouraged by his younger brother Ray to appear on a local radio station as part of a panel of local (Boston) mechanics to answer listeners’ questions.  No one else showed up, but Tom’s easy manner and breadth of knowledge impressed the show’s host enough to invite him back the next week with Ray.

After ten years of weekly appearances, for the most part unpaid, the Brothers were picked up by NPR as a commercial project.  The show is by any measure a success, with 3.3 million weekly listeners on 660 stations, according to NPR spokeswoman Anna Christopher, making it NPR’s top-rated weekend program.  NPR intends to continue broadcasting repeat shows for the foreseeable future.

This is somewhat ironic in that during the twenty-five year evolution of the show, an ongoing feature is blending some past shows with the current one in a seamless and unaccredited manner. Other features of note include who has called in for advice; for example several celebrities, including John Grunsfeld, who called in from the Space Shuttle.  In fact NASA has called more than once, including one session where an anonymous caller was asking about problems surrounding a car kit, which eventually was identified as the Mars Rovers.

For many years I listened to one or more of the 660 stations broadcasting Car Talk and thoroughly enjoyed the humor and caller involvement.  There is something about a blonde trying to mimic the engine sounds of her 1998 Volvo as it goes through its gears that is unique.

Even before Click and Clack my generation had a love affair with radio.  When my wife Mary would come home from school she would listen to The Lone Ranger before going out to play “Hide and Seek” or ‘I’ll Draw the Frying Pan”. We grew up to follow the Masked Man into television, film and even personal appearances.  The voice and one of the most famous of those appearing belonged to Brace Beemer, a six-foot five personality who actually could ride and shoot, but whose greatest claim to fame was his deep voice which announced at the start of each show, “Hi-Yo Silver — A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver … the Lone Ranger!”

There are many who have memories of the personal appearances.  The most popular of which is on You Tube as Jay Thomas’ memory of the Masked Man on the David Letterman Show.

Another classic from the Golden Age of Radio was The Shadow, which as I remember it was one of the Sunday Evening's must-hear.  There are few of us around anymore who “Know what evil lurks in the hearts of men”. I also remember the tremendous variety of the radio shows: the drama of the Lux Radio Hour, the humor of Burns and Allen, Jack Benny and so many others, the suspense of the Serials, and the mystery and terror of the creaking door from Inner Sanctum or Orson Welles War of the Worlds adaptation, whose anniversary we celebrate this month.  And of course there were the educational elements of Let's Pretend.

As my friend reminds me, we still can have those shows, streaming to us as we commute, but it isn’t quite the same as hunkering down, close to the radio, often as a family, sharing the experience.  I can’t help but feel we may have lost something, especially now that Click and Clack are leaving us.  What do you think?

Next Wednesday I will be sharing a little about my book, Harnessing a Heritage and offering contact with some interesting fellow authors who blog.  Please

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