Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Arnie Woo Woo Ginsburg

As Thom commented yesterday, "Arnie Woo Woo Ginsburg was a radio GOD at WMEX." As often as WMEX has come up in the past I was remiss in my duties to not cover that so I am making amends tonight. Arnie Ginsburg, of the Barons, of Jan & Arnie Arnie did go into radio. After going nowhere as a solo singer in LA Arnie actually became a bit of a legend. In the 1965, September 18th issue of Billboard Ginsburg is listed as the #1 DJ in Boston on WMEX. The Contemporary Music Almanac by Ronald Zalkind claims that he is the first (and possibly only) jock to have a hamburger named after him: the Ginsburger. In other words, he rose to fame as fast as Jan & Dean fell from it.
I'll start with the obvious question. Ginsburg got the nickname "Woo-Woo" when he was hosting the "Night Train"program on 1600 WBOS-AM.  He would use this train whistle sound effect on air and it stuck with him. It wasn't his first radio gig, but it was early in his career. He actually started on 590 WORL-AM, where he was an engineer for announcer Alan Dary.  It was in 1956 that he moved to WBOS. Being the new guy, he got a night shift. Ginsburg obviously made that work for him.

Arnie crossed the street to WMEX in 1960. This was a big deal. He was breaking singles by 1961. Notably "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight" by British skiffle artist Lonnie Donegan. This was the top-40 phase of his career and he was quite literally number one. He was on air 7 days a week... though that 7th show was pre-recorded. More here.

In 1966 he screwed up a bit. He jumped to WRKO-AM and they got smacked with the non-compete clause in his WMEX contract. In his defense this is something that still comes up today.  Basically it's legally dubious for a contract to take away someones right to make a living. [more here] Interestingly, in this case WRKO fought the contract for 18 months and lost. Ginsburg was off air as of May 1967. He got lucky and they moved him into sales. They could have fired his ass.

But in the end, Arnie turned out to be good at that too. He went into a series of desk jobs: In 1970 he became the GM of WBCN, an AOR station. In 1972 GM at WWEL-AM, and part owner of WXKS-AM in 1979.  He did all that while doing a little oldies show back on WMEX-AM on Saturday nights and a weekend shift on WROR. IN 1984 with Pyramid broadcasting he purchased WVJV-TV Channel 66. (some courses incorrectly cite the calls as WDJD.) This was a fascinating experiment that was also a total business failure. They sold the station in 1986.

Arnie "Woo-Woo" Ginsburg retired just a little while after that. He was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2008. He is known to make the trip back into Boston to make guest radio appearances.