|Birth: ||Dec. 2, 1948|
|Death: ||Sep. 15, 2007|
With a distinctive voice heard on the air for decades, Guy Randall Ackley was many things to many people. Most of us from Allentown, Pennsylvania remember him for his DJ years at WAEB AM ("seventy-nine-oh") radio station where he was one of "The Good Guys" along with Jeff Frank, Gene Werley, and "Tiger" Joe McClain among others. In that capacity, along with spinning the hits, he played on the "Good Guys" charity basketball and softball teams. In later years, a wider audience knew his singular voice through the ads broadcast in eastern Pennsylvania wherein he slowly boomed "UN... CLAIMED... FREIGHT!" syllable by syllable.
When I type bios of friends and family who have passed on, I try to keep in mind how the story might seem to a reader of the future. Future readers of this memorial will not know why anyone listened to AM radio, so I want to give some background. As I type this, satellite radio listnership is rising, and among "traditional" radio, FM is preferred. But in the 1970's and earlier, AM was the band of choice, and where the action was. AM broadcast quality was excellent and clear and the stations strong, so it was better to liten to than FM.
AM radio then was not like today. There was no "monkey chatter" bleeding through from other stations. It was crisp and clean and suffered little interference from appliances and office equipment, fluorescent lights and so forth. As the years went by though, and offices became more gadgety, all these contributed to the loss of AM sound quality.
AM broadcast stations themselves contributed to the problem as their equipment and infrastructure, transmitters and towers aged with little or no replacement. While FM radio stations use a relatively small antenna (often attached to a tall tower, to better transmit) an AM radio station's antenna is much more complex, consisting of the tower itself as well as a "ground system" of commonly 120 to 180 copper cables which are usually as long as the tower is tall and stretched out in a circle just below ground. As stations aged, it meant big bucks to replace the towers as well as other infrastructure and not every station had the money. Many AM stations were sold at auction, or desperately tinkered with their formats in an effort to preserve listeners. In broadcast circles, the concept of stereo coming to AM stations (which had been mono) was debated to death, station owners' decisions frozen by the varying AM stereo choices and unsure which to go with. The FCC was no help, in 1982 saying "let the marketplace decide" and revoking the Magnavox certification as the AM stereo standard. It was all too confusing. Radio manufacturers began putting out radios that concentrated on creating good FM reception, while not taking the same pains for AM reception.
Ugh, that humming and crackling! A survey done by the National Association of Broadcasters in the mid-80's of 1,000 radio listeners showed that about 60 percent of people heard static or interference on the AM band, and when they heard it, 61 percent tuned to another station and 37 percent turned the radio off. By around the mid-1980's, about 70% of all radio listeners were tuning into FM. Besides AM static, Top 40 was getting old, and AOR (album oriented rock) became the format that drew the listeners. Those former AM Top 40 listeners were a desirable demographic, and AOR made sense. The now-adult Baby Boomers from the World War II marriages had grown up on music, and now were ready to fully appreciate good artists, and hear all their work, not just this week's hits, and hear it clearly. What's more, the Boomers were now old enough to spend money and draw advertisers' interest. A new broadcast era was dawning and FM, with its AOR programming, clear reception and stereo capability led the way. Yet none of FM's rise could have happened without the creation and nurturing of the Boomer listeners, and they were raised on Top 40 AM.
And AM Top 40 was what the 1970's were all about. Guy Randall Ackley's DJ career was part of a local golden AM era, as WAEB was the first station in the area to use the "Top 40" format. During the 1960's and early 1970's, 'AEB was the Valley's most popular station. Guy was one of my favorite DJ's back then, where he not only played the best pop music of the time, but was a creative force, studding his program with skits, stories and satire, making him a clean but early shock jock. He answered his phones while working, talked with people (between tracks) without any phony "radio personality" wall, and became a friend to many of his listeners. I was one of those lucky people even though I was a kid. From time to time I'd check in with him when he was on the air, just to say hello and see how life was treating him, and he always made time to catch up. Moreso, I owe him thanks for seeing me through a stupid episode of teenage angst with sound advice. When he took classes at Muhlenberg College (he was class of 1974), one of his instructors was my godfather who always hosted a term-end picnic for his students. I was invited too, so I finally got to meet Guy Randall Ackley and say "thank you" in person. Easy on the eyes, he was a fine person, inside and out.
There's probably a million stories out there like mine about Guy, literally a good guy, because he was simply a fine human being who had heart enough for everyone. He'll be remembered for his deep, commanding yet friendly voice, and as a good son, husband, dad and grandpa. He came from a good family too. In her younger years, my mom was a friend of his dad, "Sam", S. Robert Ackley, whom she recalls as a lot of fun, and her best jitterbugging partner ever. Guy credited his dad (who owned as many as 13 radio stations) with teaching him the value of using radio to contribute to his local area.
