Remembering A Lifelong Radio Man And His 'Big Broadcast' Ed Walker died Monday after signing off his long-running show, The Big Broadcast, for the last time. The show, heard out of NPR member station WAMU, reprised programs from the golden age of radio.
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Remembering A Lifelong Radio Man And His 'Big Broadcast'

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Remembering A Lifelong Radio Man And His 'Big Broadcast'

Remembering A Lifelong Radio Man And His 'Big Broadcast'

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

We're going to take a moment now to remember a much-loved voice that was on our member station WAMU here in Washington, D.C. Ed Walker was the host of the radio nostalgia show "The Big Broadcast."

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE BIG BROADCAST")

ED WALKER: Good evening, everybody, and welcome to another edition of "The Big Broadcast." My name is Ed Walker.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Walker recorded this episode featuring his favorite shows like "Dragnet" and "Stan Freberg" from his hospital bed. He'd recently been diagnosed with cancer and decided to retire. For some 25 years, "The Big Broadcast" featured the radio dramas Walker grew up with - westerns like "Gunsmoke" or detective dramas like "Dragnet" and "Johnny Dollar." After his final show aired last night, Ed Walker died at the age of 83. Last year. our colleague Audie Cornish visited him at the studios of WAMU.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

AUDIE CORNISH, BYLINE: Hi there, Mr. Walker.

WALKER: How are you?

CORNISH: Audie Cornish.

Ed Walker wore thick, dark glasses because he was blind from birth. At the time of our visit, he had Braille cards with the titles of the shows and the names of the actors, but he didn't need them. He told me he knew those old radio dramas inside and out.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

WALKER: Radio was everything to me. Not being able to see, the sound on radio was important. Radio took the place of comic books and newspapers and the funnies and all that stuff, so I grew up with it.

CORNISH: Can you describe what you heard? What show really struck you and you remember?

WALKER: Oh...

CORNISH: Kind of describe what it sounded like.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIT AS A FIDDLE")

HOOSIER HOT SHOTS: (Singing) Fit as a fiddle and ready for love. I could jump over the moon up above.

WALKER: The "National Barn Dance" - I was a little kid then. That was - I was preschool. It was sort of like the "Grand Ole Opry," but it was from WLS in Chicago.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "NATIONAL BARN DANCE")

JOE KELLY: Hello. Hello. Hello, everybody, everywhere. How's mother and dad and the whole family?

WALKER: Somebody had a cowbell, and they'd ring this cowbell. And somehow, my mother found one and gave it to me, and I would ring that cowbell. That was my first indoctrination into radio.

CORNISH: Walker said that blind kids like him were often urged to be piano tuners, but he was in love with radio. He started his first program when he was 6. So when he went to college at American University, he defied yet another suggestion - social work.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

WALKER: I said, well, it's nothing against social workers, but I don't want to do that. And they said, well, if you can prove to us that there's a future for you in broadcasting, we'll let you change your major. So I did.

CORNISH: That was the beginning of a long and happy career. That college station became WAMU. Walker, through the '60s and early '70s, had a music and comedy show called "The Joy Boys." He hosted it with his friend and "Today" show presenter Willard Scott. After, he took his love of nostalgia to "The Big Broadcast." For nearly three decades, Ed Walker shared his love of storytelling with many generations of Washingtonians. In fact, he said the emails and letters he got from kids were always his favorite.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

WALKER: Some of the kids that send me emails say, we listen. We put our transistor radio under the pillow and listen to your show until we go to sleep (laughter).

CORNISH: Do they remind you of yourself, then?

WALKER: Oh, yeah, yeah. What's old is new again.

CORNISH: Last night, Ed Walker and his family listened to the broadcast of his final show. He died shortly after. He was 83.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE BIG BROADCAST")

WALKER: So for one more time, let's end the show the way we always do. My name is Ed Walker, and remember, it wouldn't be Sunday evening if we didn't have Eddie Cantor to sing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LOVE TO SPEND EACH SUNDAY WITH YOU")

EDDIE CANTOR: (Singing) I love to spend each Sunday with you. As friend to friend, I'm sorry it's through. I'm telling you just how I feel. I hope you feel that way too. Let's make a date for next Sunday night. I'm here to state 'twill be my delight to sing again, bring again the things you want me to. I love to spend each Sunday with you.

WALKER: Good night, everybody.

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