Radio Names

Donna Halper
Thu Aug 21 10:49:03 EDT 2014

On 8/21/2014 9:53 AM, Paul B. Walker, Jr. wrote:
> People seem to assume radio folks use fake names.. but I tell them, "Yes,
> Paul Walker is my real name.  If I was going to use a fake name, I'd pick
> something better then Paul Walker.
I think there's been a shift on the use of "real names" versus radio 
names.  These days, I notice a number of announcers using their real 
name, although some might still pick a "radio name"-- especially if 
their actual name is long or difficult for the average person to 
pronounce.  But that was not the case during much of radio's history.  
Way back in the mid-1920s, the late great John Shepard 3rd of WNAC 
(today WRKO) came up with the concept of "house names"-- the announcer 
may have left, but the name lived on for the next announcer to use. So, 
his first women's show was done by "Jean Sargent," and when the original 
hostess of that show left, the next woman to host the show was also 
"Jean Sargent."  During the album-rock era, many female announcers 
(myself included) were told to just use our first name, and we were also 
told to sound "sexy."  But back to the changing of names: during the 
top-40 era, house names were everywhere-- there were a plethora of 
overnight disc jockeys with the house name "Johnny Dark" and I can 
recall several stations that had a Dan Donovan.  Amusingly, even when 
the real name could have been perfect, some station PDs or consultants 
insisted you had to change it:  Frank Kingston Smith had a wonderful 
radio name (and that's his real name), yet he was told to become "Bobby 
Mitchell" when he was a top-40 jock for WRKO.   It was also a custom for 
announcers to have names that did not sound ethnic, a concept also used 
in the movies for many years-- Jack Benny (Benjamin Kubelsky) and Eddie 
Cantor (Edward Itskowitz) were among the many who chose names that hid 
the fact they were Jewish.  It was a time when anti-Semitism was still 
part of the popular culture, so Jewish radio announcers were just about 
always told to change to something that sounded vaguely anglo-saxon-- 
hence "Bob Clayton."  The one exception I can recall was my cultural 
hero Arnie Ginsburg.

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