Forty-two years ago, I first had the honor and privilege of becoming a talk-radio host.
I was preceded in this realm by a colleague and cherished friend who is a linguistic genius.
Barry Farber reads and speaks Chinese, Italian, Spanish, French, Norwegian, Russian and Serbo-Croatian, among the 25 languages in which he is fluent.
But millions of us continue to be intrigued by that Southern-fried English with which he has so pointedly charmed the airwaves for one-half of a century.
He was raised in Greensboro, N.C., but he was born in Baltimore, where I am honored to broadcast each night – and tonight, Oct. 5, to pay honor to this extraordinary colleague who celebrates a half-century in New York.
In 1960, he began as a talk-show host on WINS in New York. His program was titled “Barry Farber’s Open Mic.” That was the only talk-radio show on a station that was otherwise devoted to that on-air pseudo-musical horror called rock ‘n’ roll.
Two years later, he joined WOR, a station on which I broadcast years later.
In 1970, this enormously colorful and eloquent man ran for Congress – but was defeated by that extremist legend Bella Abzug.
Seven years later, he ran again – this time for mayor of New York – and lost again. But it was with such flourish that makes even a loss victorious, with huge enjoyment of the candidate as he enthralled the Big Apple.
While losing elections, he has never lost the respect and admiration of radio listeners and broadcasting colleagues.
His preparation for this on-air career included stints as the producer of the famed “Tex and Jinx Show” and later for William Safire.
In 1990, his show was nationally syndicated on ABC Radio, and he is now on CRN Digital Talk Radio on week nights, with a weekend show on Talk Radio Network.
He has been an adjunct professor of journalism at St. John’s University and was named Talk-Show Host of the Year in 1991 by the National Association of Radio Talk Show Hosts. In 2002, Talkers magazine ranked him as the ninth-greatest talk-show host of all time.
Barry is one of the very few of us with a distinct Southern drawl on air. That soothing verbal quality is mixed, mesmerizingly, with a mindful verbosity that is as sharp as the proverbial steel trap.
His book, “How to Learn Any Language,” never specifies all of the 25 languages that his publicity materials say he’s studied. He says in the book that when he was inducted into the U.S. Army in 1952, he was “tested and qualified for work in 14 different languages,” and has since learned more.
His uniquely appealing method in doing commercials makes any product he endorses at the very least appealing, if not, tantalizing.
Sean Hannity, my friend on WCBM Baltimore, said in a Talkers magazine interview:
“I still stay in contact with Barry Farber. Every time I see him, I couldn’t be happier to run into one of the great pioneers in our industry.”