I have always liked elevator music. I remember my mom had easy listening music on in the house while she was doing her Leave It To Beaver kind of thing. She didn’t wear a dress all day, but everything else followed a well-written script, right down to sprinkling clothes before ironing with water from a Vernor’s bottle.
When I was living with Ed & Marguerite Hanson in Lapeer, “Bud Guest and the Sunny Side of the Street Club” was always on the radio during breakfast. For many folks, WJR in Detroit was the only station on the radio. Back in the old days when WJR had music, it was a constant companion in our house. (If you didn’t read “Growing Up Lapeer: Ed and Marguerite Hanson,” click here.)
Bud Guest was the son of American poet, Edgar Guest. Listening to the Sunny Side of the Street Club was a great way to start the day. Bud hosted the show and interviewed guests. The conversation was comfortable, not edgy, Bud wasn’t one of those who tried to embarrass or trap guests. He was just a neighborhood guy who liked people and made everyone in his audience feel like they were important to him.
WJR’s J.P. McCarthy was like a member of our family. My grandmother talked about him like she knew him. “Oh, I have to listen to JP…” “Did you hear what JP said this afternoon?” I guess that’s the secret of a great radio host. They had a gift of helping people feel better about themselves and their situation in life. J.P. McCarthy and Bud Guest were able to make people feel like they mattered.
Thirty years ago, I wrote a newspaper column about J.P. McCarthy. When I read that he passed away as the result of a blood disorder, it really was like losing a longtime friend, even though I never met him. He occupied a place in my life for many years. After I wrote the column, I discovered J.P. held a spot in many other people’s lives as well.
Jimmy Lantz was another great radio host. He had an afternoon music show on WJR back in the 60’s. I can still hear his theme song, “Gina,” a beautiful orchestral rendition. I know for many, a teenaged kid listening to elevator music was probably weird, but I didn’t care. I still don’t.
I miss those days.