UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

August 2, 2009

LOCAL HEROES: ED WALKER

Washington Post - On a recent afternoon at WAMU, an engineer cues some melodramatic theme music -- the swelling strings and sonorous piano of a more earnest age -- and the smooth man in smoked shades leans into the mike. "Hello again everybody," he croons. "My name is Ed Walker and this is 'The Big Broadcast.' "

Walker has been doing this every week since becoming host of the popular old-time radio series Sunday nights on 88.5 FM almost 20 years ago. He roooounds his vowels and pops his final T's and K's, just as he's done throughout a career of talking on the radio that spans nearly six decades. And he smoothly runs two right-hand fingertips over the bumpy sheets of Braille that help him negotiate his world -- a unique realm of rich sound, high drama and absolute darkness -- just as he has done since the day he was born in 1932. . .

Now, Walker is poised to ascend into the Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago, awaiting the outcome of an online vote that ends Aug. 1. . .

Since he and [Willard] Scott signed on as a DJ duo at WOL in 1952, Walker's voice has been heard on Washington radio more than just about any sound short of the emergency broadcast test signal. He's been a big band jock, talk show host and, most famously, half of the "Joy Boys" tandem through which he and Scott dominated Washington airwaves for nearly two decades. Each day on the old WRC, the two buddies sang their theme song ("We are the Joy Boys of radio, we chase electrons to and fro!"), voiced a multitude of silly characters, ad-libbed clunky sound effects and riffed seamlessly about everyday absurdities, a pair of Siamese jesters joined at the mike. . .

He became AU's first blind student, helped launch WAMU, then a tiny AM campus station, and hit it off with Scott, a fellow student broadcaster. "We were doing satire from the first words we ever spoke to each other," says Scott, who once let Walker take the wheel of his car on Whitehurst Freeway to satisfy his friend's curiosity about driving. "We're like brothers, only better. We really love each other."

VIDEO FROM LAST SHOW OF THE 'JOY BOYS'

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