Legendary broadcaster Ed Taylor, his professionalism, talent remembered over the course of 40 years of friendship
Written by Paul Schaumburg
Radio announcer Ed Taylor was killed when he was struck by a vehicle, while crossing the road on foot in front of his Reidland home Dec. 29, 2016. A week later a memorial service honored his memory and celebrated his life at the Paducah Tilghman High School gymnasium. He was 76 years old.
I didn't listen much to radio until I turned 14. When I did, I fell in love! Becoming a radio disc jockey seemed to be the greatest job possible! Who wouldn't want to wax poetic, making cool and sometimes humorous comments over the airwaves and through the ether? Three years later I got my first job at WPAD. That's where I met Ed Taylor in 1977.
Next to station owner Ed Fritts, Ed Taylor clearly was the most important person in the building. He was close friends with the boss, who had brought him to Paducah from Union City, Tenn., when Mr. Fritts bought WPAD Radio in 1967. Ed had his own advertisers, writing and voicing their commercials. He was the voice of Paducah Tilghman basketball and football. And, he was the early morning wake-up show host, on the air when people got up, got ready for the day and drove to work.
I quickly realized not only how talented Ed was, but also what a dry wit he had! My hero was right in front of my eyes and ears and I soaked in every bit I could!
Ed was so subtle that, as a listener, you had to meet him halfway. If you got it, you laughed your head off. If you didn't get it, you probably didn't know the difference.
Besides advertising, the station partnered with the Dale Carnegie Company. Its classes promise to transform even the most inarticulate, self-doubting wimp into a dynamic, self-assured individual who can ... well ... win friends and influence people! One day, someone asked Ed whether he had taken the course himself. He replied -- with a wit drier than the Mojave Desert - "Of course... can't you tell?"
Once, we were running a commercial voiced by an announcer from then-rival WKYX, who sounded increasingly like that station's general manager, Gary Morse. Ed came out of the ad, calling the announcer by name and saying, "You're sounding more like Gary every day!" ...At the station, we laughed uproariously. Most listeners just scratched their heads.
On a football game one night, Ed noted that the left tackle was named "Billy Flake." To which he added, "I used to know his brother, Corn," then he went back to the call... "Second down and three yards to go..."
In music radio, you generally want to promote it positively, because that format is the station's main draw. Not Ed! One morning, as he came out of a song by Whispering Bill Anderson, he said, "WPAD at 7:20 this morning. That's Bill Anderson! ... I never did like him... I think it's because he wears white shoes... I never did like white shoes, white socks, or clip-on ties..." Then, he hit the commercial... I can't be the only one who laughed, shaking my head, thinking, "Did he really say that?"
Eventually, he went his way, I went mine and years passed. We both ended up back in western Kentucky and eventually ran into each other at the Paducah Cracker Barrel. Nothing had changed in many ways, except my wherewithal to tell Ed what I thought of him. I'd introduce him to others as a living legend of Paducah radio. He always scoffed at that. I always told him I meant it and I wasn't the only one who thought so. I hope he realized I was right.
Now, he's gone. Who ever could have dreamed it would have happened as it did?
A few years ago and before our Cracker Barrel days, I visited Paducah's First Christian Church.
I was pleased to see Ed Taylor, who had joined the church through his association with our late boss, Ed Fritts. It gives me peace to trust that Ed now is with his Savior, experiencing the joys of heaven. God knows that Ed made me and so many others experience joy so often here on earth from his God-given talents, broadcast over the airwaves and through the ether.
Paul Schaumburg is in his 15th year serving as community relations director of the Graves County Schools. He began his career working on the air in radio for more than 15 years and was a reporter-photographer-columnist at the Mayfield Messenger for six years. For more than 20 years, he has taught public speaking and other communication classes at Murray State University, Shawnee Community College, and other postsecondary institutions