Long John Wade
WFIL Radio Publicity Photo
WFIL Boss Jock "Long John Wade," age 66, has passed away on Monday, May 15, 2006 at his New England home in Cape Cod where he moved in 1993.
"Long John" was, in reality, Carl Wehde. He worked at WDRC, 1360 on AM in Hartford, just before coming to WFIL. It was there that Long John worked with another WFIL Boss Jock, Broadcast Pioneers member Jim Nettleton. Jim did 10 am to 1 pm and Long John did afternoon drive (4 to 8 pm and just before coming to Philly, he was on 3 to 6 pm).
Jim e-mailed us: "I'd known and worked with Long John off and on since 1964, in Hartford, Connecticut, when we were both on air at WDRC. He was a friend and fine colleague and a consummate pro. I was looking forward to seeing him again... but, sadly, that's not to be. His wit, intellect and talent will be sorely missed by all of us who knew him well."
Long John wasn't an original WFIL Boss Jock when the station flipped format in September of 1966. However, by Thanksgiving of that same year, Wade had replaced Frank Kingston Smith on the 2 to 6 am overnight shift. He then moved to the 10 pm to 2 am time slot where he became a Philly fixture. He stayed with the station for five years.
Broadcast Pioneers member Mel Klawansky (an engineer at WFIL who later married a WFIL Boss Chick) remembers that Long John "broke" the Beatles' LP, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club. He played it cut by cut and talked about each one.
Wade said that he got the nickname "Long John" because of his height (6 foot, 4 inches tall). He could always reach the top shelf in the record library. In 1966, he said that his favorite color was blue and he loved pizza. Reportedly, he didn't like spinach or oatmeal, although he told his New England listeners, "sometimes, I have to eat them."
In August of 1964, the station's PD (Program Director) sent him on tour with the Beatles. During this time, he met Broadcast Pioneers member Larry Kane (who wasn't yet working in Philadelphia). (By the way, while John was away from WDRC, his brother Don filled in for him. Don later moved to the Delaware Valley when Don was on WIBG).
Only two U.S. radio people were on the entire Beatles tour, Larry Kane and Long John Wade. On part of the tour, Jim Stagg from KYW Radio (which was in Cleveland at that time) was also on board. Stagg would later work in Philadelphia at WIBG.
It cost WDRC five grand, in expenses, to have Long John join the whole tour. The station turned that money into a profit when they sold Wade's reports to 11 other radio stations. Long John reported that the young weren't the only ones that loved the Beatles. He said, "I saw newsmen picking up the cigarette butts discarded by Ringo, or an old coffee cup that Paul used."
Wade said that during his stay at WDRC, he was consistenly drawing a 50 percent share in a market of 16 stations. One out of every two radio listeners were tuning in his program.
One of those broadcasts began with Paul McCartney saying: "This is Paul McCartney, your resident DJ reporting to you from the Beatles suite in New York City. I have with me know, that famous man who you've probably never heard of. ...A Real live idiot, John Wade."
Long John became radio’s Beatles information expert. He developed a personal friendship with each of the group. The tempermental John Lennon, it has been reported, once punched Long John for asking an impertinent question. The two remained close for years, with John Lennon inviting Wade to join himself and Yoko Ono for their infamous bed-in in May of 1969 at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal.
Of the Beatles, Long John Wade once said: “Personally, I would say John Lennon is the ‘thinker.’ Ringo is the funniest, Paul the friendliest, and George is the quiet one.”
Kane told Broadcast Pioneers member David Madden: "He made you think he was, at one point, an expert...an entertainer...and somewhat of a wise guy. And people loved that wise guy, comedic part of him."
Before his WFIL days, Long John worked at these stations in Massachusetts (some while attending Boston University): WHIL, Medford; WAAB, Worcester; WHAV, Haverhill; WORL, Boston; WTAO, Boston; WSPR, Springfield (where he used the name "Johnny Midnight.") During his prep school days, he ran the campus radio station in New Hampton, NH.
In 1971, Wade went to the other main rocker in town, WIBG for a short time doing afternoon drive. His brother, Don Wade did morning drive.
Long John had later stops at WIFI and WCAU in Philadelphia (he did morning drive on FM and then had a talk show on AM). Then, we went to WCBS-FM in New York City. While at WDRC, Wade worked for the Connecticut School of Broadcasting and later started his own broadcast school here in Philadelphia, the American Academy of Broadcasting . While at the WFIL stations, he was Jerry Blavat's announcer on his syndicated TV show, distributed through Triangle.
In 1979, Wade was diagnosed with a bi-polar disorder and left the business he loved so much. Long John Wade suffered a stroke in 1996 which left him with speech problems. He also loss the total use of his right hand. He battled bad health for a decade.
In 1963, Long John married Rosemary Ward and were divorced in 1974. The couple had twin daughters, Jennifer and Stephanie. Long John had two brothers, Tom Wehde and Don (known as Don Wade on the air). Don and his wife, Roma, co-host the morning show on WLS out of Chicago. Long John had four grandchildren including a set of twins.
Broadcast Pioneers' Board Member Kal Rudman, publisher of the industry's "Friday Morning Quarterback" told us on the phone: "Long John Wade made his mark in the Philadelphia market. He was a personality both on and off the radio."
Long John's daughter, Jennifer Luney, a Vice-President for Bank of America e-mailed us: Very ironic is life. Dad spoke like a quick-draw shooter, but at the end he could barely speak. A friend asked me once if we only get so many words in this life and I said to her, as fast as Long John could spin ‘em, you couldn’t keep count anyway. ...I am awestruck by the many people he touched so positively throughout his life. I know he is smiling on us, you and all the crews he shared a microphone with through the years.
On Friday, November 20, 2009, Long John Wade was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia's "Hall of Fame."
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Written and researched by Broadcast Pioneers historian Gerry Wilkinson
© 2009, Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
All Rights Reserved
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