Talent: GEORGE MICHAEL
Station: WABC New York
Date: April 2, 1979
Time: 48:08 (unscoped)
George Michael's biggest radio gig nearly didn't happen.
It was 1974 and the veteran jock had accepted a job doing TV play-by-play for the Baltimore Orioles. Michael was not enthusiastic at first when WABC program director Glenn Morgan approached him about doing the station's 6-10 p.m. shift. Assured that there would be plenty of opportunities to do TV sports in New York, "King George" finally took the job that most jocks could only dream about. For the next five years was one of the most widely heard jocks in North America with his nightly show on the 50,000-watt WABC blowtorch.
Michael had come a long way since his days as a self-described poor student with the worst grades while growing up in St. Louis. While attending Saint Louis University, he got a job as a record promoter. That led to radio with gigs at WIL St. Louis, KBTR Denver and WRIT Milwaukee. Beginning in 1966, he had an eight-year run at WFIL Philadelphia.
At WABC, the intense, energetic and always well-prepared Michael was a strong successor to Cousin Brucie, who had left after 11 years on the station's evening shift for rival WNBC. As WABC jock Peter Bush put it: "Every song was delivered as if his life at that very moment depended on it. He emanated cool on the air."
While in New York, Michael did some sports work, anchoring weekend sportscasts on WABC-TV, doing colour for New York Islanders on television, and filling in for Howard Cosell on ABC Radio's Speaking of Sports. So he was ready for the switch to TV when WABC released him in November, 1979 as part of a shakeup that also saw the departures of veterans Harry Harrison and Chuck Leonard. Finally free of his radio responsibilities, he now leaped into TV sportscasting full-time, and from 1980 to 2007 was the main sportscaster at WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. NBC syndicated his Sports Final highlight show in 1984 and renamed it The George Michael Sports Machine. He won an Emmy in 1985 for the show, a Sunday night staple of many sports fans before it left the air on March 25, 2007, with Michael saying "last one out, turn off the lights" as he walked off the set for the final time.
A nationally-known collector of baseball cards and early baseball photos, George Michael died of cancer Christmas Eve 2009. He was 70.
Enjoy George Michael on WABC (UNSCOPED) here.
on WABC (SCOPED)
(The Don Shuttleworth Collection)
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