Shepherd frequently complained about WOR radio. As his friend and coworker, Barry Farber told me, “All Shep had to do was, once in awhile, play one commercial the way it was supposed to be done, or just once, smile at a WOR executive when he passed him in the hallway, and he would have been on his way to super recognition.” Showing his disdain, Shepherd frequently blended the station identification with the subject he was discussing: “Oh, WOR, we love you, even though you hate us…” “Speaking of bad radio, this is WOR AM and FM, New York.” “What a cacophony, gallimaufry, which reminds me, this is WOR AM and FM, New York. Silly,idiotic radio station!” More of his innumerable references to WOR can be found at http://www.flicklives.com as well as in my Excelsior, You Fathead! From that book: Engineer Herb Squire says that until Herb Saltzman arrived, the WOR management was isolated from the day-to-day operations. Regarding Shepherd’s comment during a broadcast that the WOR management didn’t even know he had a show on the air, Squire reacted, “That is entirely possible!”
Shep did have a few friends at the station, among them General Manager Herb Saltzman, Barry Farber, Bob and Ray. The photo, probably taken in March 1975 shows many of the WOR staff. Seated in the middle is Herb Saltzman, to the left is Bob Elliott and two people to the right is Ray Goulding. Jean stands on the far left in a light jacket and dark glasses, smiling shyly, with Joe Franklin in front of him and Barry Farber to his side.
In the 1980s, WOR produced a large-format booklet titled “WOR Radio 1922-1982 The First Sixty Years.” Several of their major morning talk show families got several full pages of photos and text. Others, such as Bob and Ray, Henry Morgan, and Jean Shepherd, had to share photo space on double-spreads with several lesser lights. The extent of WOR’s mentions of Jean Shepherd in the 56-page booklet: “Jean Shepherd also came in at this time, with his spellbinding ability to weave reminiscences of his rural childhood roots in a continuing series of monologues;” “Jean Shepherd continued his program….” Sharp-eyed Shep enthusiasts will note WOR’s error–Shepherd’s Hammond, Indiana never was “rural,” it was a major industrial city, with its oil refineries, junk yards, and steel mills.
Most of the then-major names in the WOR “family” will soon disappear down memory lane, but Jean Shepherd, genius, will still be around in his creations and in his influence on our culture. Excelsior, Shep!