EDDIE GALLAHER, WASH-FM 97.1: Up to 55,000 Washington area residents wake each day to Eddie Gallaher's deep, reassuring, melodic voice. The station calculates he is the alarm clock for a quarter of a million Washington listeners every week.
He gently awakens his audience with silky sequels between rock and roll, pop and soul and country and western music.
At 64, he has put in a 30-year stint on Washington airwaves. And now, between 6 and 10 a.m., he has the fourth largest audience of 41 area stations.
The reason for his success, he said, is simple: "I attempt to talk to one person out there instead of thousands and I am honest with him. Our program director has a saying that I think is true in this business -- 'If it goes into the microphone phony it comes out phoney.'"
For that reason, Gallaher said, he tries to visit all the places he advertises so he can prsonally endorse them.
"Sincerity is Gallaher's trademark," station manager Susan Breakerfield said. "He provides a soothing, comforting sound on the radio that is recognizable by drowsy, disoriented listeners."
The dean of morning radio, Gallaher says the person responsible for bringing the personal approach to radio was his predecessor at WTOP AM, Arthur Godfrey. "That style will never change. It will always be the same. Just like people falling in love."
When he isn't rattling off birthday greetings, horoscopes or providing consumer tips on buying chicken and steak, Gallaher in recent has focused his attention on raising money for Children's Hospital National Medical Center in Northwest Washington. He has already raised more than $30,000 of $43,000 required to purchase a special machine for heart examination.
Gallaher said he believes the '80s will bring a return to the finger-popping music of the 1960s and 1950s. But he added emphatically, "Disco is dead."
Born in Washington, raised in Tulsa, Gallaher began his radio career in Tulsa and later went to Minneapolis where he polished his play-by-play sports coverage. He did 10 years of play-by-play for the Redskins, beginning in 1955.
When Arthur Godfrey moved to New York from Washington's WTOP-AM some 30 years ago, Gallaher stepped in. He spent 23 years at the station until it went to an all-news format. He said he didn't feel he could do it well, so he moved to WASH and its easygoing music format.
Asked about retirement, he said, "I'll do this till I die -- or they don't want me any more."