Sunday, February 03, 2013

For those who don't know who Paul Harvey is

Here's a repost from 2009 when Harvey passed away.  His Super Bowl commercial was so good that I'm becoming a farmer.

On Friday night I signed off my radio show on KABC at 7:00 and was followed by Paul Harvey News and Comment. It wasn’t actually Paul Harvey, it was someone filling in for him doing a woeful impression. But I drove away feeling very proud that I was on the same radio station as the great Paul Harvey.

Paul Harvey passed away on Saturday. He was only 90.

I’m sure there will be tributes galore the next few days. They will talk about his influence. For almost 60 years he broadcast on the ABC radio network. At one time he was heard on over 1200 radio stations. They’ll praise the uniqueness of his delivery. They’ll all end their pieces with … “And now you know the rest of the story” thinking that no one else thought of that.

But they’ll probably overlook the one attribute that I think was his real genius. Paul Harvey was the greatest salesman that ever lived. I used to listen to him every chance I got, not for the news, not for the profile of the guy who invented leotards, but for the commercials. He was absolutely spellbinding. He made every product sound like something you just had to have. He was so convincing even I went out and bought Bose speakers and arthritis medicine… and I don’t even have arthritis. (I did stop short of Amway products though.)

I must say I have a soft spot for pitchmen. At State Fairs I always make a beeline to the tent where guys in bad suits and worse toupees are selling car wax and miracle vacuum cleaners. I love hearing their spiels. There’s a genuine art to being persuasive. And I always think, these hawkers are good, but Paul Harvey could sell them a miracle vacuum cleaner, and they know it’s a piece of crap.

What was his secret?

He truly communicated. He talked right to YOU. In words you could understand. He looked straight into your eyes even on the radio. He spoke with conviction, enthusiasm, and all of his arguments made so much doggone sense. Someday I may get arthritis so I better have this stuff just in case.

He ended every broadcast with: “This is Paul Harvey”… and then a beat, “Good day.” Forevermore that beat will be a moment of silence for radio’s greatest newscaster and Madison Avenue’s greatest Mad Man.

15 comments:

Mike Bell said...

Growing up on a farm, and hearing Paul Harvey on the radio at 4:30 in the morning when I got up to go do the farm things that I had to do then...THAT commercial struck a nerve with me. Well done Dodge.

(and farm things usually meant running around before dawn knee deep in cowsh*t. Oddly I miss it)

William C Bonner said...

I thought it was Paul Harvey's voice in that commercial. It took me back. I used to listen to him on the radio all the time. One of the important things in his delivery was that he separated things out by reading the page numbers. I always liked listening to The Rest of the Story.

Jim McFarlin said...

Thanks, Ken. We folks of a certain age tend to forget there likely was a wide cross-section of Super Bowl viewers who had no clue who Paul Harvey was. As a child of radio - first on-air job at 16 – I, too, was proud when I worked on a station that carried Paul at noon. You could set your day by him. He taught me that in radio, like almost everything else in life, being unique is not necessarily a bad thing.

Norm said...

At one time (late 70's early 80's), KABC ran the REST OF THE STORY, on the hour, from MID-5AM Sunday mornings.

I set up my SONY reel-to-reel machine with a yes, DIGITAL timer to turn on-and-off all night long so I could hear them back later in the week.

I still have many of those programs in my library.

Pamela Jaye said...

I was told his name was on screen when I was not looking up. toward the end I looked away from the screen to focus on the voice as I did not recognize... it worked.

Paul Duca said...

Become a vintner..then you and Howard Hoffman can be neighbors again.

Larry said...

Whenever I hear his name I can't help but think of that Simpsons parody: "And that little boy who nobody liked grew up to be...Roy Cohn."

Matt said...

I thought it would have been funnier if at the end he said, "and than your son looks up to you and says, 'Dad, I want to be a doctor.'"

David Kruh said...

One of the funniest things I ever saw on TV was - now don't hurt me for this - on a TV show Howard Stern did on Channel 9 in New York. He had his sidekick, Babba-Bouey, "interview" Paul Harvey outside some function. "interview" of course being a nice word for what Babba-Bouey used to do. Harvey was too classy and professional to blow him off, and he just just smiled politely. Stern then says, in v/o the tape, "there in one place are the highest and lowest paid people in radio..."

Griff said...

Ken, an excellent moment to reprise your appreciation of Paul Harvey's truly unique talent. What a remarkable voice -- listening to him last night reminded me of all that radio can be. Jim McFarlin's reflections above are wonderful.

I worked in a bookstore in the mid-'70s; things would slow down considerably at midday when "Paul Harvey's News and Comment" came on the radio and the entire staff -- regardless of age or gender -- would listen with intent fascination to the master's voice. We once even pooled some cash and bought Kava, the coffee he was peddling back in the day, for the breakroom. Customers would ask for assistance and receive at best half-an-ear; "MOBY-DICK...? um... just a moment..." And Lord help any customer who tried to speak in the ambiguous gap between "This is Paul Harvey..." and "...Good day!" Nobody would hear 'em.

Nancy Plum said...

I worked with Paul Harvey in Chicago at ABC. His office was on the same floor as our FM station, WDAI. I saw him when he came in every morning and he always said Good Morning. On his birthday which as I recall was around mine or the same day in August he had a birthday party in his office with his wife and we were invited to come by for cake. A super nice man! He was legendary and I was young at the time but in total awe of him! Grew up hearing him on the radio with the rest of the story. He was a great example to me on how to act professionally in this business.
Nancy Plum

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Nancy...
Great story.
One day, Mr. Harvey came to our station in St. Louis to record his essay. (He had a farm downstate and was on his way there..) I met him and he was a very gracious man.

As Ken wrote somewhere in his blog,
"Money and power make you more of who you are." I think if he were rich or poor, Mr. Harvey would be the same. A fine man.

(I'll spend this week trying to be more like Mr. Harvey...)

Mike said...

I love the pitchmen at state fairs. Every year at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo (insert your own joke here)I would watch a guy sell thousands of knives that were pitched on TV. Same delivery, same jokes every year. People would fight over who was going to get the knives first. I loved watching the husband or wife explain to their loved ones (who hadn't seen the demo) what a great buy this was.

Bob Summers said...

Does anyone know if it's true that Paul Harvey only endorsed products that he had used or tested personally? I mean, anyone can go in a True Value store and buy something. But I think I heard him say once that it was his policy only to pitch stuff he had used. When he was pitching Huskvarna chainsaws in the '80s, I was a bit suspicious that he'd had the opportunity to use one at that age.

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