Wednesday, June 29, 2016

590 MIGHTY MEMORY #324

HARRY WEST'S LOVE SONGS
Sunday afternoon there was a celebration of Harry West’s career at The Grotto. When I heard about the event from Beverly Johnston and Denise DeLuca, wild horses couldn’t drag me away from attending. As I told a reporter from The Times Leader, Harry was my boyhood idol. 
I became interested in radio and all things electronic broadcasting when I was just about 8. Harry was a mainstay in our house when I was growing up since my dad was a big fan of WARM News. The radio bug was reinforced when I found out a cousin of mine was indeed a radio personality in Pittsburgh. His name was Ed Price. Between Harry and Ed, I was hooked. 
At school we’d have disagreements who would be Harry. Let me explain. As young boys we used to emulate baseball players at recess. I was a second tier rooter for lesser known players. So my favorites were Gus Trandos and Smoky Burgess. No need to fight over being Mantle or Mays. But when it came to imitating Harry in the classroom between classes, well I had to stand my ground. 
My dear friend’s late father Joesph Dellarte Senior of Wyoming even gave me the nickname “Harry” because of my penchant for bringing Mr. West up all the time. I’d travel to remotes and just watch him. When he left WARM in 1969, I thought “good for him” but never got used to the array of replacements at WARM. 
Attending Career Academy of Broadcasting as well as college, I embarked on a radio career myself working at the fledgling WVIA FM. On July 16th, 1973 though, Harry West came back to WARMland. I noticed and was thrilled. After Harry ended his first show upon his return, Bill Kelly played the Carpenter’s “Yesterday Once More”. A few moths later Harry showed up at the WVIA TV studios to do the Auction. We talked. He asked for a tour of the WVIA FM Studio and it was a surreal experience for me. Harry would rattle off the names of the tape recorders, (they were the Revox brand) and commented on the new microphones we had. 
Harry was back in town but I had my own stuff to attend to like graduating college, getting married and embarking on a career in Public Relations. Harry and I interacted a lot in my capacity as a United Way staff member. I dare say we became professional friends. I’d sometimes step back and say, “Holy Shit, I’m on the Harry West show!" when he interviewed me for an event. Somewhere I knew my dad would be smiling. 
Harry was gracious enough to emcee many an event for my work back then and for that I will always be grateful.
After his WARM days we kept in touch but not as frequently as we should have. That was my fault. But Harry, whenever we reconnected never guilted me but busted me in a friendly manner. Like any person, I knew Harry wasn’t perfect. He also knew I wasn’t either. But that transcended the friendly bond we had. 
So on Sunday Harry was feted by friends and family. A family who by the way shared him with us. People talked about his career, his antics and his personality. I spoke about his generous support of non profit agencies. 
WARM was the  community oriented station anyway but Harry never refused a good cause. Plus he threw himself into every promotion with joyful abandon. Hell he even ate my chili!!! 
Much was made of Harry’s support for mentally disadvantaged and disabled citizens. A few people spoke of Harry’s post retirement Happy Hours which consisted of half a drink and an early exit. People talked about how he and WARM played a significant part in their lives. Whether It was speaking about Harry attending a 50th birthday party or a “hop”, the words and good wishes flowed. 
I heard Wendy Westcott Bognar, his daughter say that she and her brothers were always around music because of father’s career. That struck, excuse the pin here, a cord with me. Harry West played numerous love song in his public appearances and on the radio. 
Five decades of love songs. But every person who spoke on Sunday, ever attendee, every person who heard about the event at Grotto and stopped by, they all were giving Harry West the love songs back. The words were all different as well as the emotions………..but given the occasion and the man, they were all in tune. 
Harry West came into the area playing those love songs on the Mighty 590. He left town herring them again. 
And they were about him!

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