Herb Oscar Anderson, the morning DJ whose rich, dulcet tones started the day for listeners of WABC/770 AM radio in the ’60s, died Sunday in Bennington, Vermont. Anderson, who was 88, died from kidney failure according to his son, actor John James.
A longtime fixture on the New York radio station, popular in the metro area and beyond, Anderson began his tenure at WABC in 1960 at a time when the station was honing its Top 40 format. Anderson, who was a fan of big band music, was one of the station’s “Swingin’ 7” on-air personalities, WABC’s answer to the “Good Guys” on rival station WMCA, where Anderson previously worked.
“My father walked into his job at WABC wearing wingtips and a suit and left in wingtips and a suit,” James said.
Anderson was billed as the “morning mayor,” whose laid-back style was meant to appeal to adults rather than the teenagers. He also greeted his audience each morning by crooning his signature tune “Hello Again,” which featured the lyrics “Hello again, here’s my best to you. Are your skies all gray? I hope they’re blue.” He also recorded the song.
Anderson, who was born on May 30, 1928, in South Beloit, Illinois, was raised along with his four siblings at the Odd Fellows orphanage in nearby Lincoln because his widowed mother was too poor to support them. He and his mother were eventually reunited.
He eventually moved to Wisconsin, where he worked as a newspaper reporter. After a three-year stint in the U.S. Army Air Corps, Anderson was hired in 1956 by St. Paul, Minnesota, radio station WDGY to host a Top 40 program. He was immediately popular with listeners, as evidenced by the success of his “Oscar Socks” radio stunt, in which he started a fad among high school girls by getting them to wear a different knee-high sock on each leg.
He was soon offered jobs at stations in Chicago and then New York, where he moved in 1957. He first hosted a morning radio show on WABC, known for its “77/WABC” jingle, and a variety show on the ABC Radio Network. He was hired by WMCA in 1958 and remained there for two years before returning to WABC.
Unhappy with changing musical tastes, Anderson left WABC in 1969. James stated that a key reason for his father’s departure was because station owner ABC broke its promise to let Anderson host his own talk show. Anderson followed his WABC gig as a DJ at AM radio stations WOR and WHN in the ’70s. In recent years, he hosted a Sunday night radio show in Vero Beach, Florida, near his home on Hutchinson Island.
In addition to James, Anderson is survived by his second wife, Terry Kirkoff, a film editor; another son, Herb Oscar Anderson II; a daughter, Carla Anderson; and four grandchildren.
To hear Herb Oscar Anderson’s theme song click here: musicradio77.com/images/helloagain.mp3