By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun
3:45 PM EST, January 30, 2012
Kenneth Allen Maylath, a veteran Baltimore broadcaster who had been host of "Conference Call" on WFBR-AM and was later news director at WCBM-AM, died Saturday of sepsis at Franklin Square Hospital Center.
The longtime Parkville resident was 75.
Born and raised in Westchester County, N.Y., Mr. Maylath was a 1954 graduate of Croton-Harmon High School in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.
Mr. Maylath's love of radio began in the 1940s, when he listened to the network broadcasts of Arthur Godfrey, one of his favorite on-air personalities, on WCBS Radio.
When he was in high school, he and a fellow student recorded an entire broadcast day onto a reel-to-reel tape recorder.
"We made up a little hick town in the Midwest and played radio station," he told The Baltimore Sun in a 1995 interview.
While a student at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y. — where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa — he worked on the college station, and during summers was on the air at several commercial stations, including an AM station in El Paso, Texas.
After graduating from college in 1958, he served in the Army for two years and attained the rank of lieutenant. Adter leaving the service, he got first full-time job in radio at a station in Erie, Pa., where he played easy-listening music.
"I decided within a couple of months that it was a lot work for not very much money," Mr. Maylath recalled in the 1995 interview.
The next year, he took a job in Elmira, N.Y., as a staff announcer and DJ. He moved to Baltimore in 1962 when he went to work as a staff announcer at WFBR.
What brought Mr. Maylath, a lifelong rail fan, to Baltimore was not a job interview but a railroad excursion to Western Maryland.
"I decided to talk to the station the day before, just on an off-chance," he said in The Sun interview.
By the time he boarded the train, Mr. Maylath had landed a job as a news announcer at WFBR.
"I worked with Ken at WFBR in the 1970s after I got out of college, and his work ethic was second to none. He never missed a day of work," said Ron Matz, who is now a WJZ-TV reporter.
He recalled Mr. Maylath being unable to get his car out during a snowstorm and walking to WFBR's studio on 20th Street.
"He was the Iron Man or Cal Ripken of the news department," he said.
"He had moderated 'Conference Call' back in the day when it was one of the most popular current-events programs ever on Baltimore radio or TV," said Mr. Matz.
"And he did that for a long time. He was a calming influence when the show got chaotic or out of hand at times. He had the ability to bring the tone down."
He recalled Mr. Maylath's rather unusual dance when delivering the news.
"Ken had a wonderful voice and was easy to listen to. When he was delivering the news, he'd bob up and down, but he was smooth as silk and rarely made a mistake," he said. "His delivery was right on the money, and it was right on the money all the time."
Tom Marr was another WFBR colleague who later worked with Mr. Maylath at WCBM.
"Ken was a very quiet man. I arrived at WFBR in 1967, and it was apparent he was a jack-of-all-trades. He could do the news, spin records or work outside. In 1968, he covered both political conventions, including the riot in Chicago," said Mr. Marr.
"He was a newsman's newsman, someone you could always count on," he said.
After WFBR was sold in 1988, Mr. Maylath migrated to WCBM with former colleagues.
He retired four years ago.
Mr. Maylath's infatuation with railroading no doubt began in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., where he grew up and where the old New York Central Railroad maintained extensive yards and shops.
"Trains were the passion of his life, and he had traveled all over the U.S. and in other parts of the world by train," said Mr. Marr.
Mr. Maylath — who wrote numerous articles for "Interchange," a publication of the Baltimore chapter of the National Railway Historical Society — wrote and edited a monthly publication during the 1980s on passenger train news.
He was also been a longtime volunteer at the B&O Railroad Museum.
"He was here on Friday, the day before he died, so we're all in shock," said Courtney B. Wilson, who is the museum's executive director.
"He had been volunteering here close to 14 years. His great expertise was in passenger trains. He had a great depth of knowledge of passenger, parlor, dining and sleeping cars," said Mr. Wilson, who added that Mr. Maylath was never without his B&O cap.
He said that while Mr. Maylath was "quiet and reserved," he easily "engaged with museum visitors and families, who were soon fascinated with him."
Mr. Maylath was a member of Hiss United Methodist Church, 8700 Harford Road, where funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday.
He is survived by two men who considered Mr. Maylath their father, John Phillips and Larry Hartman, both of Parkville; and their four children, who considered him a grandfather.
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