In the early 1980s, I was an account executive on Sid Mark’s “A Friday With Frank,” an all-Frank Sinatra radio program on WWDB. Like the vocal artist whose name was synonymous with perfection, Mark’s Frank Sinatra-centric show had an allure that made it a constant in the fluid world of radio.
Later came the addition of a second show, “Sundays With Sinatra.” Working closely with Mark, I learned the nuances that made his shows so successful: a combination of arguably the world’s top vocalist and a passionate devotee who would make an indelible imprint on Philadelphia radio for generations of listeners.
Last week, news broke that after decades of success, the show will see some changes. Starting Jan. 5, it will only run two hours, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. WPHT will turn to rotating hosts from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
The show’sincarnation began in 1956 on what was then WHAT-FM. It was a jazz station — later to become all-talk WWDB in 1975 — that would move to all Sinatra each Friday evening.
I was first exposed to the program in 1965 as a 16-year-old working after school in a warehouse. An older shipper was playing WHAT when suddenly the sound of a sax riff was replaced by the recordings of a lone vocalist.
My parents had played Sinatra over the years, and with a certain reverence. But it wasn’t until that teenage exposure that I came to fully appreciate his exceptionality.
As for so many others, it became a Friday night staple, a laser through ensuing years of R&B, doo wop, and rock music. Sinatra’s music was special, and Mark drew its very soul onto the canvas formed by his turntables and microphone.
In the late 1970s, a long waiting list for advertisers to his Friday show created the need for a Sunday morning version — ”Sunday With Sinatra.” In addition, New York called and a Saturday night show on NBC’s WYNY-FM was born.
Some years after I had left WWDB to go into business on my own, I continued an association with Mark through work with Mark’s syndication company. I experienced the general excitement of program directors across the country who made time available for the two-hour version of Sinatra.
That program continues to air on stations throughout the country.
The concept’s refusal to completely go away stands as its own beacon. Sinatra has managed to appeal to multiple generations and Mark has been the conduit through which so many have been influenced.
In the late ’80s, a Sinatra stage show with over 20,000 fans at the old Spectrum was interrupted by Sinatra as he introduced his “good friend” Mark. Recently, over 1,000 fans paid tribute to Mark through a show he hosted at a Parx casino.
In the fickle world of radio, in a constantly changing universe where traditions are few, the long reliability of this entity is to be celebrated.
Defining the merits of a work of art, philosopher Monroe Beardsley said: “The question is whether it was worth making, what is it good for, what can be done for it.”
The artistry of Frank Sinatra and the artistic application of Sid Mark have combined to form an unmistakable contribution to our community.
Jeff Hurvitz is a freelance writer who is a native Philadelphian and resident of Abington Township. firstname.lastname@example.org