Probably everyone over (or under) 30 and with a radio has memories of Paul Harvey. I’d forgotten about him during the Great High School Interregnum, when attending Missouri Military Academy meant almost zero TV, radio, or pop culture. But my first radio gig out in northern California snapped him immediately back to mind.
Our station, KXGO, was back then an ABC Radio News affiliate. Which meant we could run ABC’s news feed (we didn’t), or Bob Holliday’s sports updates (which we did, after I’d cut them down to a minute or under, using a razor blade and tape), or Paul Harvey (religiously).
We were a Top 40 station. More eclectic than most, being behind the Redwood Curtain, but still youth-oriented, Top 40 radio. And yet every morning, noon, and afternoon we ran Paul Harvey’s news reports and, of course, “the rest of the story.” As smart-ass 21-year-old radio jox, my morning show partner in crime and I made endless fun of poor old Paul.
But we never stopped to ask ourselves why a popular, youth-oriented music station broadcasting in the most liberal part of the country would be airing the news & views of an old conservative fogey. And we certainly never asked ourselves why, if there was some technical difficulty with the tape or the satellite signal, the phone calls would come flooding in. “Where’s Paul Harvey?” We could never generate that kind of listener interest ourselves.
Within a couple years, I was out of radio and long forgotten. Twenty years later, Paul Harvey, aged 90, was still going strong. There was no secret to his success: A great sense for news and a way of telling a story so strong you couldn’t change the dial even when you knew it was hokum. And he never changed for the sake of fashion. A Harvey show from 1960 is pretty much interchangeable with one from 1990, so long as you redact the names and events. The man and the method remained unchanged — an unmistakeable brand, right out of the gate, from 1951 to 2009.
Say what you will, but he’ll never be forgotten.