Remembering WMAL Legend Frank Harden 1922-2018

 

LISTEN: WMAL’s longtime station manager, Andy Ockershausen, looks back on Harden and Weaver

LISTEN: WMAL’s John Matthews takes a look back at the life of Frank Harden and the classic Harden and Weaver program

LISTEN: On the 50th anniversary of D-Day in 1994, Frank Harden tells Tim Brant on WMAL the story of how he ended up in radio

 

John Matthews
WMAL.com

WASHINGTON — Frank Harden, one-half of the greatest radio team the Nation’s Capital has ever seen, died Friday at his home in Chevy Chase. He was 95.

Together with his on-air partner, Jackson Weaver, Harden created Harden and Weaver, a ratings and revenue-generating juggernaut of a morning show that drove WMAL to the top of Washington’s radio business for more than three decades.

From the show’s inception in 1960 until Jackson Weaver’s death in 1992, Harden played amiable straight man to Weaver’s jocular cast of characters, most notably, “the Senator,” who with pinpoint accuracy poked friendly fun at the bureaucracy of Washington while introducing the daily 7:25 am morning march. Yes, WMAL did play a daily march – and for many years, a 6:55 am hymn as well!

At one time, one out of every four morning radio listeners in Washington was tuned to WMAL every day, and what was perhaps most incredible about their success is that Harden and Weaver’s show was downright small by modern standards.

Frank and Jack would pass the time by taking gentle cracks at the news and newsmakers of the day, making lost pet announcements, doing time checks, and performing read live-copy commercials, always with Jackson using one of his familiar character voices and Frank playing the reliable straight man. The team took great pride in its ability to work without a script. Jackson Weaver told Washingtonian magazine in 1982, “Give us a fact sheet, and we’ll sell the ass off your product.”

Frank Harden was born in Macon, Georgia in 1922, and got his first job in radio in Savannah in 1944, just after he was discharged from the Army. Following radio jobs in Atlanta and Denver, Harden landed at WMAL in 1947, where he worked as a staff announcer and show host for several years, first in radio, and then also at WMAL-TV in the 1950’s.

It was not until the spring of 1960 that the station’s new manager, Andy Ockershausen, came up with the idea of teaming Harden and Weaver together on the air, and the rest, as they say, was history.

“We were doing a show at the time on ABC,” recalled Harden in a 2008 interview. “I think maybe three stations carried it, It was on at 11:15 at night, and it was called Frank and Jackson, And so, having done that show, I’m sure that Andy heard it, and decided to give us a shot.” Harden and Weaver debuted on March 7, 1960.

Success did not come overnight. Harden and Weaver spent years – really the rest of their careers – making frequent public appearances at Kiwanis dinners and county fairs, making their names – and WMAL – synonymous with Washington. “When Harden and Weaver started, nobody knew who they were”, recalled longtime WMAL afternoon host, Bill Trumbull in 2008. “Andy promoted them like crazy, and brought them various places. When they eventually hit number one in the ratings, they stayed there for a long, long time.“

Harden’s son, Bob, lives in Naples, Florida now, but has lived in many cities across the country, and he says to this day that when he meets people from the DC area, they invariably ask whether he’s related to Frank Harden. “People tell me all the time how they grew up listening to Harden and Weaver, getting their school announcements and lost pet calls, and listening to the morning march. They really were a big part of folks’ daily lives.”

After Weaver’s death, Harden remained as co-host of WMAL’s morning show, along with Tim Brant and Andy Parks, through 1997, retiring shortly after his 50th anniversary at WMAL.

He is survived by his wife, Berit, of Chevy Chase and Stockholm, Sweden, and their extended families.

Copyright 2018 by WMAL.com. All Rights Reserved. (PHOTOS: Our Town/Best Bark Media)

 

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