Herb Oscar Anderson, Crooning D.J. for WABC-AM, Dies at 88
By RICHARD SANDOMIR FEB. 1, 2017
Herb Oscar Anderson in 1957 with Carole Bennett before the start of his weekday radio show on the ABC Radio Network. Gary Wagner
Herb Oscar Anderson, the morning D.J. for the New York Top 40 station WABC-AM during most of the 1960s, died on Sunday in Bennington, Vt., near Hoosick Falls, N.Y., where he had a home. He was 88.
The cause was kidney failure, said his son John James, an actor who played Jeff Colby on the prime-time soap opera “Dynasty.”
When Mr. Anderson arrived at WABC in 1960, the station was in the early stages of a battle for listeners with WMCA, WINS and WMGM. He was one of the station’s “Swingin’ 7” air personalities, a group that included Scott Muni and was known as the All Americans. But Mr. Anderson was a throwback in a changing music scene, a fan of the big band sound, not necessarily the rock ’n’ roll he was playing on a 50,000-watt station that reached well beyond the city limits.
“My father walked into his job at WABC wearing wingtips and a suit and left in wingtips and a suit,” Mr. James said.
As the station’s low-key “morning mayor,” Mr. Anderson had a mandate: to appeal to adults whose buying power was critical to advertisers, more than to the teenagers who were already tuning in. Each morning, his booming, melodic voice crooned his lyrics to his signature song, “Hello Again”:
“Hello again, here’s my best to you. Are your skies all gray? I hope they’re blue.”
He recorded that song, as he did a few others, and wrote lyrics to instrumentals by Nelson Riddle and Bert Kaempfert.
Mr. Anderson’s old-fashioned approach set him apart from other D.J.’s at the station, like the exuberant Bruce Morrow (a.k.a. Cousin Brucie), who courted teenagers. In effect, Mr. Anderson had said, there were two WABCs: one in the morning, and one for the rest of the day.
“We had to make money,” Mr. Anderson told MusicRadio77.com, a website devoted to the Top 40 legacy of the station, which switched to a talk format in 1982. “No question about it. I was for the housewife, mother and children. It was a combination that had to be done.”
An Interview With Herb Oscar Anderson (May 29, 2000)
Steve Malzberg and Allan Sniffen interviewed Mr. Anderson on "WABC Rewound" Music Radio 77
Allan Sniffen, who runs MusicRadio77.com, said, “His job was to come in and sound like a grown-up, not like Cousin Brucie.”
Mr. Anderson left the station in early 1969 because he could not abide acid rock, he told Scott Benjamin for a profile on MusicRadio77.com. But Mr. James said that his father resigned because he believed that ABC, the owner of WABC, had reneged on a promise to give him a television talk show.
He would later host shows on the New York radio stations WOR and WHN in the 1970s.
Herbert Oscar Anderson was born on May 30, 1928, in South Beloit, Ill. His mother, the former Frieda Munson, a maid who was born in Sweden, placed Herb and her four other children in the Odd Fellows orphanage in Lincoln, Ill., after the deaths of two husbands left her too poor to raise them. He would later reunite with her.
Mr. Anderson’s radio career began in Janesville, Wis., and continued in Illinois, Florida and Iowa. He found success with a Top 40 format in the mid-1950s at WDGY in St. Paul, Minn., where he was known as 235 pounds of genial joviality.
After a brief stint in Chicago, he moved to New York in 1957. He hosted a morning radio show on WABC and a variety show on the ABC Radio Network where he sang with a live band.
He moved to WMCA in 1958 and returned to WABC in 1960.
“The battle helped both stations,” Mr. Anderson told MusicRadio77.com. “They were great battles, weren’t they?”
In addition to Mr. James, Mr. 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.
In recent years, he hosted a weekly radio show in Vero Beach, Fla., near his home on Hutchinson Island, on which he reminisced, played music and sang.