Ed Baer: Westport’s Record-Setting Good Guy

Ed Baer is a good guy.

Back in the day though, he was really a Good Guy.

A young Mick Jagger sports a WMCA Good Guy sweatshirt.

A young Mick Jagger sports a WMCA Good Guy sweatshirt.

If you grew up in the tri-state area in the 1960s, you remember the name. Ed Baer was a WMCA disc jockey. He and his colleagues — Joe O’Brien, Harry Harrison, Dan Daniel*, B. Mitchel Reid, Gary Stevens and the rest — were the Good Guys.

They battled WABC (the All-Americans: Dan Ingram, Cousin Brucie…) for radio supremacy. It was a legendary time in music history, and Ed Baer was part of some of its most exciting moments.

WMCA was a New York station, but he grew up in Westport — and lived there when he was a Good Guy.

Ed lived here after WMCA went all-talk too. He then worked at WHN, WHUD, WYNY, WCBS-FM. He broadcast 2 shows — 7 days a week — from his home studio, for Sirius.

He’s still here. Still as sharp and smooth-talking as ever. And still active.

Ed’s latest project takes shape in that home studio. With his 3 teenage grandsons — Kyle, Ryan and Trevor Baer — he’s selling his entire record collection. There are astonishing LPs, 45s and 78s, with amazing stories.

Trevor, Kyle and Ryan Baer with their grandparents, Ed and Pearl Baer.

Trevor, Ryan and Kyle Baer with their grandparents, Ed and Pearl Baer. A photo of Ed — from his WMCA days — hangs on the wall.

But before you hear them, here’s the back story.

Ed’s parents moved here in 1945, when he was 9. His dad opened a candy store and soda fountain at Desi’s Corner, across from the train station. Ed worked there before graduating from Staples High School in 1954. CBS newsman Douglas Edwards — a Weston resident — was a regular customer.

Ed wandered into radio broadcasting at the University of Connecticut. When his father had a heart attack, Ed transferred to the University of Bridgeport. Westporter Win Elliot — the New York Rangers announcer — helped him grow.

When he served at Ft. Dix, his radio background helped. A sergeant who liked music allowed Ed to travel home Thursdays through Sundays. He brought the latest records back to base, thanks to a friend who worked at Columbia Records’ pressing plant in Bridgeport.

After discharge, Ed worked at 50,000-watt KRAK in Sacramento. He returned home after his father died. Dan Ingram — his former WICC colleague now at WABC — helped “Running Bear” land a job at rival WMCA.

The rest is history. Ed was there as the station moved from Paul Anka and Bobby Darin to the Beatles, Stones, Supremes and Doors.

They were wonderful years. When the Beatles played Shea Stadium, Ed sat in the broadcast booth and played the same records the Fab Four were singing. It sounded better than the concert. He’s got the only existing reel-to-reel (now CD) copy of that night.

Ed Baer still has this 78 from 1952. It's the Staples Band -- directed by John Ohanian -- playing "American Folk Rhapsody."

Ed Baer still has this 78 from 1952. It’s the Staples Band — directed by John Ohanian — playing “American Folk Rhapsody.”

One day, he saw John Ohanian at Oscar’s. Westport’s legendary music director had taught Ed clarinet in 4th grade (he later switched to tenor sax).

“I hear you’re playing all that rock ‘n’ roll,” Ohanian said. “I thought I taught you better than that.”

He paused. “But I hear the money’s great.”

There’s so much more to Ed’s career: The concerts he hosted. Calling OTB races, and picking horses (very well) for the New York Post. Those Sirius shows (5 days of ’50s and ’60s music; weekends were country).

Which brings us back to Ed Baer’s vinyl collection.

He has no idea how many records he’s amassed, in his long career. His grandson Kyle — a civil engineering major at Duke University — estimates 10,000.

They line the walls of the studio. There are never-opened LPs by Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. Bing Crosby singing Stephen Foster. Show tunes. Comedy. Many are rare DJ promotional editions, or have never been opened.

