MARGATE — Atlantic City native Ed Hurst, one of the longest serving broadcasters in American history and a radio icon, died Friday at home here. He was 94.
The late Dick Clark, a cultural icon himself in American television and broadcasting, once said, “Without Ed Hurst, there would be no Dick Clark.”
Hurst spent more than 70 years working in radio and television.
“He would come into a room and light it up. He had that charm about him,” said Mike Bowe, a Philadelphia radio afternoon drive personality who worked with Hurst from 2002 to 2004 at WPEN.
WPG-AM 1450 and WPG-FM 95.5, the radio station that aired his show, will do a special tribute program to Hurst from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday on the Steel Pier Radio show. Tony Bennett, Bobby Rydell and other special guests will be on the show.
Hurst began his career in 1943 at WFPG in Atlantic City.
He later did a radio show on WPEN-AM 950 in Philadelphia called the 950 Club before he teamed with Joe Grady in 1952 to do “The Grady and Hurst Show,” a Philadelphia television show.
It was one of the first shows to feature teens dancing to popular music. The groundbreaking format influenced “American Bandstand” and other shows. Hurst was on TV in Philadelphia from 1952 to 1978.
Hurst may be best known in South Jersey for his radio show that started off as “Summertime on the Pier” in 1958, which was originally broadcast from Steel Pier in Atlantic City. It was renamed to “The Steel Pier Show” during the 1970s and continued until 1978.
When Hurst returned to WPEN in 1981, he stayed until 2005, for most of that time broadcasting the “Steel Pier Radio Show.”
Dean Tyler took over as the general manager and program director of WPEN during the early 1980s when Grady and Hurst were already there.
“There was no question in my mind that I would keep them,” said Tyler, who added he was receiving dozens of calls Friday about Hurst.
Tyler, 86, a Brigantine resident, said he had been visiting Hurst daily for the last three months.
“He was a special guy off the air, even more so than on the air,” Tyler said.
Radio is a tough industry, but Hurst was always cheerful and upbeat.
“Needless to say, it’s a great loss to me personally and a great loss for the broadcasting industry,” Tyler said.
Bowe, now 70 and living in Audubon, Camden County, was working at WMGK-FM 102.9, which was down the hall from Hurst when Hurst was at WPEN before they worked together.
“I have known him a long time. He was a real gentleman. ... He had a great smile and a great personality,” Bowe said. “He was very helpful for me in my career.”
Bowe would see Hurst when he came down to the shore and at radio station reunions.
“He was the king,” Bowe said. “You put a microphone in front of him, and he would go to town.”
Hurst and Harry Hurley, who is on air with his “Hurley in the Morning” show from 6 to 10 a.m. weekdays on WPG AM and FM, relaunched “The Steel Pier Radio Show” on the same station in 2004, and it’s been running since then.
Hurley said he has always been a fan of Hurst since he was a child.
“I thought he was an amazing icon,” Hurley said. “Ed always said that he wanted to prove to himself that he was good enough to make it in Philadelphia, and he did.”
They met for the first time at a country club in Linwood, Hurley said. It was during a period of time when Hurst was not on the radio. Hurley encouraged him to return to radio.
“’Keep in touch and see what happens,’” said Hurley about what Hurst told him.
A year or so later, Hurst accepted Hurley’s offer and launched “The Steel Pier Radio Show” on WPG.
Hurst received the New Jersey Broadcasters Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award and was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2016.
A tribute was also paid to Hurst and partner Grady in 1993 with a plaque on the Philadelphia Music Alliance’s “walk of fame” on the Avenue of the Arts.
Hurst’s son, Brian Seth Hurst, said his father was always present when he did an interview. He did his homework and let the interview flow. He was just himself and did not pretend to be someone else, Brian Seth Hurst said.
“I guarantee you there is not a person in the business that had a bad thing to say about him,” his son said. “It didn’t matter if they were a recording star or parking his car, he treated everybody the same.”
Brian Seth Hurst said his father didn’t do “American Bandstand” with Grady because WPEN would not tolerate Grady and Hurst being on a television show that was in competition with the radio show.
“But his radio show caught on and affected American culture,” he said. “Without knowing it, he was an innovator. Because I think he knew what kids wanted, because he wasn’t far from their age.”
Hurst was predeceased by his wife Sarajane “Cissie” and daughter Merle Kyle. He is survived by his son Brian, grandchildren Kenny Kyle, and Kathryn Forman (Brian), great-grandchildren Madeline and Miles, devoted caregiver Pam Cappelluti, “adopted” son Gary Hendler and his wife Marji and loving companion Flora Fisher.
Services are private. Contributions in his memory may be made to Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia (broadcastpioneers.com), Variety Club Tent 13 (varietyphila.org), or the Philadelphia Music Alliance (philadelphiamusicalliance.org).