For many years Obie Yadgar was the voice of classical music on Milwaukee radio. Great news! Obie returns to the airwaves as he begins a weekly one-hour program this Sunday at 8:00 am on WMSE, 91.7 FM. The title of the show is “Obie’s Opus,” named after one of Obie’s books.
Obie tells me missed being on air, but one of the main reasons he’s elated to be back is his dear wife Judy, who passed away a few months ago, wanted him to return because she enjoyed it and knew how Obie yearned to be in front of a microphone again.
In my life I’ve been blessed to know a countless number of marvelous folks. Obie just might be the nicest gentleman I’ve ever met.
Obie, of course, is best known for being a classical music announcer. Although if you asked Obie what he does for a living, even dating back then, he’d tell you without hesitation, “I’m a writer.”
In the 1980’s when I was hosting the morning drive all-news magazine at WUWM, Obie would follow me at 9:00 and we’d segue into his program with what we called our “chat.” It was an attempt to remain seamless and keep listeners listening by teasing them as Obie and I promoted his show.
That’s the way the management drew it up.
Fine, Obie and I said to that directive. No problem. However…
Before we started this programming twist I went to Obie and said something to the effect that he would come in and tell me all about the music he was going to play between 9:00 and 1:00.
Not so simple.
Obie would pick his opening selection and then go from there, spontaneously choosing each piece as the show progressed. Thus, it didn’t take long for Obie to respond to my question, “What are you going to start with this morning?”
We basically had about two and a half minutes to fill. So we’d chat. Sometimes about the NPR arts/entertainment segment that aired just before what we called our “shtick.” But usually the topic was whatever we happened to come up with, always unscripted, unrehearsed, never planned ahead of time.
I recall when we talked about the movie “Amadeus” and the film’s ending where Mozart’s body in a bag was unceremoniously dumped from a casket into an open grave filled with others on a gloomy, rainy day.
I’ll never forget Obie was audibly and visually upset at how one of his favorite composers was depicted.
“That’s Mozart!” Obie said sorrowfully on air.
Lighter moments came when he’d proclaim he was “Assyrian, emphasis on the ass.”
And Obie and I will never forget that morning when out of the blue, and I don’t recall what prompted Obie, he brought up a dream where he was floating “in a room full of boobs.”
I wasn’t one prone to silence on the radio. That day may have been an exception since my laughter kept me from speaking. Listeners told me they drop dead stopped what they were doing so as not to miss the “shtick.”
No, Obie was not your typical classic announcer. You know the type. “This is Eugene Ormandy with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 in B Flat, Opus 60.” Pause. One-thousand one, one-thousand two, one thousand three. Start record.
Listen to Obie and you’ll hear he just doesn’t do it that way.
According to his beautiful daughter Sonja (Can’t believe she once sat on my lap as a child) Obie’s radio career took him from San Diego, to New York, St. Louis to Milwaukee, to Virginia, Chicago, and back to Milwaukee.
Congratulations, Obie, and good luck. We missed you, dear friend. After a 20 year absence, you’re back where you belong!