The Rest of The Story: Paul Harvey dead at 90
As a kid driving down through southern GA to my grandparents’ house for holidays and other occasions, my dad would always change the radio from FM to AM. In the expanse of peanut farms from Macon to Cordele, AM’s broad swath tuned in with perfect clarity. Dad had always liked variety shows like Smothers Brothers on TV, he introduced me to Garrison Keillor and other shows on NPR, but always had a particular affinity for the odd things you can find on small local AM country radio stations, the livestock and equipment auctions, the bizarre inflections of some Baptist preachers, maybe Larry Munson qoing crazy over one of Herschel Walker’s runs down the hedge-lined sidelines of the UGA stadium back in Athens, or the almost Hawaiian lilt, warble and twang of classic country music – the pedal steel and its frequencies in the upper treble range, better attuned to AM anyway. And occasionally, the best treat, if you could catch him at the right time, was Paul Harvey’s radio show.
Harvey was a journalist who told stories like campfire tales. His subjects were strange, often banal if compared to a lot of bleed-leding news journalism. He dealt with ordinary people, and yeah sometimes the unknown tidbit history/mysteries of famous people. What I remember most about Harvey (and I wish there was a better archive of his clips) is that he was all about delivery. His voice was staccato; there was a lot of “dead time” between his phrasings, which seemed to run counter to the evolution of DJs and their spitfire elocution. Harvey would introduce a story early on in the show and then tell a few others, all the while (and he was the master pioneer of this) embedding ads in his own personal voice (how many people bought a Bose radio based on Harvey’s recommendation I’ll never know, but lots I guess). Today when I click through a website and have to put up with an embedded ad it annoys the hell out of me. But with Harvey, you didn’t care. It was all part of the gig, the narrative, which ultimately led up to the “rrrrrest of the story.” Yes that bit that left you hanging near the beginning of his show, you never got it till the very end. And it was typically a doozy, and even if it wasn’t, hard not to hurmumph along, even if it was just to laugh at Harvey’s laughing at his own joke. Haven’t heard him in years, with the ipod usually plugged in nowadays when whizzing past butter beans and silos on trips back to see my kin still down in that region. But I won’t forget his voice and his knack for telling a story.
I’m writing this kind of blindly, as I never followed anything about his politics; as I said, I mostly remember his broadcasts I heard as a kid. He may have been an early supporter of the Vietnam war, and has spoken frankly about other things that are awful in nature that may have been blown/taken out of context. But to his credit, apparently he also knew when to admit when he was wrong, and when to tell a president when he’s wrong too (as I learned in this obit from the Times he confronted Nixon on Vietnam rather late). I guess as he aged, as a populist and an editorialist, that populist tone got the best of his senses at times, as Keith (shit don’t stink) Olbermann1 points out here. Well history will be the judge. Maybe Harvey is the devil incarnate as some people believe (please write and elucidate me if that’s the case…there’s a hell of a lot of years of talking to dig through), but as I see it, in my faint faint memory, good aside from the bad, he’ll be missed. As he used to say at the close of each session, “Gooood-day.”2
Paul Harvey died this Sunday at the age of 90.
1.Keith I love ya, seriously, O’Reilly needed a ‘good side’ counterpart to account for the dribble of he and his ilk, but I can only wish I could one day be your evilest person in the world. As a long time Glen Danzig fan, it would be an honor. Keep up the good watchdog work. But if we had a budget for investigative journalism, I’d have moles hanging around your John. Cause I am incredulous of the idea that you only pinch off golden nuggets. 😉