Ken Meyer is one of Boston’s most respected broadcasters and the ﬁrst sightless radio personality in Boston history who worked tirelessly through his years in broadcasting to prove that he could do anything a sighted person could–and more.
Born in Rochester New York, Meyer was educated at New York State School for the Blind in Batavia New York. He was trained in piano tuning but had no interest in making that his life-long career. A grammar-school ﬁeld trip to Rochester’s WHAM lit a ﬁre for radio, so he cultivated local personality Bill Givens, who facilitated contacts in Boston for him.
Meyer lobbied Vocational Rehabilitation Services to allow him to study radio, and succeeded in overcoming their misgivings. Then he came to Boston to attend Cambridge School for Business (later Graham Junior College) in 1967 where he was supported and encouraged by WEEI veteran engineer, Dick Walsh and broadcaster, Fred Cusick, the Voice of the Bruins, both of whom taught at the school.
Lamont “Tommy” Thompson, a Graham trustee, interviewed Meyer and opened doors for other interviews. Bill Shupert, WBZ program director, said he was interested but had no money for a producer-of-all-trades. Meyer talked Vocational Rehabilitation Services into paying for his WBZ tryout. In February of 1971, Shupert started him out as the producer of The Larry Glick Show. Meyer showed his remarkable ability to get guests and the trial turned into a full-time position that Bob Oakes, then program director, offered to him in August. In September of 1971, WBZ radio celebrated its 50th anniversary and it was decided that Jerry Williams, who had a show from 8 PM to midnight, would do 4 hours a night with guests from the world of oldtime radio and Meyer was assigned the job of producing this project. The guests included Bob Hope, Art Linkletter and even Milton Berle. During that week, Meyer once again showed his remarkable ability to get guests and also to interview subjects even though he had no contacts, thus solidifying his position further.
One night when Glick overslept, Meyer ﬁlled in, and despite his visual impairment, proved he could handle on-air duties as well as the production piece.
In 1975, Ken decided to do an oldtime radio event, The Big Broadcast of 1975, on Cape Cod over the 4th of July weekend. The weekend-long show aired on WBZ-AM for Muscular Distrophy. Mixed in with recordings of old shows, they did actual radio broadcasts in front of a live audience. Shows such as Nick Carter Master Detective, The Fred Allen Show, The Jack Benny Show, The Shadow and Grand Central Station were performed live. They presented soap operas like The Romance of Helen Trent and Our Gal Sunday with as many original stars of the shows as they could ﬁnd. It was the ﬁrst of its kind, recreating Old-time radio shows with the original casts.
After Meyer’s stint with Glick, Meyer produced Calling All Sports with Bob Lobel and Upton Bell from 1978 to 1980. In 1980, WBZ added to his responsibilities by having him produce David Finnegan’s talk show (1980 -1983). Meyer also was evening producer when Lou Marcel (1983 – 1985) and Peter Meade (1985) sat in the evening talk chairs. Ken got his own WBZ radio program in 1979 on Saturday nights and continued there until he left the station in November of 1985, “Carl de Suze and I left WBZ-AM on the same day,” says Meyer.
In November 1985, Meyer moved over to WEEI to host Radio Classics, an old-time radio show, which lasted until 1991, with a short hiatus when Boston Celtics basketball made his show temporarily expendable. As the long-time host of Radio Classics, Meyer introduced–and reintroduced–countless fans to the great radio programs that Orson Welles called “the theatre of the mind.”
In 1989, Ken began hosting Radio Classics Live live theatrical shows at Massasoit College. Beside being Master of Ceremonies, Ken also played various acting and announcing roles. He even played Tonto the Indian, companion to the “Lone Ranger” and got a standing ovation. Must have been the feather.
“Ken Meyer is the most famous radio talk show producer, ever,” says Podcaster, Dick Summer. “He was the best sidekick a talk host could hope to ﬁnd,” says Dave Maynard, who spent 40 years on air at WBZ-AM. Steve Fredericks, on WMEX-AM, competed, in over nights, with WBZ-AM; Howard Lapides produced Fredericks and says of Meyer, “[He] played the key role, ‘Muck,’ that made the Glick show a hit.”
“Meyer was the best talk show producer,” says Boston media maven, Kevin Vahey. “Every talk-show producer has a Rolodex on his or her computer or phone. This is where contact data, for potential guests, hides.
“Meyer kept his Rolodex in his mind. When you needed a contact number, all you had to do was ask him and prepare for a fast answer. If a possible guest had a phone, Meyer had the number.”
“He was also the best guest tracker, ever,” says Vahey. To hone the competitive edge, “a host might want to interview an obscure guest. After the next commercial break, the guest was live, on the phone, with the host. Meyer made it seem too easy. After a while, he booked guests for all the talk shows on WBZ-AM.”
In January 1989, brieﬂy out of WEEI, Meyer began working for the City of Boston’s Commission on the Elderly. When he was hired back by EEI, he worked both jobs for more than a year. In 1991, Meyer left WEEI when the format changed to all sports. At this time he also changed positions at City Hall and has been working for the Disability Commission ever since.