CBS 3 News Anchor Ukee Washington & Broadcast Pioneers member Ed Sciaky
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
at the Bala Golf Club
Born in New York City on Friday, April 2, 1948, Broadcast Pioneers member Edward Leon Sciaky (pronounced Shock-ee) was a legend in Philadelphia radio and television. Ed started in broadcasting at his college radio station, WRTI-FM. An avid Broadway show music fan, the first program he ever hosted was entitled "The Bright Lights of Broadway." Later, when the Saturday evening folk music show opened up, Ed added that into his schedule.
Lifelong friend and Vice-President of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Gerry Wilkinson said, “Ed had a knack for recognizing talent. While we were in college, he discovered a young 16 year-old and had her on as a guest on his Saturday evening Broadside show. The teenager and her mother came down from NYC on the train. Guitar in hand, the young woman sat at the college radio station mike and sang her first (of many) songs that evening, ‘Society's Child.’ The vocalist was a very young Janis Ian.”
During his senior year at Temple University (Ed's degree was in Math), Ed jocked the Sunday evening religious programs on WHAT (his first commercial gig in 1967) and between shows hung out with Gene Shay in the FM studio.
His voice was literally heard around the world via the commercial shortwave station in Red Lion, PA on a broadcast series he hosted called "A Man and His Music," produced by his old college buddy, Gerry Wilkinson. This friendship and professional relationship continued for 40 years. Sciaky was talent when Gerry produced at WHYY-TV and Ed (until his death) was the host of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia webcast called, “Pioneers in Broadcasting,” which Wilkinson also produced.
In the fall of 1967 thru the spring of 1968, Ed co-hosted a program called “The Golden Years of Radio,” carried over WXUR & WXUR-FM in Media. Bob Barry originated the show live from Media and Ed’s segments were taped, produced by Wilkinson and recorded at WRTI-FM and mailed to the station. This wasn’t a paid gig, but Gerry and Ed were young and wanted to make a name for themselves in the business so they agreed to do it for free. When WRTI-FM closed for the summer (and to move to Annenberg Hall), Ed’s schedule no longer permitted him to continue with the show as it would now be live from Media.
He was replaced by Roger Wood (who in 1986 would be live on the air throughout New England from the Cape when the Challenger blew up). The station also gave Wood and Wilkinson a live Saturday morning broadcast called “Years Gone By” (a program that was previously carried on WRTI-FM when it was hosted by Broadcast Pioneers member Ed Cunningham). The show played old 78s and did telephone talk about the music and old radio.
One day, a professor from the University of Delaware was scheduled as guest. He cancelled and Gerry Wilkinson replaced him with Ed Sciaky, known to the audience from his previous work on “The Golden Years of Radio.” A college buddy of Roger, Gerry and Ed named Harry Wolf called. The phone conversation was broadcast live when all of a sudden Harry asked Ed what he thought of current Philadelphia radio. Ed mentioned several stations, one being WDAS-FM (Hyski’s Underground). Sciaky said that the station needed lots of help. After the call, Harry Wolf telephoned Hy Lit who was doing a Saturday morning air shift on WDAS-FM. Wolf told Hy what was said and Lit played a long record and called WXUR.
“We didn’t know it was Hy Lit until the call was already on the air,” said Gerry Wilkinson. The outcome of it was that Lit invited Ed to WDAS to discuss the situation more. He put Ed on the air for a live audition. Mim, Hy’s wife at the time, called Lit and said, “Are you listening to this guy? He’s really, really good.” Ed got the job in the summer of 1968. “Seems to me that Ed told me he was making $42 a week there and when he got married, they gave him a raise,” says Sciaky buddy Gerry Wilkinson. Ed Sciaky was let go by the station two years later. Wilkinson (now Operations Manager of WDAS AM & FM) got Ed back in doing news. When Jerry Stevens started the WMMR format in 1970, Stevens hired away three WDAS-FM jocks and Ed Sciaky for his air staff. Ed was also on WIOQ (beginning in 1977), WYSP (beginning in 1986) and then back to WMMR. He had a series of TV shows on the "PRISM" cable channel. For several years, Ed Sciaky was the host of the King Biscuit Flour Hour, a syndicated radio program heard over 300 stations. At the time of his death on Thursday, January 29, 2004, he was hosting a weekly show on WMGK about his lifelong buddy, Bruce Springsteen.
