LeRoy Miller. Now, there’s a name from the past. For decades, Miller was one of those disc jockeys that woke up the Delaware Valley on the radio.
(Left to right) Ed Heller, Raymond Rosen's Record Sales Promotion Manager and LeRoy Miller
Someone once said that the LeRoy Miller story could have been easily called “From Milk to Mike.” It’s probably a good title. The story goes that he used to walk 9 miles after milking the cows on the family farm to nearby Lancaster, Pennsylvania to be an announcer on a local program there. Since the average person can walk about 3 miles an hour, that would make it a three hour walk to the station and three hours back (in good weather). However, back in the day, it was quite common for travelers to pick up hitchhikers. So he could have made the trek much faster. Anyhow, that announcing gig in mid-state was his first taste of broadcasting.
In 1935, LeRoy started at KYW Radio (which had just moved to the Quaker City from Chicago). He was assigned the morning shift (later called AM drive) and hosted a daily program called “The Musical Clock.” (He was called “the conductor” of the broadcast.) WPEN Radio had a similar program with the same title that originated on air before the Miller broadcast. By the way, Miller’s “Musical Clock” show was almost an exact carbon copy (anyone remember carbon paper?) of the show LeRoy did in Lancaster, except it was called “The Early Bird Club.”
While at KYW, Miller also announced on NBC Radio Network broadcasts that originated from Philadelphia and KYW. Like most morning air personalities, Miller did crazy stuff. He had a recording of what sounded like a group of children crying in unison. Old timers said that it was produced at the station with adult personnel from both on and off air. No one really knows for sure. He called it his “junior choir.”
He played the violin (both on and off air) and had a constant amount of chatter between records. KYW reported back in the late thirties that the program used to attract a fair amount of people stopping by to see the broadcast. Most, according to the station, were adult men who had worked the all-night shift and stopped in for a peek at their favorite program before heading home to hit the sack.
Here’s something interesting. KYW’s Musical Clock program was, for a while, sponsored by RCA Victor. During the time of that contract, only RCA Victor recording artists were played on the broadcast. Later, the show was sponsored for several years in part by Bond Clothes and had no restriction on the selection of music.
Miller was a volunteer fireman for the Philadelphia Steam Fire Engine Company Number One located in Pottstown. That fire fighting organization is one of the oldest in the country.
On March 16, 1940, Miller felt sick but he came to work anyway. He did his broadcast and then was ushered off to Graduate Hospital here in Philadelphia with an attack of appendicitis. He had emergency surgery. Two days later, he was back on the air from his hospital room assisted by KYW Engineer Roy Nuss. An interesting sidebar is that just two weeks before, on March 19th, Fred Wood, host of “The Dawn Patrol” on WIP Radio was struck also with appendicitis.
When Miller started his “Musical Clock” program on KYW, it was an hour broadcast running from 7:30 to 8:30 am. By 1941, it was a two-hour show airing from 7 to 9 am. Preceding Miller’s broadcast in 1941 was “RFD 1060” hosted by John Thorpe. Farm information was very information in those days. Remember, Howard Jones (Happy the Clown) was a farmer and did the agriculture news on WFIL Radio.
Miller loved life. He spent a lot of time (and money) decorating his home for the Christmas holidays. He won first prize in 1940 for the best Christmas home display by the Westgate Hills Civic Association in Manoa. He donated his check to the area’s welfare fund.
LeRoy was married on June 13, 1941 to Anna Alessandroni, daughter of Philadelphia Commons Plea Court Judge Eugene Alessandroni.
LeRoy Miller also hosted an evening program called “The KYW Little Show,” that aired daily from 6:05 to 6:30 pm. Clarence Fuhrman was the show’s musical director. It featured little kids performing. In those days, the air people were kept busy. In 1944, for example, LeRoy Miller made over 300 public appearances (sponsor products are featured).
Morning Man LeRoy Miller
WFIL Radio Official Photo
Miller once said this about his program. “It’s two hours of sheer monotony. It’s the sort of monotony that translates into steady repeat sales such as Bond Clothes, Thom McAn Shoes and Griffin Shoe Polish.” Obviously, it was a pitch to sponsor and possible sponsors. By 1945, Miller had jumped ship and moved over to WFIL Radio as their morning man. In 1951, Miller had been with WFIL Radio for six years. WFIL said to a trade publication that Miller’s program was almost continually sold out. Just one airing of announcement on his WFIL program brought 6,000 requests for coupons good on Hudson Paper Napkins. WFIL called it “wonderful.” Miller’s new contract called for the addition of a lunchtime daily broadcast.
LeRoy Miller died on December 28, 1952 at St. Hospital in Lancaster. He was only 39 years old. He left behind his wife and two children. The couple was married on June 13, 1941. He married Anna Alessandroni, daughter of Philadelphia Commons Plea Court Judge Eugene Alessandroni.
Upon the passing of LeRoy Miller, the show was retitled “Rise and Shine” and was hosted for years by the legendary Phil Sheridan.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Written and researched by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
© 2014, Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
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