In this week’s issue… Arnie Ginsburg, 1926-2020 – Seven Mountains ready for Elmira flips – Philly AM sold – Great Eastern adds in Burlington – Sports flip in Ontario
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*This time, sadly, the news is real: Arnie Ginsburg, perhaps the most versatile and enduring air talent/station executive/mentor in the modern history of Boston radio, died Friday at his home in Framingham, MASSACHUSETTS.
For generations of Boston radio fans, Ginsburg’s career echoed in different ways: in the mid-1950s, he was one of the pioneering voices of top-40 radio when the format was still at the margins of the dial, as conductor of the “Night Train” on WBOS (1600) as that station pivoted from ethnic programming to pop music. Ginsburg, then in his late 20s, was a Brookline kid who’d been working behind the scenes engineering shows. His high-pitched voice was a far cry from the traditional radio announcer of the day, and he kept his own name back when that was a rarity.
Ginsburg followed the top-40 format to bigger stations: for the kids of the early 1960s, he was one of the signature voices of WMEX (1510), blowing the slide whistle that gave him his “Woo-Woo” nickname, promoting shows from artists as big as the Beatles, and relentlessly touting the Adventure Car Hop, where patrons could get their “Ginsburger” served on a 45 rpm record as a platter.
Later in the sixties, Ginsburg was recruited for an even bigger top-40 station, the 1967 launch of WRKO (680). Legal action from WMEX took him off the air not long afterward, but that turned out to be a good thing for Ginsburg in the end, because WRKO moved him into sales, where he turned out to be just as skilled.
Boston radio listeners of the 1970s might not have known as much of Ginsburg as an air personality, but they heard his management work: he started the decade as general manager of progressive rock WBCN (104.1), then moved to sleepy beautiful music station WWEL (1430/107.9) in Medford two years later. He was back on the air a year later playing weekend oldies on WBZ and then back at WMEX.
And then he returned to WWEL for what would turn out to be one of his most enduring stints: as a partner with entrepreneur John Garabedian, he presided over the worst-to-first flip that took WWEL-FM to top-40 (with a heavy disco flavor) as “Kiss 108” at the end of the decade. Ginsburg was credited with coming up with the WXKS call letters that replaced WWEL; he also managed the AM side there, introducing “Music of Your Life” to Boston listeners on 1430.
Into his fourth decade in Boston media, Ginsburg was still innovating: the Boston-area kids of the 80s who fiddled with UHF antennas to pull in the music videos that filled the airtime of WVJV-TV (Channel 66) might not have known who Ginsburg was, but there he was, working alongside another legend, John Garabedian, as part of the ownership/management team that briefly made “V-66” an unforgettable interlude in Boston TV history.
After selling WVJV, Ginsburg began easing into retirement, spending most of his time in southern Maine, where he became a fixture in the Perkins Cove neighborhood of Ogunquit. He married late in life, too: in 2016, he wed Carlos Vega, his longtime companion. And he continued to appear in retrospective shows on Boston radio, where he was known as a generous mentor to younger broadcasters.
Ginsburg had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease; he was 93.
We have a great lineup of podcasts here on our site. While you’re catching up with your summer reading, don’t forget about your summer listening. Now is the time to make sure you’re up to date with Top of the Tower.
Our latest one features Donna Halper discussing her life in radio, from her time at WMMS when she helped Rush get US airplay, to what she learned from Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg.
Don’t forget you can still visit our store to check out our other great products. We’ll be taking preorders for the 2021 calendar soon. Stay tuned!