VETERAN DJ ED MCKENZIE QUITS ON WXYZ . . . MARCH 16, 1959 – Motor City Radio Flashbacks

Motor City Radio Flashbacks

Memories From the Soundtrack of Your Life


January 30th, 2013

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From the MCRFB NEWS archive: 1959






Capitol jazz artist Nat King Cole with Detroit radio personality Ed McKenzie on WXYZ radio, earlier in 1954. (Click image for larger view).

Capitol jazz artist Nat King Cole with Detroit radio personality Ed McKenzie on WXYZ radio, earlier in 1954. (Click image for larger view)

DETROIT — Veteran deejay Ed McKenzie resigned from station WXYZ here last week in protest of the station’s “formula radio” programming policy.

Rallying to his side was his long-time competitor and another Detroit veteran spinner, Robin Seymour, of WKMH, who came out strongly last week for McKenzie and against “formula radio.” Seymour stated that, “It’s a crime and a shame when one of the true deejays – one of the men who made the jockey a major factor in broadcasting – has to bow to the dictates of a program director.”

Although Seymour and McKenzie – two of Detroit’s key deejays – have vied for audience ratings for the past eleven years (they occupied the same afternoon time slot) Seymour said they remained friends – their friendship dating back to the time McKenzie gave Seymour his first radio job at WJBK here.

Seymour had asked McKenzie to appear on his WKMH show to discuss the whole formula radio situation and his reasons for leaving WXYZ. Seymour said they will explore the jockey’s need for freedom of programming and will discuss further on whether the advent of “formula radio” has anything to do with the fact that no new name deejay (other than Dick Clark) has come up from the ranks in recent years.

WKMH deejay Robin Seymour

WKMH deejay Robin Seymour

Seymour said his station, WKMH, is now the only major Detroit station operating on a non-formula programming policy. The outlet did adopt a non-rock and roll format last year, but Seymour said the management dropped the policy last January, and put record programming back in the deejay’s hands. As a result, the jock said WKMH’s ratings are already showing a small rating climb – the first rating increase for the station in some time.

The WXYZ “formula” (featuring the Top 40 singles was adopted by the station about a years ago, and WXYZ vice-president in charge of radio, Hal Neal, opined “Our interpretation of radio is that it is a step moving forward.”

WXYZ's Ed McKenzie interviews jazz great Anita O'Day on his WXYZ radio show in the mid-1950s

WXYZ’s Ed McKenzie interviews jazz great Anita O’Day on his WXYZ radio show sometime in the mid-1950s (click image for larger view)

McKenzie on the other hand expressed his opinion that this “formula” did not jibe with his interpretation of radio as “being intimate and friendly.” He stated that his ratings were dropping since the “formula” policy had gone into effect and that he would sooner “dig ditches or sell hot dogs” than go back to formula radio “because I can’t do something I don’t believe in.”

The radio station disagreed with use of McKenzie’s bird calls on the air and his “on the air” comments on office typing and the programming. The station also found themselves in disagreement with McKenzie about their new policy to boost the station on his programs, which the jockey termed “unnecessary.”

McKenzie’s 3 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. spot is being taken over by Mickey Shorr, who will have another replacement for his own Night Train program. Reportedly making between $60,000 and $80,000 a year in his 29th year with radio, McKenzie was Jack The Bellboy at WJBK before he changed to WXYZ radio in 1952. END


(Information and news source: Billboard; March 16, 1959)

WXYZ's Ed McKenzie with his friend, WKMH's Robin Seymour in the late 1950s.

WXYZ’s Ed McKenzie with his friend, WKMH’s Robin Seymour in the late 1950s.



  • Frank Charles Dodson says on: September 13, 2015 at 7:58 PM


    Ed McKenzie of course is long passed away, but what a marvelous Radio, and Televison personality he was for WXYZ-TV at the old Maccabees Building in Detroit, Michigan. How well I recall his ‘Saturday Dance Party’ where he presented everyone from ‘The Four Preps, Roy Hamilton, Della Reese, Lavern Baker, and yours truly in my very first televison commercial, ED invited me onto his Television show to participate in a Verner’s Ginger Ale Commercial as a taster, ‘On Air’. I was 11 years old. He was Pre Dick Clark and he helped to shape and form popular music broadcasting in Detroit in such a way that it set a nationwide pattern for simular Radio/television shows, he and Soupy Sales were instrumental in elevating African American artists to prominence long before it became fashionable to do so. A very unselfish man of the mass media.

    Frank Charles Dodson,
    Author of ‘Wednesday’s Child’,
    Xlibris Publishers.

  • marian george says on: May 15, 2016 at 3:55 PM


    I remember as a little girl seeing my father on the Ed McKenzie show. Their group were known as the Sheiks. I have been trying to get a tape of that show can you help me. sincerely yours, Marian

  • Archie Bailey says on: September 13, 2016 at 4:53 PM


    Ed McKenzie retired to his hometown of Flushing, Michigan where he was born and went to school. I was a councilman and later mayor. I met him at a public meeting and recognized him immediately. I grew up in Highland Park in the 1950’s. I tried to never miss one of his shows.
    Ed was truly a gifted and spectacular fellow. One of the most creative people I have ever known. He had it all…brains and talent and a monumental personality.
    He spent his final years creating videos of his beloved home town. They are brilliant documents and are located in the archives of the Flint Public Library.

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Motor City Radio Flashbacks

Memories From the Soundtrack of Your Life