A few of Big Daddy Graham’s closest friends and family members gathered over the weekend for something between a eulogy and a celebration of the late 94.1 WIP host’s life.
Graham, who was born Edward Gudonis, died earlier this month after having spent the past few years attempting to recover from a burst blood vessel in his spine that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
The private event, which took place Saturday at Pass and Stow inside Citizens Bank Park, was meticulously planned by Graham’s daughters, Ava and Keely — down to the chocolate chip cookies with his face on the them. The event was full of jokes, warm memories, and of course — multiple impressions of Graham’s voice, led by comedian Joe Conklin.
“It was a celebration the way Big Daddy would have loved,” said longtime friend and former WIP colleague Cindy Webster. “It was all his favorite music, all his favorite people. It was really cool.”
NBC10′s John Clark emceed the event, which brought together several of Graham’s longtime radio colleagues, including Glen Macnow, Ray Didinger, Rob Charry, and his former producer, Darren DeGaetano. The night also featured musical performances by Mike LeCompt, Eddie Bruce, and Graham’s one-time bandmate, Dave Rogers.
Graham’s wife, Debbie, closed out the ceremony with an emotional rendition of Picture in a Frame by Tom Waits, which she sang alongside Ava and Tommy Bristow, who goes by Spins Nitely and whose friendship with Big Daddy Graham dates back to high school.
Angelo Cataldi, WIP’s morning show host, offered a sendoff to his longtime friend that included random emails Graham sent before his death. Cataldi included a poignant request Graham made on Sept. 19, 2019, just months after he was left paralyzed.
“Please don’t let anyone forget me,” Graham emailed Cataldi, who said, “No one’s going to forget Big Daddy Graham. Ever.”
The Eagles also honored Graham on Sunday, leaving a seat open in the press box for the former sports talker during Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers at Lincoln Financial Field.
Prior to his death, Graham was scheduled to perform in a “Two Funny Philly Guys” show alongside Conklin at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville on Friday, Sept. 24. Instead, Conklin will host a tribute that features stories about Graham’s life, a few jokes from comedians who used to perform alongside the one-time stand-up comic, musical performances, and special guests who join the show live via Zoom.
As of Tuesday, a limited number of tickets were still available on the Colonial’s website. Proceeds go to Magee Rehabilitation Hospital.
The final list hasn’t been announced, but those expected to pay tribute to Graham Friday include Macnow, musician Skip Denenberg, NBC Sports Philadelphia host Michael Barkann, Flyers legend Bernie Parent, broadcasters Neil Hartman and Scott Graham, and Philly coaching legends Phil Martelli and Fran Dunphy.
“This will be a celebration, with kind-of a party atmosphere,” Conklin said. “It will be a lot of fun, and give everyone a chance to toast Big Daddy one more time.”
One of a Kind: A Tribute to Big Daddy
When: Friday, Sept. 24.
Where: The Colonial Theatre, Phoenixville
Time: 8 p.m.
Proceeds: Magee Rehabilitation Hospital