And so many come from the WMCA days.

Ryan — who graduated the other day from Staples, and heads to the University of Southern California this fall — casually picks up a Beatles record.

Ed Baer's unpeeled copy of "Yesterday and Today." The letters "PROM" -- for "promotional copy" -- can be seen in the upper right corner.

Ed Baer’s unpeeled copy of “Yesterday and Today.” The letters “PROM” — for “promotional copy” — can be seen in the upper right corner.

It’s “Yesterday and Today.” The original cover showed the band dressed in butcher smocks, surrounded by decapitated baby dolls and pieces of meat. After protests, it was quickly recalled. A simpler photo — the Beatles in steamer trunks — was pasted over it.

Most owners peeled off the top, ruining both covers. Ed has not 1, but 2, of the very rare, unpeeled versions.

Kyle, Ryan and Trevor (a rising junior at Hamden Hall) are hearing stories like this as they help their grandfather sell his collection. They’re learning music history (who was Harry Belafonte? the Four Seasons? What was Motown?) and radio history too (what was the deal with transistor radios?).

The teenagers always knew their grandfather was a good guy.

Now they understand exactly how much of a Good Guy he really was.

(Kyle, Ryan and Trevor have set up a website: www.westportrecords.com. They add new records daily, and handle all shipping too. For questions or offers, email westportrecords@gmail.com)

Ed Baer, relaxing in his home studio. A WMCA poster hangs on the wall. A few of his many records line the shelves.

Ed Baer, relaxing in his home studio. A WMCA poster hangs on the wall. A few of his many records line the shelves.

* Dan Daniel died last week. Click here for his obituary.

16 responses to “Ed Baer: Westport’s Record-Setting Good Guy

  1. Great story, Dan. I was avid listener of both WMCA and WABC — especially on our transistor radios at Compo – lol. Always some good memories coming up on your blog. Love the photo of Mick too.

  2. Alan Phillips

    I was a good guy too just like mick.
    i Won a WMCA good guy sweatshirt as a kid.
    One of my proudest possessions.
    Thanks for the memories Dan and Ed.

  3. Fred Cantor

    Thanks for this piece of local rock history which I was completely unaware of. I started listening to the Good Guys on the red and white Westinghouse transistor radio my brother and I had in the bedroom we shared in Queens before moving to Westport. I would have been floored if I had known that a WMCA DJ was a local when my family moved here.

    I recently discovered that my 45 of “Just A Little” was somehow missing from my collection. Now I know where to look to find a replacement.

  4. Loretta Santella Hallock

    Baer’s soda fountain was a great place for us kids growing up in the area. Great memories!

  5. Dan – This was a fantastic story. Though I didn’t live in Westport back then, I lived through the WMCA days growing up in a musical family in Greenwich. My husband, who grew up here, recalls clearly Baer’s Corner and the soda fountains. He also remembers Malazzo’s market. I always loved WMCA, especially those days as a child of the sixties.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  6. In 1972, I got my dream job — sports editorial clerk at the New York Post. A glorified copy boy, with a little more pay, because I had golden fingers.

    The sportswriters would call in their stories, and I would record them on this ancient thing called a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and then I would transcribe the recordings on something even more ancient — as I recall, it was called a typewriter — and then I’d hand the stories in to the editors.

    All in all, I’d type 60 pages or so a night on a big hulking Royal typewriter, which is part of why I’m processing these words today with arthritic fingers.

    Needless to say, the job no longer exists.

    In addition to the sportswriters, I also took calls from the racing handicappers, who would call in their picks, which would be published in the next day’s paper. If you’re old enough to remember the name Jerry De Nonno, well, you’re just old.

    But I digress. Early on, I took a phone call from one of The Post’s standardbred handicappers. Guy introduced himself as Ed Baer.

    THE ED BAER????

