Well, New York, this is sad news: Ron Lundy has died.
He was the voice of New York, or seemed to be the voice of New York, when WABC was one of the grandest broadcasting institutions of the Tri-State area.
He was big. His voice was big. His reputation was big. He died last night of a heart attack; lived in Mississippi with his wife. Had retired there after leaving New York radio for good in 1997 (last gig at CBS.)
More to come but I wanted to post this very famous scene from "Midnight Cowboy."
And, after this, please read Peter Goodman's piece in Newsday that was published upon Lundy's retirement. It follows the clip.
"I DON'T KNOW if anybody has been luckier than I have been in the business," exclaimed Ron Lundy in the sweet Tennessee drawl with which he's caressed New York's airwaves for 32 years. "I've worked with the best people, I've been in the same places so long, and I love the mail I get. You couldn't ask for better listeners."
But after noon on Thursday, Lundy's cheerful voice won't be heard over WCBS / 101.1 FM anymore - or any other radio station, for that matter. That trademark greeting, "Hello Luv, this is Ron Lundy in the greatest city in the world," which got a landmark cameo in the 1969 film "Midnight Cowboy" and was worked into Starship's 1985 hit "We Built This City," is going to become history.
Ron Lundy, 63, is about to retire. "I don't know what I'm going to do, but I'm not going to work anymore," Lundy said in a phone interview last week from his studio at WCBS. "I've got no plans. I'll just try to get settled on the farm, about 100 miles southeast of Memphis. I'll probably write a book or two."
Memphis is where it all began - the music and Lundy's own career, which just about parallels the life of rock and roll.
"It was my music," he recalled. "We started listening to it around 1950, when I was just coming into high school. Guys like Dewey Phillips, all black music, rhythm and blues. There was the W. C. Handy Theater in Memphis. On Friday nights at midnight there was a midnight ramble, and all the kids would be there. It would be something, really - Laverne Baker, Ruth Brown, Louis Jordan."
Lundy had no idea he wanted to be a disc jockey, but he got a job as a gofer ("assistant record librarian, maybe not even that") at WHMM in Memphis. One night about two months after he started, a newly hired deejay got his work schedule mixed up and didn't show for the 7 to 11 p.m. shift, so Lundy was pressed into service.
"I was on the air for one night, and this guy Hodding Carter editor of the Delta Democrat-Times in Mississippi owned a brand new radio station. He heard me on the radio, gave me a call that night and they gave me a job in Greenville Miss. the next day."
From WDDT in Greenville, Lundy's path took him to WLCS, Baton Rouge, La.; WIL, St. Louis; and then to New York - first at WABC from 1965 until it switched from music to talk in 1982, and then at oldies-format WCBS from 1984 until this coming Thursday. (His replacement will be another veteran, Dan Daniel of onetime rival WMCA.)
"I never liked anything the first time I heard it," Lundy asserted. "I'd have to hear it three or four times." Except the Beatles' "Help!"
"At WIL in St. Louis, I played that twenty-five times in the first two hours the afternoon I got it."
You can't do that on the radio anymore, what with playlists and formats and fragmented audiences and tremendous competition. "Those were different times, when I was coming up," Lundy said.
And now he's leaving, though he hasn't talked about it on the air. "I don't want to do that till the last day. I hope they haven't got much planned. It's going to be sad enough." Tuning In
Speaking of oldies, CBS / FM 101.1 is hosting an end-of-summer Grand Finale Sept. 26 at the New Huntington Town House featuring Johnny Rivers, Felix Cavaliere's Rascals, The Turtles and more . . . Harolyn Blackwell, star of Broadway's "Candide," shows off her pretty voice this afternoon at 4 on the Stan Martin Show (WQEW / 1560 AM) . . . The Country Music Awards are getting the full treatment on Y-107 (three stations on one frequency, 107.1 FM), with live morning shows next week from Nashville running up to the stereo simulcast (with CBS-TV) Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.