Long Time Philly DJ Ed Sciaky Dead at 55

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DanRyunAndrew

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Those of you outside the reach of Philadelphia's airwaves may not know the name Ed Sciaky; however, for those of you who do know the name, the last of the true "Radio DJ's" (IMHO) has fallen!

Quote From the Associated Press (AP):

PHILADELPHIA - Ed Sciaky, a Philadelphia disc jockey who helped bring attention to artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel, died Thursday while in New York, his employer said. He was 55. The cause of death was not immediately known, according to Greater Media, Inc., which owns WMGK-FM, the classic rock station where Sciaky worked since 2002. "Artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, and Yes may never [have] been heard on the radio if it weren't for Ed's ability to hear new talent and bring it to his listeners, " said Rick Feinblatt, Greater Media's vice president for radio. Sciaky was born in New York, and raised in Philadelphia, where he graduated from Central High School and Temple University.He began his radio career at the university's station, WRTI-FM, in 1966, then got his first professional job at WDAS-FM in 1968.

He moved to WMMR in 1970, where he became known for recognizing and promoting new artists. He moved to WIOQ in 1977, then to classic rock WYSP in 1986 before switching to WMGK, where he hosted a show dedicated exclusively to Springsteen's music on Sunday nights.


Quote from the Philadelphia Daily News:

Ed Sciaky, a legend in the Philadelphia radio community and devoted fan and friend of many musicians, died suddenly on a street corner in New York yesterday morning. He was 55.

And for many of us, it will truly be remembered as a day when the music died.

"I'm going to be looking out there in the audience and he won't be there," said a broken up Steve Forbert, pals with Sciaky since the late '70s. "He was a Philly fixture to me, synonymous with the city."

"I loved him. I'll miss him," said Steven Van Zandt, longtime guitarist of the E-Street Band and host of the "Little Steven's Underground Garage" show that has followed Sciaky's "Sunday with Springsteen" on WMGK since April 2002.

For many a Philadelphia baby boomer, Sciaky's radio shows through the decades were literally the soundtrack of their lives, and an advanced course in music appreciation.

Always at the head of his class stood talents like Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and Yes - whom Sciaky tenaciously played from "virtually unknown" status until he'd helped to make them superstars, on almost every shift of his gigs at WMMR and later WIOQ in the 1970s and '80s. That, of course, was back in the "free-form" years of progressive rock radio, when DJs could still pick the music, indulge in their passions.

"Ed was very helpful to our band in the early days of Yes, being one of the first DJs in Philly and the U.S. to adopt Yes music," said group bassist Chris Squire yesterday.

"He was a champion of music, loved and respected all kinds of music," said WXPN mid-day host and music director Helen Leicht, who worked with Sciaky at WIOQ.

"A Bette Midler, Melissa Manchester or Barry Manilow would never have gotten play on a rock-oriented station like 'Q' if it were not for him. But Ed never saw any barriers. He appreciated good music of all kinds."

And the musicians, as well. The unusually gregarious Sciaky and his wife Judy entertained many a musician at their home, and were fixtures backstage after shows, counseling the artists on what they'd done right and wrong.

"He was on me constantly to turn up my volume," said singer-songwriter Forbert, "until I finally gave in and did it. Ed could be relentless."

Sciaky's devotion to Yes was so intense that he spent vacations chasing their tour buses across the United States and England. He traveled to Leningrad to attend and voice the introduction to an internationally-broadcast Billy Joel concert.

In Springsteen's early, just-scraping-by days, the fledgling Jersey talent slept several nights on the Sciakys' green velvet sofa, forever after to be anointed the "Bruce Memorial Couch." Sciaky also earned Springsteen his first big payday by persuading Manfred Mann to cover "Blinded By The Light," a million-plus seller.

One night this writer and friend - then Sciaky's across-the-hall neighbor and WMMR staffmate - got a knock on the door at 3 a.m. inquiring if I had a guitar to spare. Bonnie Raitt and Martin Mull were over, and wanted to jam. (As I'd get to witness, the flirtatious Mull couldn't keep up with Bonnie, in more ways than one.)

Born April 2, 1948, in New York but raised in Philadelphia, Sciaky graduated from Central High and matriculated at Temple as a math major. Then a chance visit to the studios of WHAT-FM changed his life, when Sciaky brought over an album for laid-back folk DJ Gene Shay to play, and Ed became entranced with the medium and messages of radio.

"He became one of my first unpaid assistants and almost like a son," said Shay yesterday. "It was his idea, for instance, that we take along a tape recorder to a coffeehouse show, to capture this newcomer named Joni Mitchell. Ed also kept me organized. He was always very methodical, remembered everything, even the catalogue numbers of records."

