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February 21: Murray the K

February 21, 2016

EPSON scanner imageRadio disc jockey Murray “the K” Kaufman died at 60 on this date in 1982. Kaufman was the child of a vaudevillian mother and appeared in several Hollywood films in the 1930s. After World War II (in which he served organizing shows for troops), he worked as a song plugger and a Borscht Belt show producer, and in the 1950s he became president of the National Conference of Disk Jockeys. From 1958 to 1965, he was New York’s most popular D.J., and his live shows, most often at the Brooklyn Fox Theater, sped the development of rock and roll’s multi-racial audience and performing cast. Among the stars he helped promote to fame in those shows were Dionne Warwick, The Shirelles, The Zombies, Little Anthony & The Imperials, the Ronettes, the Shangri-Las, Gene Pitney, and Smokey Robinson. Kaufman was also deeply involved in the promotion of the Beatles in 1964-65 and fancied himself “the Fifth Beatle.” In 1966, he made the transition to the newly empowered FM radio band as program director on WOR-FM, where he began playing long album cuts instead of singles; “You didn’t have to hype the record any more,” he told Al Aronowitz. “The music was speaking for itself.” Kaufman invented a whole slew of pop-culture ear-worms, including: “Ah bey! — Uuh! Ah bey! — Uuh! Oo-wa-zowa-zowa!” and “This meeting of the Swingin’ Soiree is now in session!” He was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1997. To hear his promo recording with the Beatles, look below.

The Beatles “blew everybody’s mind away in the sense that they did not in any way, shape or form react like superstars had always reacted before. They put the press on. They really won everybody over with that. They looked upon the crowds as the crowds being the show and they the audience. They didn’t take themselves seriously as superstars. They were just very much themselves and into having fun and finding out what was going on. They were very natural. Very together. Very disciplined. Very dedicated to wanting to sound good and make a good impression.” —Murray the K