Wife Judy Sciaky said that they were in New York City for five days seeing the sites and taking in Broadway shows. Ed was especially delighted that he got to see "Gypsy." It was at 10:45 am, when Ed and Judy were preparing to take the train back to Philly on January 29th. They got to Penn Station, which was at 7th Avenue and 32nd Street. The entrance down to the train terminal had all the escalators traveling up. Judy asked Ed to wait there at the corner and she would check another entrance a half block away. When she turned around to come back, she saw Ed lying on the sidewalk. His head had hit a cement planter on the way down. By the time she got there, he was no longer breathing.
Wilkinson continued that after Ed and I were graduated from Temple University (December 1968), I stopped at Ed's apartment. I was surprised to see a sort of disheveled guy who had slept on Ed’s couch. I had seen many people on that sofa before; all saying they were going to be stars. None made the grade. But this guy said he was different. He was going to make it. I shook his hand and said GOOD LUCK but don't give up your day job, if you have one. He was confident that success would be his so I again asked his name. He said, "Bruce." "Bruce Springsteen!" Sciaky, by the way, is credited with being the first air personality to play Bruce Springsteen on the radio.
Others also shared that sofa including a young singer out of a group called "The Hassles." That guy was Billy Joel.
Broadcast Pioneers President Bill "Wee Willie" Webber tells this story: One time I (Bill Webber) called Ed's house and the answering machine said, "Hi, This is Billy Joel. Ed and Judy aren't here right now so leave your message and I'll tell them to call you real soon." Ed Sciaky later said that it wasn't a true story at all and then he added that it wasn't Billy Joel, it was comedian Robert Klein.
Ed was responsible for the success of many other artists including Yes, Sting, Renaissance, just to name a few. He had an ear for the music and heard the hits before the pack.
Ed Sciaky, who was on kidney dialysis and whose right foot was amputated in December of 2002 as a result of complications from diabetes, was a life-long resident of the Delaware Valley. Considered by many to be a genius, he was graduated from Central High in June of 1965.
Broadcast Pioneers member, lifelong friend and mentor to Sciaky, Gene Shay, a Philly Folk music radio legend for 43 years, said, "Ed was one of the most influential radio people Philly ever had. He focused tightly on the music and the artists, developing great friendships with a lot of musicians and people in the industry. Ed brought a lot of people together."
Bruce Springsteen said, Ed Sciaky was the kind of DJ whose passion was the lifeblood for artists like myself. His support for my work brought me to an audience in Philadelphia that has remained one of my strongest to this day. Ed was the DJ as true rock and roll fan, the very spirit of the music he loved. He will be greatly missed.
Chris Squire of the rock group YES stated: Ed was very helpful to our band in the early days of Yes, being one of the first DJs in Philly and the U.S. to adopt Yes music.
Billy Joel spent 30 minutes on WMGK Radio on the night of Ed’s death. It was a moving tribute to one of the greats of our industry, Ed Sciaky.
Gerry Wilkinson said: I first met Ed in 1965 and over the years, he hasn't changed much. Still the warm, friendly guy you heard on the airwaves all these years. What a loss this is for me personally, for the broadcast family of Philadelphia and the people of the Delaware Valley. He was really a funny guy with a dry sense of humor. We worked together on various projects for four decades and were life-long friends. We shared many experiences; some I'll tell you about and some I won't. I was talking with Ed on the phone (we were college students at the time) while he was selling Flyers tickets when he sold one to a teenager. They talked for 25 minutes while I was on hold. Her name was Judy, and she would later marry Ed. I last saw Ed on the third Wednesday in January of 2004 at our luncheon. Afterwards, I drove him home and as he departed my car, he said, "See ya soon unless I loose my glasses." I'll miss him more than words could ever say.
On Friday, November 18th, Ed Sciaky was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers' "Hall of Fame."
From the official archives of The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Written by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
Photo originally donated by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
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