    Yes, THE Ed Baer. Which gave me a chance to tell him how much I’d enjoyed listening to him and the other Good Guys over on WMCA throughout my acne years, before FM radio yanked their chairs out from under them.

    But Ed and Joe O’Brien and Dan Daniel and B. Mitchell Reed (here’s another BMR Bell-Ringer!) and a few others over on WMCA were big players in my teens.

    Good times. Five-seventy on your dial.

  7. Steve Stein

    Ed Baer is truly one of the really good guys! The nicest man with the greatest voice. I used to listen to Ed late evenings on CBS-FM. Wonderful patter, funny jokes and smooth music,

    One detail the story didn’t include is that on several occasions there were sulky races for the NYC DJs at the Meadow Lands. And yes- Ed was in the driver’s seat gentlyurging his horse around the track! It was more exciting watching Ed in racing silks, cap and goggles trying to get to the front of the pack than all the regular races we saw that evening! (No betting allowed on the DJ races)

    Ed’s comment after the race was that he didn’t recommend it for the feint of heart- it is much worse in the sulky, sitting behind the horse and holding on for dear life than it looks when just watching and handicapping!!

  8. I agree with Loretta’s comment on the counter.
    I also think I recall Ed first on Wicc
    Radio in Bridgeport, billing himself as “Eddy Baer, your Teddy Baer”, unless I
    misrecall. That was in the 50’s.

    • Correct — he was on WICC (where he worked with Dan Ingram, who was using an alias because he was also on a New Haven radio station). Ed was later on WNAB in Bridgeport.

  9. I remember Ed from Staples days, but also remember his Dad. I recall Ed tap-dancing once on the stage in the old Staple cafeteria. Ed’s Dad was the commander of the Westport Auxiliary Police unit when I started with the WPD back in 59. The auxiliary’s preceded the Special Police of today and were an unpaid group of volunteers who assisted with patrol work and traffic in emergencies. They contributed thousands of hours to the Town. Baer’s corner on Railroad Place was a regular stop during those days. Ed is a look-alike for his Dad. I also remember the Ed Baer-your Teddy Baer slogan and am grateful for the many hours of good listening over that time period.
    Dick Alley

  10. Mary (Cookman) Schmerker Staples 1958

    Thanks for the memories. I loved this post on several levels. It confirmed that I do remember correctly that John Ohanian taught music as early as my elementary years. ( I tried to play the violin!) We had an orchestra, well of sorts, at Bedford Elementary, now known as Town Hall. Baer’s soda fountain….. The icing on the cake is that Charlie, my husband’s best friend , was a DJ during this same time period in Pennsylvania. This friend also has an amazing record collection. Thanks for the reporting Dan.

    • Peter Gambaccini

      I had a summer job at the Westport News in 1969, at age 19, and got the chance to do a feature interview with Ed Baer. He was gentlemanly and patient and gave a teen reporter a lot more respect than many Westporters at the time did. A few weeks later, I’d gone to Woodstock, and Ed called me to ask what songs he should play on the radio by the musicians who’d performed there. I was honored by his outreach.

  11. I went to elementary school with Bill Klarman. His father was in ad sales at WMCA. I remember giving our 4th grade teacher, Mr. Miguel a Good Guy sweatshirt.

  12. Reggie Caporale

    What a great story and history of your professional life. Some of us were lucky enough to know you and Pearl during our time at WHUD. Stay well my friend.
    Reggie Caporale

  13. Audrey Hertzel

    I met Ed and his lovely wife, Pearl, years ago through a very special and mutual friend. At the time, I had no idea he was the “Ed Baer” I listened to on the radio growing up and felt honored to meet a “celebrity!” Great story, Dan! With the popularity of vinyls today, I’m sure his collection will go quick! Best to the Baer family! xo Audrey

  14. Cathy Barnett

    I seem to recall a radio show called “The Ed Baer Affair” and I think it was on weekends on WCBS FM, or was it WMCA? So sorry to hear Dandy Dan Daniel passed away. I followed him on the country station WYNY until the bitter end.