Ratso Rizzo: You know, in my own place, my name ain’t Ratso. I mean, it just so happens that in my own place my name is Enrico Salvatore Rizzo.
Joe Buck: Well, I can’t say all that.
Ratso Rizzo: Rico, then.
—Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Ron Lundy, one of the best disc jockeys anywhere, ever, has died at the age of 75.
Ron worked at a few midwest stations, including WIL in St. Louis, where he was known as “the Wil’ Child”.
In 1965 he moved to WABC in New York and stayed there until the station jumped to the talk radio format in 1982, a day that fans still refer to as “The Day the Music Died.” Ron is probably best known for being the midday guy, but he started on the overnight shift.
Every day he’d open up his show with a gigantic “HELLO, LUV! This-a Ron Lundy, in the Greatest City in the World!” It seemed that Ron could talk with most of the words capitalized. The aircheck here, which is telescoped down to under 12 minutes (i.e. the commercials and records are cut out), is a relatively laid-back sample of his work. It dates back to December 20, 1969. The voice on the promos, by the way, is that of Dan Ingram:
Ron Lundy’s voice was so recognizable (remember that, at night, WABC’s signal reached up to forty states), that he was chosen to “represent” New York City in the film Midnight Cowboy. As Jon Voight’s character reaches the city, we hear a radio and the DJ’s voice is none other than Ron Lundy.
This next piece is from June 27, 1970. It’s about four minutes long. It’s not the best quality (some “picket fencing” interference) but you still get a good feel for the way the station ran. Ron read a lot of the commercials live, occasionally stopping to holler, “ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME? Well, pick yer head up when I’m talking to you.”
One more from the WABC days. This one is from September of 1980. It’s about seven minutes long and also has some “picket fencing” but it’s nonetheless fun to listen to.
In early 1984, Ron moved to WCBS-FM, New York’s oldies station. The word is that, when he was recruited, the program director essentially carved out a spot for him on the schedule, cutting back several other DJs’ schedules by an hour each. Still in the midday, Ron would get us through lunch and then hand us over to Bill Brown, whom he described every day as “a tall, blond man”. Ron held the slot until September of 1997, at which point he retired. He still came back for the occasional “reunion weekend” and did interviews on WCBS and WABC’s flashback Saturday evening show with Mark Simone.
You can find a bunch of airchecks from Ron’s final hours on WCBS at www.musicradio77.com/lundy.html. (Incidentally, the airchecks above are all nicked from musicradio77.com).
Ron retired to the town of Bruce, Mississippi. In recent weeks, his wife said he had had a lung removed after cancer treatment and suffered several mini-strokes. He became dehydrated, went into cardiac arrest during rehydration, was resuscitated and put on a ventilator. Just a few days ago, he had a tracheotomy to remove the ventilator tube, a step toward taking him off the ventilator altogether. However, he had a heart attack this weekend and died yesterday.
I saw the headline and tuned in for awhile to WCBS-FM, listening to their Internet feed. Apparently the tributes—email and phone calls—are just pouring into the station. You can see some of them here. (For the record, from the time I started typing this to just now, the number of messages has gone from about thirty to nearly 150. There may be several hundred by the time you see it.) As an on-air tribute, WCBS will be re-airing Ron Lundy’s last hours on their station on Sunday night beginning at 11:00. And, of course, the DJs all have their own memories to share between now and then.
Rest in Peace, Ron. Your voice has been missed for many years, and now it’s silenced forever. Your memory, however, will continue for a long time with literally millions of people.