Anthony H. Ferrell, who appeared on Morgan State University’s radio station as “Doctor Doo-Wop” and worked in marketing, died Oct. 4 at Loch Raven Genesis Healthcare of complications from a stroke. The Columbia and Bolton Hill resident was 72.
Born in Philadelphia and raised in the Germantown section, he was the son of the Rev. Robert Ferrell, a Baptist pastor and gospel group singer, and Katy Mae Lee, a nurse. He grew up listening to disc jockeys named Jocko, Georgie Woods and Butterball on an African-American radio station, WDAS, friends and family members said, and attended Philadelphia public schools.
“Sam Cooke, Dixie Hummingbirds, and other groups and singers came to his house as a result of his father's being in the gospel music business,” said a friend, Milton A. Dugger Jr., an insurance agent. “He loved his father and often used a phrase his father used: ‘Yes, oh yes, oh very, very yes.’ ”
Mr. Ferrell formed his own vocal group and a band, Sparkling Champagne, and performed in Philadelphia, including stops at the Uptown Theater on North Broad Street. He also substituted for another group at the famed Apollo in Harlem.
Mr. Ferrell worked for the old Philadelphia Evening Bulletin in sales and marketing.
More than 34 years ago, he moved to Howard County. Family members said he wanted to ensure that his children would get a good education.
“He loved Columbia,” said Mr. Dugger, who lives in the Chinquapin Park section of Northeast Baltimore.
He worked in marketing and for a finance company in its collections department.
“On a lark, Doc visited WEAA, the Morgan State University station, about DJing oldies,” said Mr. Dugger. “He was given a trial and next week put on the air from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m Saturdays. He gave himself the handle, ‘The Dr. Doo-Wop Show.’ ”
Mr. Ferrell later appeared with Mr. Dugger one Saturday a month as "The Doc & The Dug Show.” They were on the air until 2016.
“He talked about his time in Philadelphia at the Uptown, and I talked about my time in Baltimore at the Royal Theater,” Mr. Dugger said.
“Doc was a big believer in listener participation,” said Mr. Dugger. “Listeners called in on their own once they had our number.”
Mr. Dugger said the show was popular with its audience, who made financial pledges to the station.
“As hard as my father worked, music was always his passion,” said a daughter, Angela Ferrell of Washington, D.C. “I would sit at his feet and help him clean his 45s and LP records. He often visited obscure shops to find the records he wanted. He would curate his playlist for a week.”
According to a 1990 Baltimore Sun article, “At 3 a.m. yesterday, Dr. Doo-Wop was bustling around his Columbia townhouse, studying his playlist and cleaning a stack of rare old 45-rpm records with a gym sock dipped in alcohol.”
The article noted that he liked to play obscure recordings that would resonate with his audience.
"You can help people reclaim their youth without playing run-of-the-mill oldies," he said in the article.
“He wants his audience to wake up on Saturday feeling 16 again, without his spinning the typical fare. So "My Prayer" by the Platters is out, and "My Heart's Desire" by the Wheels is in,” the 1990 article said. “Dr. Doo-Wop couldn't wait to share the records with an aging audience hungry for a change from recycled oldies. Some loyal listeners awaken before sunrise to hear every tune, however obscure.”
Mr. Ferrell said he liked to challenged his listeners and wanted them to say, “I remember that song — but who sang it?' "
Mr. Ferrell also played the acoustic guitar. He wrote and recorded a song, “Midnight Tears,” on Gumption Records.
After living in Columbia, he lived in the Linden Green Apartments on McMechen Street in Bolton Hill.
A funeral will be held at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at St. John’s Baptist Church, 9055 Tamar Drive in Columbia.
In addition to his daughter, survivors include a son, Anthony Ferrell of Philadelphia; two other daughters, Toni Ferrell of Anne Arundel County and Ferne Ferrell of Odenton; and eight grandchildren. His marriages to Linda Ferrell and Ferne Richardson ended in divorce. His wife, Beverly Henderson Ferrell, died in 2011.