The Troy Street Observer

September 3, 1961: Ain’t That a Kick in the Head?

A 1950s AM radioEzra “Speed” Anderson (the nickname came from his hustle on the basketball court) was a jazz DJ in Boston, and on this day in 1961, he resigned from WILD.

Anderson started his DJ career at WVDA (1260 on the AM dial) in early 1957, broadcasting live from Wally’s Paradise. Then he moved into the studio, doing the overnight show, midnight to six. Basie’s “L’il Darlin’” was his theme song. In November 1957, the station changed its call letters to WEZE and moved to the middle of the road, but Anderson stayed on the overnights at least until mid-1959. By April 1960, he was on WILD-AM with a show on weekend afternoons. He was probably Ken Malden’s last hire as program director, as Malden departed WILD at about that time.

Station owner Nelson Noble was moving the station to an R&B format in 1961, and perhaps that didn’t interest Anderson, who left the station. According to a news item in the Boston Daily Record on September 5, he actually resigned on the air at the end of his Sunday afternoon show. One wonders if he actually did that, or if he just announced to his listeners that he was leaving the station.

Either way, he went out with style. Anderson signed off with three tunes: Billie Holiday’s “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me,” Sammy Davis Jr.’s “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head,” and Joe Williams’s “For All We Know.” WILD was a daytimer, and the station signed off at sunset. If Anderson had the last shift of the day, that would have been an especially poignant set.

Anderson’s replacement was a Rhode Island DJ, Steve Gallon, Jr., soon to be known as Wildman Steve. Wildman admitted he didn’t know much about jazz, and I don’t know how much he learned in the two years he was at the station, but he was a popular emcee at Basin Street South.

The Wildman was just another sign that the days of jazz on independent, commercial AM stations were numbered in Boston. In 1956, a half-dozen independents had at least some jazz. Five years later, Norm Nathan was on the overnight shift at WHDH… and that was about it. There was jazz on the radio, but it had migrated to the FM band.

Anderson was back on the air at other stations in the sixties and early seventies, but most people know him because of Boston Speed’s Hot Dog Wagon on Newmarket Square, where for years he dispensed the city’s most popular hot dogs.

I couldn’t put all of Speed’s last set together, but here’s Billie singing “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me” and Sammy Davis Jr. with “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head?”


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