Active in the community, when Guy went into advertising, he had his business on 7th street in downtown Allentown, choosing a well-built vintage building for his office. It took a lot of work to get it in shape, but he noted at the time that his family had been in the area since the 1800's and had helped build such sturdy buildings. Indeed, his grandfather Samuel Robert Ackley was a plasterer. In May of 1991, the Allentown Downtown Improvement District Authority awarded Ackley the William Allen Cup for Architectural Awareness for demonstrating a commitment to center city's renaissance through restoring his company's building at 48 N. 7th St. Typical of Guy, he credited the previous owner Howard Urban for starting the project.
Guy also served on the Vacant Property Review Committee in Allentown, and on the board of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, as well as volunteering time with other charities for children. Additionally, he supported the Penn State Skull House, Phi Kappa Sigma, Psi chapter.
Guy left us all way too soon, especially his family. His story speaks for itself below from the local paper and television station.
Area biker recalled as radio legend
Ex-DJ Guy Ackley, 58, died Saturday in crash near Schnecksville
Whenever things ran slow on his "Outraged Citizens" show, radio personality Guy Ackley would ask his friend Rich Boandl to create a character and call in.
"He could take a couple of things I'd say and he'd run with it," Boandl recalled. "He'd make 10 or 15 minutes out of it. He was very clever."
Ackley, 58, was killed Saturday when his motorcycle crashed in Lowhill Township. A longtime motorcycle enthusiast, Ackley was riding east on Millcreek Road about 4:55 p.m. when he collided with a westbound sport utility vehicle driven by a 17-year-old Schnecksville girl.
He died at the scene, state police said.
Boandl recalled Ackley as someone who frequently managed to wring fun out of hard work.
"He would do stuff that none of the other disc jockeys would do, I know that," said Boandl, noting that Ackley once flushed a toilet on the air as a gag. [Personal note - I think I have this on tape somwhere, and if memory serves, he was making fun of a joke he'd just made that did not go over well, saying he knew where that joke belonged.]
Considered by many a local radio legend, Ackley hosted a program on radio station WAEB-AM during the '70s, enjoying a brief resurgence in the 1990's. He was one of several rock 'n' roll era DJ's who in 1999 appeared on a "Radio Legends Weekend" organized by a local oldies station. "If you wanted to compare it (his show) to anything you'd compare it to Howard Stern," said Dave Moser, a friend who had known him since high school. "It wasn't risque like Howard Stern. It was satire and humor."
Ackley later took over Ackley Advertising, a business owned by his father Robert, a one-time WAEB general manager who was also vice president, general manager and part owner of Rust Communications, a radio company consisting of 13 AM and FM stations throughout Pennsylvania, New York, New Hampshire and Virginia.
Ackley, who once operated his advertising company at Seventh and Linden Streets in Allentown, last year built a home in Lowhill Township, locating his business downstairs and his residence upstairs, said his daughter, Kate Kitz of Allentown said.
Throughout his endeavors, Ackley showed a deep and unusual caring for others, friends and family said.
Kitz recalled that her father would often give money to homeless people and hire them for odd jobs. "We didn't like that," she recalled. "We would tell him it was a little unsafe."
Moser and his wife, Kathy, said that when their daughter had a threatening confrontation with her landlord several years ago, Ackley came to her rescue. She was living in Allentown at the time, they recalled, and they couldn't themselves intercede themselves right away because of their Weisenberg Township address. They asked Ackley for help because he, too, lived in Allentown at the time.
"You call Guy, he drops everything," Kathy Moser said.
Boandl recalled how Ackley, when he worked at Seventh and Linden, would respond to people asking him for money whenever he would visit a nearby convenience store for coffee.
"They'd say 'Give me $5', he'd give them $20!" Boandl recalled. He recalled Ackley would explain his generosity by saying, "If you give them $20 and they want five then they won't have to come back and ask me for three more fives."
Video links [open in new window]
Local TV station WFMZ remembers Guy Ackley
"Kruise 4 Kids" Established to Honor Guy Ackley
"Kruise 4 Kids" Hands Over Proceeds to Four Charities
YouTube: Enjoy a biker's eye view of the beautiful 2008 "Kruise for Kids" honoring Guy and raising funds for Camelot House for Children, The Miracle League of the Lehigh, Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Lehigh Valley, and Patriot Guard Riders of Pennsylvania, netting over $20,000.
Guy R. Ackley, 58, of Allentown, died suddenly on Saturday. He was the husband of Fran Ward Ackley for the past 36 years. He was the owner of Ackley Advertising. Born in Allentown, he was a son of Dorothea K. (O'Neil) Ackley and the late S. Robert Ackley.
Survivors: Wife; parents; daughters, Brooke Ackley Linkow and her husband, Benjamin, Kate Ackley Kitz and her husband, Matthew and Rory Ackley; grandson, Brady Patrick Kitz.
Services: memorial, 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Bachman, Kulik & Reinsmith Funeral Home, 17th and Hamilton streets, Allentown. No calling hours.
Contributions: Alzheimers Association, 617-A Main St., Hellertown, PA 18055.
S. Robert Ackley (1923 - 1991)
Dorothea K. O'Neal Ackley (1927 - 2010)
Created by: sr/ks
Record added: Mar 12, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 34728518