Ed Walker got bitten by the radio bug before he could walk or talk. The National Radio Hall of Famer and host of WAMU's "The Big Broadcast" would ring a toy cowbell along with the real cowbells on a radio show called The National Barn Dance.
"My mother says that she wrote in my baby book that the first sentence I ever used was 'turn the radio on,'" Walker said during an interview as part of the StoryCorps project, which is recording in Arlington, Va. this month.
Walker spoke with WAMU's Hot Jazz Saturday Night host Rob Bamberger Sept. 24 as part of StoryCorps' visit to the D.C. area. The Big Broadcast is a vintage radio program that plays clips of classic radio shows from radio's golden era in the 20th century.
Walker, who was born blind, says he was immediately drawn to audio storytelling.
"Most kids get a kick out of comic books, or funny papers," he said. "To me, radio is it … The sound effects were, to me, most important. I absorbed them very well because I was listening so intently."
The deal was sealed when his parents got him a miniature radio station. The 8-year-old Walker began fiddling with it, and realized that he could broadcast music throughout his neighborhood using the machine's phonograph and an attached transmitter.
"I thought, 'hey, this is great man,'" Walker said. "I was 8 years old, and I said, 'someday, I want to be on the air.'"
This interview was recorded in Arlington, Va. at StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of our lives. To find out more information and to reserve a timeslot to tell your own story at the StoryCorps MobileBooth, visit StoryCorps.org.
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