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Show History

Tom Gauger, WMAL personality

Neil Boggs introduced me to the Joy Boys in late 1968 and we've been good friends ever since. One summer night in the early 1970s, Willard, Eddie and I did a stage show at the old Virginia Theater in Alexandria. It was a magnificent old house, with about 900 seats, and a real pipe organ. I think the show was sponsored by the Potomac Valley Chapter of the Theater Organ Society and Jean Lautzenheiser was the organist. The place was packed and the air conditioning wasn't working but we had a hell of a good time ad libbing our way through the evening.

pic of Tom Gauger Remember that the Joy Boys worked at WRC and I was at WMAL. We were supposed to be arch competitors and both stations played roughly the same music (as did WWDC). Nevertheless, radio in those days was somewhat incestuous; I appeared on WRC occasionally, and both Willard and Ed showed up on WMAL.

We even did a joint remote one night when Mayor Walter Washington opened the F Street Mall. I was there with the late Felix Grant; Ed and Willard represented WRC. Due to some restrictions imposed by the different technical unions (IBEW and NABET) at the two stations, each station had to have its own microphone. So the interview mike that I carried through the crowd was actually a clumsy-looking affair; two old microphones strapped together with duct tape. The contraption was heavy as hell!

In the early 1980s I was doing 10a-2p on 'MAL and Ed Walker did a one-hour show from 2-3p. Harden and Weaver had been on WMAL's morning show for many years. Because of their seniority, they had long vacation blocks every year and it became a problem trying to fill their shoes. No one on the team really liked doing the show alone, and operations director Jim Gallant wasn't about to pull Bill Trumbull off afternoon drive to do the morning show with someone. So, Ed and I offered to do it.

We did Harden & Weaver's show on several two-week occasions and I remember laughing so hard at Eddie's lines that my stomach hurt! Ed was (and is) one of the quickest wits on radio. All you have to do, as the straight man, is to push his buttons.

I remember introducing Ed's characters: Charles the Poet, and his instant bristling if I called him "Chuck," Rosa Rio rising majestically into the spotlight playing the WMAL Wurlitzer Grand Pipe Organ (and occasionally falling into the pit), Not Allbright, patterned after famed sportscaster and impresario Nat Albright, and many others. Then one day Willard was a guest. Blew me away!

My memory is getting hazy with age (it's the second thing that goes!), but we had some event set at the mythical "Burning Bush Golf Club" in Potomac and there was an Esther Peterson type based on that gentle lady who spoke on household tips sponsored by Giant Food. There were instant characters that could seemingly come out of the woodwork. I remember saying something about a record that we had just played that might get us into trouble and suddenly, Ed created the WMAL Music Director who came charging into the studio berating us both for deviating from the music list. And of course, there was the entire crew of WWVO, that great country radio station in West Virginia. Ed played ALL the characters, musicians and singers, and all I could do was laugh hysterically.

Tom Gauger still works at ABC radio and WMAL in Washington, where he hosts "Health Talk," Sundays at noon. Tom also has his own production company, Tom Gauger Event Services, which manages any kind of event you might want to stage.


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