Born in San Francisco, Pete Myers (aka “The Mad Daddy”) was the wildest Disc Jockey from America’s golden age of Rock & Roll radio – a cat who drove around in a pink Pontiac wearing a Dracula cape and ‘Batty Bucks’ (bat-winged sneakers).
The greatest scientist of the 20th Century, Albert Einstein, was estimated to have had an IQ of 160 – that’s officially ‘Genius’ on the measuring scale of human intelligence. Pete Myers boasted an IQ of 172, ranking him higher than Einstein, in the ‘High Genius’ category.
The difference though, is that Einstein used his flabbergasting grey matter to quantify the theory of relativity while the mentally superior Myers spent his intellect inventing hepcat teenspeak like “zoomeratin'”, “atom-smashin'”, “wavy gravy” and “mello jello”.
Myers was first and foremost a failed thespian (studying at one time at RADA in London), though whatever acting ability he possessed definitely aided him as a broadcaster.
During a stint in the US Army, he convinced the North Korean enemy that they were about to be attacked by a giant sea monster with a frighteningly convincing ‘Mayday!’ transmission.
It was prankster tendencies like these which were to serve him well when making the transition to commercial radio upon his discharge from the forces.
After first working for WCBQ in San Diego, his ghoulishly brilliant ‘Mad Daddy’ first appeared on Cleveland’s WHK in 1958.
Working without a script, Myers’ cackling, express-paced banter between hot waxings from the likes of Link Wray and Howlin’ Wolf was like listening to verbal diarrhoea being spun into poetic gold.
These ingenious, effects-drenched rhymes (“roopity doopity skippity flop!”), skits about “winky blinky juice”, screwball dedications (“howdy doody little stinkers!”) and bizarre advertisements for his show’s sponsors were all completely improvised.
Sadly, Myers’ talents were hindered by a professional restlessness and the constant nagging of bigger, frustrated ambitions.
An attempt to break into television – presenting a late-night horror show – failed; his insistence on being filmed upside down like a bat hanging from the ceiling proved just too weird for audiences to stomach.
Worse, when he broke his radio contract by signing a deal with a rival station, the Mad Daddy was served with an injunction banning him from the airwaves for three months.
Desperate to stay in the public eye, he retaliated by parachuting into a lake dressed as Zorro . . .
Such derring-do ensured he remained a legend in Cleveland, but when Myers moved to the Big Apple, his career took a nosedive.
Myers moved to WHK’s sister station WNEW in New York, where he worked from 1959 to 1963.
But WNEW was not a rock ‘n’ roll station. The station played popular standards and featured hosts like William B Williams, who hated rock ‘n’ roll.
WNEW didn’t want Mad Daddy, rock ‘n’ roll Pied Piper. It wanted Pete Myers, radio announcer. Myers knew this.
But somehow, he persuaded management to let him do Mad Daddy in the evening slot, 8 to midnight. It will bring you a whole new audience, he argued.
Mad Daddy debuted on 4 July, and the response was immediate. The station received hundreds of calls, with letters to follow, asking who had lost his mind. Come 5 July, Mad Daddy was gone, and in his place between 8 and midnight was Pete Myers, radio announcer.
Frustrated but helpless, he spent the next four years introducing Sinatra records before moving to rock ‘n’ roll station WINS.
Myers revved up Mad Daddy, and some of the spark returned. But things weren’t the same. Rock ‘n’ roll radio had mellowed or at least changed.
While he could still slip in LaVern Baker songs, and he liked this new band called The Beatles, he could no longer segue from Howlin’ Wolf to Link Wray. He had to play Herman’s Hermits and Lesley Gore, who weren’t exactly wavy gravy.
Despite a brief run in syndication, he was increasingly seen as a novelty act, and in April 1965 – when WINS dropped rock ‘n’ roll for news – Myers hung up his cape for good.
He returned to WNEW-AM as “Lovable, laughable Pete Myers”, playing pop music for three hours every afternoon for workplace listeners.
The station moved him to evenings in October 1968, but the turf Mad Daddy once ruled now was a step out to pasture.
On Friday 4 October 1968 – his first scheduled night on his new shift – he put on a nice outfit and then took an antique 12-gauge shotgun into his Upper East Side bathroom and turned the barrel upon himself. The last maniac on commercial rock ‘n’ roll radio was gone. He was 40 years old.