Ed Hurst, 94, of Margate, a long-standing radio and TV personality in Philadelphia, died Friday, Oct. 30, of an infection at his home.
Mr. Hurst began his broadcasting career on the radio in 1943 in Atlantic City while still in high school.
From 1946 to 1955, he did a radio show spinning records for teenage dancers in the studio audience and also teens listening on WPEN-AM 950 in Philadelphia. Called The 950 Club after the station’s spot on the radio dial, the show was so popular it generated 2,000 to 3,000 pieces of mail a week, which was unprecedented.
In 1952, Mr. Hurst and a partner, Joe Grady, created The Grady and Hurst Show, a Philadelphia television show that aired on WPTZ. It was a TV version of The 950 Club.
“Now the audience could see the teens dancing in the studio every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12 noon,” the Hurst family said in a chronology of his career. He remained on TV in Philadelphia from 1952 to 1978.
“It was Ed’s idea to bring kids into the studio on Walnut Street in downtown Philadelphia to dance and be interviewed,” his family said in a statement.
The 950 Club was the first show to incorporate the dance-and-interview format that paved the way for Philadelphia’s iconic American Bandstand and similar shows on both radio and television in other cities, the family chronology said.
“Without Ed Hurst, there would be no Dick Clark,” Clark once said, according to the Atlantic City Press. A natural behind the microphone and in front of the TV camera, Mr. Hurst researched his subject and just let the interview flow, said his son, Brian Seth Hurst.
Gary Hendler, a longtime friend who was almost like a son to Mr. Hurst, said: “Ed will be remembered as a national pioneer in the radio and television industry. He was the creator of the format that became American Bandstand. He was a humble, loving, and all-around great guy.”
In 1958, Mr. Hurst returned to his roots in Atlantic City hosting Summertime on the Pier, a two-hour live TV broadcast from Steel Pier on Saturdays from 1 to 3 p.m. and Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m., airing on WRCV (KYW).
“When Ed’s show aired, you knew it was summer,” his family said.
After PHL17 (WPHL-TV) went on the air on Sept. 17, 1965, station producers needed programming, said the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia. One way was to create programs featuring local celebrities.
PHL17 carried Bill “Wee Willie” Webber, broadcasting children’s TV shows and cartoons for the very young. “For teenagers, there was the legendary Ed Hurst,” the Broadcast Pioneers said.
In 1981, Mr. Hurst, Grady, and The 950 Club returned to WPEN radio for a two-week promotion. The men played the same records that “rocketed them to success the first time,” the family chronology said.
The outpouring of love from old Philly fans was so overwhelming that station executives let the program run for six years. “My mother loved it, she said it was just like old times,” his son said.
When Grady retired in 1987, Mr. Hurst broadcast the Steel Pier Radio Show by himself. He continued to broadcast on WPG and WIBG radio until he was 90.
Mr. Hurst and Grady were honored in 1993 with a plaque on the Philadelphia Music Alliance’s Walk of Fame on the Avenue of the Arts. Three years later, Mr. Hurst was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame.
He also received the New Jersey Broadcasters Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award and was inducted into the group’s Hall of Fame in 2016, the Press reported.
“Ed will be remembered not just for his innovation but his warmth and sense of humor with the show guests, the dancers, and the audience,” his son said.
His wife, Sarajane “Cissie” Hurst, and a daughter, Merle Kyle, died earlier. Besides his son, he is survived by two grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and a companion, Flora Fisher.
Services were private.
Memorial contributions may be made to Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia via broadcastpioneers.com, Variety Club Tent 13 via varietyphila.org, or the Philadelphia Music Alliance via philadelphiamusicalliance.org.