Shay, in turn, became Sciaky's mentor, helping him polish his own, similarly naturalistic delivery when Sciaky switched over to the communications department at Temple, and went on the air at then student-run WRTI-FM.

From there, he graduated (circa 1969) to Philadelphia's first, full-time progressive rock station, WDAS-FM, anointed "Hyski's Underground" after program director and air personality Hy Lit. It was a place and a time so free-spirited (and indulgent) that some DJs performed their shifts while tripping on acid. But not Sciaky, then and forever a very straight arrow. He gladly welcomed the chance to move a couple of years later to the more professionally run WMMR.

Sciaky's only real indulgence was food. It earned him the title "Hungry Ed," from Van Zandt, after Sciaky would descend upon the platters backstage at Springsteen/E-Street Band gigs.

While the noose started tugging around the neck of FM rock DJs in the late '70s, with program directors forcing play lists on the air talent, Sciaky was one of the last guys with clout, spinning his favorites (no matter how eccentric) on his "Sunday Night Alternative" sessions on WIOQ. The show lasted into the early '80s.

When he moved to the classic rock-formatted WYSP in '86, though, the DJ's hands were finally tied and much of the fun went out of the gig, he'd privately grouse to friends like Forbert. But pro that he was, Sciaky's warm, comforting voice would never let on to listeners that he didn't really want to play us "another block of Lynryd Skynrd!"

"Ed's greatest frustration of the last number of years was that the radio business had no place for someone like him who loved the music and the medium and was so adept at the medium," said Michael Tearson, a colleague of Sciaky's at WMMR and recently WMGK.

In recent years, Sciaky battled diabetes and a staph infection in his right foot that just wouldn't heal. He also had kidney failure and had dialysis, but never let on to anyone but his closest friends.

A year ago, the foot had to come off, "and Sciaky really busted his chops in rehab, to master using a prosthesis," said Tearson. "And his love of music, of all kinds of entertainment, never failed. He was like a sponge - still out at concerts, at movies, at plays, all the time. He didn't have time for moping."

"Miami Steve" Van Zandt suggested yesterday that Sciaky's fans should follow suit.

"Ed Sciaky will never die. That is what being legendary is all about. As long as the music of the bands he played lives, he lives."

Besides his devoted wife Judy, Sciaky leaves behind a terrifically talented daughter, Monica, a freshman vocal performance major at Northwestern.

Services are pending.


I moved here to Delaware in 1982, at the age of 14. It was a difficult period in my life (to say the least). Back then, I found a radio station called 93.3 WMMR, and a team of Disc Jockeys who's careers I follow (as best I can) to this day. For the most part, they are all still together, on 102.9 WMGK up in Philly.

Ed Sciaky was one of those people who brought music into my life. Until that time, the music in my life was that of my Mother's piano teaching students, my parents classical music, or School Band.

Ed, and the other DJ's gave me MY music. They played the music that spoke (and continue to speak) to me in times or trouble. Through the music, the martial arts, and a good collection of books, I made it past my "formative years".

For me personally, the loss of Ed Sciaky is like that of a Brother, or favorite Uncle. Arguably, if he wasn't THE father of Album Oriented Radio (AOR), he was at least A founding father!

Rest in peace, "Hungry Ed"! We'll crank it up a little for you! After all, we wouldn't want you to miss a beat!

Respectfully,

Andrew M. Goodwin
 
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DanRyunAndrew

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This is a picture from December 1974 of David Bowie, Ed Scaiky, and Bruce Sprinsteen.
 

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TheRustyOne

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I'd prolly know the voice if i heard it...when back home, i stick to Y100, but have listened to WMMR and stuff w/ my parents...

.,...my hometown just barely is within the Philly radio area...


he'll be missed.
 
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DanRyunAndrew

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Rusty,

I'm sure you'd recognize Ed's bass voice.

I see on your webpage that your Mom is here in Wilmington. Maybe I've ulocked her car before (or will in the future ;-)!

Regards,

Andy
 
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TheRustyOne

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hehe. only if you've been down near the intersections of 4 and 7
 
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DanRyunAndrew

Guest
He He He

Doe she have AAA? :D

I'm down by the Super Soda Center all the time!

PLUS, my Tang Soo Do Dojang is right there in Stanton!

Email me, and I'll send you a short mp3 of an interview with Jackson Browne by Ed Sciaky from 6/1/02 (only about 3 min worth).

Regards,

Andy
 

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