One of the most popular disc jockeys in the history of American radio has died. For more than 20 years, Dan Ingram was one of the top jocks on one of the top stations in the country: New York City’s WABC. Ingram’s career spanned five decades at stations across the country. He died Sunday at his home in Florida. Ingram was 83 years old.
Ingram’s father was a professional musician and, as Ingram told college radio station WHPC in 1965, tagging along to radio studios ignited his interest in the medium. When he was 13, he entered a disc jockey contest put on by WOV host Fred Robbins.
“You could get on the air for 15 minutes if you were a finalist. And I was a finalist, one of eight,” Ingram said. “And, of course, I lost the contest.”
But he kept trying. After landing jobs in Dallas and St. Louis, Ingram became the afternoon man at WABC. Part of the station’s stable of high-octane jocks, Ingram became known for his wisecracks, spoofing song titles and ridiculing both artists and sponsors.
“I don’t think anybody ever executed the format better or was more entertaining than Dan Ingram,” Allen Sniffen of MusicRadio77.com says. “It was like directing a symphony. He was funny. He could make you laugh over a five-second record intro.”
Ingram mastered the talk-up, talking over the intro to a song, ending right before the vocals. Ingram could get the song title, the current temperature and a one-liner in his talk-ups. He wholeheartedly embraced one of radio’s golden rules: When you’re talking to the audience, do it like you’re talking to one person. In an interview at the Paley Center for Media in 2001, Ingram choked up when he acknowledged his audience.
“If you weren’t here, if you didn’t listen, I wouldn’t be here either. And I just want to say thank you,” he said.