Jack Gale, talent manager and radio host on Baltimore's old WITH-AM, dies

Jack Gale, a popular morning host with the old WITH-AM radio station and a record company owner and producer, died Jan. 24 at his home in Sebring, Fla. He was 92.

His daughter, Jeanne Gale Johnson, of Northfield, Minn., attributed his death to natural causes.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Lower Park Heights, he was the son of Abe Gale and his wife, Bertha.

He was a 1943 graduate of Forest Park High School and got into radio work at WBTM in Danville, Va.

“Jack paid his dues at stations in Cumberland, Salisbury and Petersburg, Va., and did some short stints at WCBM and WSID in Baltimore,” said Robert “Bob” Mathers of Hanover, Pa., a longtime friend.

“To supplement his income, he sold insurance and drove overnights for the Belle Isle Cab Company,” said Mr. Mathers. “He was a hard worker.”

By the 1950s he had radio programs in Cleveland and Charleston, S.C., and returned to Baltimore at WITH-AM 1230. Mr. Gale became one of Baltimore’s best known morning hosts. Mayor Thomas J. D’Alesandro Jr. awarded him a key to the city.

“His morning show was wild and unpredictable,” said Mr. Mathers, who later worked with him at WITH-AM in the 1990s.

Mr. Mathers recalled his “man-on-the-street” interviews.

“Jack would be live on air and prepare for each one by lowering a 50-foot microphone cord out of the third-story studio window at 7 East Lexington St. to the sidewalk,” Mr. Mathers recalled. “He would then yell down to some unsuspecting passerby to grab the mic and answer a few questions.”

Mr. Mathers said Mr. Gale also took liberties with his sponsors’ commercials. He once sang along with a spot for National Brewing Co.

“The ad agency for National called to remind Mr. Gale that significant money was paid to the singers who recorded the ad, and no help was needed in accompanying them,” said Mr. Mathers.

In March 1959, the radio station conducted a publicity stunt that involved the “firing” of Jack Gale live, on air.

“It produced hundreds of phone calls to the station from angry listeners,” Mr. Mathers said. “Colts fullback and restaurant owner Alan Ameche offered Gale a job as carhop, while TV’s Buddy Deane brought him on to his show to explain what happened.

“Three days later, a full-page ad in the Baltimore News-Post announced the return of Jack Gale to WITH,” Mr. Mathers said.

In 1960, when a line dance, The Madison, was popular in Baltimore, Mr. Gale recorded two alternate versions. He called one the “Sloppy Madison,” and a parody he sang “The Medicine.” Columbia Records released his versions as a 45-rpm disc.

“He was one of the funniest people I have ever worked with,” said Jack Edwards, a veteran radio host. “He was so witty. His material was never off-color. His different voices were hysterical. Off the air, he was quiet and shy.”

In 1962, while still a leading disc jockey and radio personality, he left the station to work at a rival Top 40 station, WWIN, after being turned down for a raise.

At this time Mr. Gale recorded local music acts including Ronnie Dove, the Kings and the Combonaires at the Biddle Street Studios.

He left Baltimore radio about 1963 and worked for stations in Boston, Charlotte, N.C., and Jacksonville, Fla.

He also owned and operated Playback Records. He bought radio stations in California, Missouri and Alabama.

In 1996, Mr. Gale came back to Baltimore to do mornings on WITH-AM after the station flipped to an oldies format. His first words on the air were: “It’s good to be back here in Baltimore after being gone for 33 years. Thanks to WITH for keeping the station together while I was away.”

“Jack’s schtick was fast-paced bits and one-liners,” said Mr. Mathers. “Every day was ‘his birthday.’ Morning drive listeners in Baltimore would arrive late for work after sitting in their car to finish hearing the latest installment of ‘Life Can Be Miserable.’ ”

Leon Golnick’s advertising agency employed Mr. Gale as a national voice talent on radio and TV commercials for more than 30 years. He continued to produce commercial broadcasting projects until his death.

“He sounded just as good, at 92, as he did at 22,” said Mr. Mathers.

Mr. Gale’s wife of 67 years, Lovey Sahm, who worked alongside him, died in 2013.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include two sons, Steve Gale of Pompano Beach, Fla., and Gary Gale of Beverly Hills, Fla. A daughter, Ellen Gale, died in 2011.

No funeral was held.


Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad