Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Meet Pete Myers a.k.a. Mad Daddy

The early days of Top 40 radio produced some real characters.  Some pioneers became legendary like Wolfman Jack and Alan Freed.  But a few others never got the recognition they deserved.    At the top of my list is Pete Myers.  Talk about a Jekyll & Hyde.  Myers, who studied acting at the London Royal Academy and had an IQ of 175 (Einstein's was 160) drifted into Top 40 during the dawn of rock n' roll in the late '50s.  He created this bizarre persona, Mad Daddy, complete with echo, bubbling cauldrons, maniacal laughter, and he spoke exclusively in rhyme.  Sprinkled liberally with hep cat nonsense jargon, Pete Myers would spew these rhymes right off the top of his head.  And he would do his show in a darkened studio while wearing a Dracula cape. 

Mad Daddy was an absolute sensation in Cleveland.  Then in 1959 the big time called.  WNEW in New York.  Pete left for Gotham.  The only trouble was WNEW was a middle-of-the-road station, playing Frank Sinatra and Doris Day records.  Pete convinced them to let him do his Mad Daddy character at night, arguing it would broaden the station's audience.  They gave the okay, he did one show, and the complaints and uproar from the regular listeners was deafening.   They almost burned down the station.  The Mad Daddy experiment lasted all of one night.

So he became Pete Myers, a relaxed polished disc jockey who played Frank Sinatra records and didn't wear a cape.  The two presentations could not be more different.    

Everything about Pete Myers was bizarre.  Who gets their picture on a book of matches?

A few years later a Top 40 station in New York, WINS hired him away and Mad Daddy returned for two years (until the station went all news).  He was welcomed back at WNEW and once again he was "lovable laughable" Pete Myers.

I thought today I would play you samples of both and you can see for yourself what an unbelievable contrast in styles these two acts were.  First up, Mad Daddy.  This is from WINS in 1963.  Get ready for a TOTALLY unique act.  (Note: The music on both airchecks is cut out.)   That's followed by Pete Myers on WNEW in 1961.  To give you some context, this was around the time of MAD MEN in the early '60s.  Don Draper was still wearing hats.  (My thanks to Rob Frankel for providing the WNEW segment.) 





Crazy, no? Unfortunately, Pete Myers took his own life in 1968. It's a macabre tragic story, but for those of us radio geeks, there will always be a place in our hearts for Pete Myers.    RIP Mad Daddy. 

20 comments:

Jon88 said...

"Who gets their picture on a book of matches?" In that circumstance, WNEW's entire on-air lineup. It's not something Myers did on his own.

blinky said...

Meeting the voice is always a trip.
In the 70's I listened to the last DJ rock station in Florida. Quad 102.5. Not just stereo but quad, a technology that never actually happened as far as I know. In any case there was a DJ that had a voice that was like the guy that does movie trailers and he played the best stuff.
Years later I met him and he was so stoned I got a contact high. Not much of a story but true.

Gary West said...

In June 1962, WINS hired Pete Myers away from WNEW. He had the 4-7pm shift on WINS - as Pete Myers. The station was going through a transition (rock/MOR??). One thing was clear - WNEW was the monster - the top biller (about $8 million in 1962) and WINS wanted a piece of it. They had hired another former WNEW talent around the same time. Interestingly, Myers must have convinced management to let him do his "Mad Daddy" character late at night (later in 1962) - so for a time, both personalities were heard on the station. WINS eventually went back to top-40 and the "Mad Daddy" character stuck around while Pete Myers did his final afternoon show around early summer 1963. "Mad Daddy"was let go by WINS in November/1964 when they changed their presentation (still top-40 but for young adults). He wound up back at WNEW in February, 1965. Good thing. WINS went all news in April.

Brian said...

He also cut one single, What is a Fisterris?/I Love a Practical Joke as "The Joker".

Here is further reading about him.

http://www.freewebs.com/maddaddy/oobladi.htm

The Big Guy said...

I grew up in Cleveland when Pete Myers was there on WHK. He left town was I was 11 years old but one of the things I remember from back then was the fact that he did a daytime shift as Pete Myers and then become Mad Daddy for an 8PM shift. Kids my age had no idea it was the same guy. Don't know if our "greatest generation" parents knew or not but they weren't listening to "our" radio station. The University of Maryland's longtime play by play announcer, Johnny Holliday, was also at WHK at that time.

Cap'n Bob said...

My uncle listened to WNEW and I was subjected to it whenever I rode in his car with him. All I remember them playing was elevator music.

Cap'n Bob said...

I meant to say this was in the early to mid-sixties.

J Lee said...

Would have been interesting if Myers had been hired by WABC or WMCA, which were the two main Top 40 stations in New York in the mid-to-late 1960s.

Tom said...

I remember Pete Myers both as Pete Myers and as "Mad Daddy." Never knew what happened to him though. Sad. Very sad.

Anonymous said...

Wow--where has this guy been all my life? I have a new favorite zany. Thanks, Ken.

But two questions: could he keep this up as a regular shift 5 days a week? and what was New York thinking when they hired him for an MOR station?? Had they heard him? Why would you bring in Mad Daddy and make him convert?

-30-

Don K. said...

More stuff:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=po5Tsij1mbs

Don K. said...

Ay yi yi. This guy did his master's thesis on Mad Daddy.

https://etd.ohiolink.edu/!etd.send_file?accession=kent1248121549&disposition=inline

Anonymous said...

The prototypical "boss jock".
Closest thing I can think to him was the Greaseman, who took over for Stern in DC in the early 1980's.
Huge talent.

Ken Copper said...

Pete's younger brother, Ernie, was a San Diego radio legend who owned the mornings for many years on KOGO. He later spent long runs at both KSDO and KPOP. I spent five years in PM drive at KOGO while Ernie was there and found him to be a real pro and a good guy. Though he never spoke of it, I got the impression he was haunted by Pete's death. Both Pete and Ernie were railbirds who could handicap the ponies with the best of them. I believe Ernie is still a regular at Del Mar.

Mike Barer said...


Sad that this story had a sorry ending, but it sounds like he left a great legacy.

MikeK.Pa. said...

Interesting post on an interesting guy. Very sad to see greatness misused or unrecognized. Who knew Neil Sedaka sang "Stairway to Heaven?" All these years I was crediting Robert Plant.

Mike said...

Coincidentally, there is a British DJ called Bad Daddy, but he's currently under investigation as part of Operation Yewtree.

Brian said...

For the full Mad Daddy experience, buy the CD on Norton, but do sample track 30:

http://www.amazon.com/Wavy-Gravy-Mad-Daddy/dp/B00009JZUM

Brian said...

I gather Ken Levine will appreciate this cavalcade of DJs:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7L98A0aHIo

Jeff P said...

Hey Ken Copper....what a great factoid!
Ernie was a little slowed down by a stroke...but he was at Shotgun Tom's within the last 2-years or so......and he was in great shape....always a pleasure to be with him...
Ernie was the best ad-libber in San Diego radio.....

Jeff Prescott