Ed Riley played a variety of music, inserting local bulletin items and music trivia between songs, on “The Wonderful World of Music” program on Wadsworth Community TV (WCTV).
The deejay, better known to fans as “Uncle Ed Riley,” turned his WCTV programs into multimedia experiences. He showed scenic videos, photos and graphics that enhanced the music he played.
“Most of his programs had a theme to it: Television music, movie music, the ’50s, ’60s, Halloween,” said John Madding, WCTV manager.
Ed, who died Sept. 30 at Altercare of Wadsworth at age 65, built his shows around tunes associated with a particular genre, era or holiday.
He used lots of images of American flags to celebrate patriotic holidays. He resurrected such novelty songs as David Seville’s “Witch Doctor” and Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s “Monster Mash” for Halloween.
Ed found follow-the-bouncing- ball films that older fans may have remembered from childhood sing-alongs.
“I really and truly enjoyed what I saw,” said Wadsworth resident Natalie Doell.
“He played music and gave a nice introduction to each song. He had a very nice, low-keyed way of talking. He seemed very relaxed. He certainly made me feel very relaxed. He gave me a lot of joy. “ Ed was born Stanley Edmond Riley on Dec. 21, 1944, in Wadsworth and grew up in Rittman with his five siblings.
He spent many summers at the Chippewa Lake Amusement Park, where he operated rides, worked at the concession stand and had a great time.
Ed attended Rittman High School, but did not graduate.
“He left school to become a radio disc jockey,” said his daughter Chandra.
At 18, he was working at a radio station in southern Ohio, according to his former wife and good friend, Karen Patterson. Patterson is the mother of Ed’s three children: Chandra, Amanda and Vince.
Ed honed his skills as a disc jockey, announcer and newsman at several Ohio radio stations. Early in his career, he spun records at a radio station in the Washington Court House area.
Ed did remote broadcasts for WNCO in Ashland in the late 1970s.
“He went to places like car lots and did live broadcasts,” Patterson said. “Every Tuesday night he did a live show that featured a local band. He also did some commercials.”
AWNCO manager, who was younger than Ed, started calling him “Uncle Ed” as a mock show of respect to an elder.
From then on, Ed used that moniker professionally.
In the mid-1980s, he worked in Canton as an announcer at WTOF, known as the Tower of Faith, which ran syndicated religious programming and featured Christian music.
“Ed was a nice guy, had a good voice and related to the listeners well,” said Tom Bishop, former WTOF general manager, now at WNPQ. “He was a friendly guy with a pleasant personality.”
He also worked for stations in the Medina and Wooster areas. Although he did install drywall for his brother’s construction company off and on over the years, radio was Ed’s chief livelihood, his family said.
“He did everything from the news to classical music to modern rock to even Christian rock and talk radio,” his daughter said. “He wore many hats. He was really creative.
Everything he did, he did with a passion.”
Ed sometimes sang along with the music he played on the air. He became the featured vocalist when he found karaoke recordings that suited his singing style and the various themes of his programs.
Elvis Presley tunes were among his sing-along choices during his weekly (or more frequent) visits to karaoke venues.
His favorite music came from the 1950s and ’60s, the soundtrack of his youth. He also shared numbers from “The Rocky Horror Show” and such contemporary artists as Barenaked Ladies with his WCTV audience.
For the first few years after its founding in 1983, WCTV used local radio for background music for its on-screen bulletin board. Around 20 years ago, Ed asked the station about using his “The Wonderful World of Music” instead.
“He did it on audiotape at his house,” Madding said. “We would play that over our bulletin board.”
A couple of years later, they videotaped his program. After that, Ed did the show at the station, where he could be seen rolling the music and punching in graphics on a computer in the control room. Between songs, Ed shared his extensive knowledge about the recordings. He noted such things as who played drums on a particular song, the name of the songwriter and trivia about the artist.
“He was always prepared,” Madding said. “We just turned the cameras on, and he went from that. He always wanted to make sure his show was topnotch. He was the consummate professional.”
Audiences responded to Ed’s personality.
“I don’t think he realized how many fans he had— probably in the hundreds to the thousands,” Madding said. Doell, who was in that number, used to tell her husband, “Oh, my goodness! He’s so much fun! I’d like to have dinner with that guy!”
Get a taste of “The Wonderful World of Music at http://my.pegcentral.com/pla yer.php?video=d07dd97ec6b19 ae2fe2d4993a291f71a.
Alana Baranick can be reached at email@example.com or at (440) 731-8340.
ABOUT THIS FEATURE:
The dates of birth and death that appear like bookends on a tombstone do not matter as much as the dash between those dates. Award-winning writer Alana Baranick has made her living writing about the dash between. She’s focusing on Medina and Lorain counties and those who have made our area the unique and interesting place it is. Look for her stories on the first Monday each month in The Gazette and visit www.medina-gazett.com to find additional photographs.
The Dash Between is scheduled to appear once a month in The Gazette. To suggest a story or make a comment, contact Baranick at firstname.lastname@example.org or (440) 731-8340.
Today, Alana Baranick examines The Dash Between Dec. 21, 1944, when Ed Riley was born Stanley Edmond Riley in Wadsworth, and Sept. 30, 2010, when the WCTV deejay died at age 65 at Altercare of Wadsworth.