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Longtime 'Big Broadcast' Host To Retire

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE BIG BROADCAST")

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

That's a theme many radio listeners here in Washington, D.C., know well. It is "The Big Broadcast" on public radio member station WAMU hosted by Ed Walker, but now the end of an era. Walker is retiring this week following a cancer diagnosis. This closes out a broadcasting career that spans over 60 years.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

For the past quarter-century, Walker's show celebrated the golden age of radio, featuring cereals from the '30s and the '40s like "Dragnet," "Our Miss Brooks" and "Gunsmoke."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: The 83-year-old Walker's show is regularly ranked No. 1 in its time slot, and, as he told NPR in an interview last year, his audience is surprisingly young.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

ED WALKER: I get a lot of requests, believe it or not, from kids. They have television. But I've gotten emails that say, we don't even turn the television on on Sunday night. And they love it because with the good sound effects and everything like that, it is - like, somebody referred to radio as the theater of the mind, which it is.

GREENE: Walker got into radio while attending American University here in Washington, D.C. Back in 1951, he was one of the founding members of the campus station, which became WAMU. For Walker, who was born blind, radio just came naturally.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

WALKER: Radio was everything to me. Not being able to see, the sound on radio was important. Radio took the place of comic books and newspapers and the funnies and all that stuff. So I grew up with it. Like, I'd go to bed maybe after 10 o'clock at night. Bob Hope, I guess, was on at 10 o'clock and some of the others that I would listen to as I went to sleep. It didn't matter. I'd just listen to everything I could get.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE PEPSODENT SHOW STARRING BOB HOPE")

BOB HOPE: (Singing) I thank you so much.

How do you do, ladies and gentlemen? This is the Pepsodent kid, Bob Hope.

MONTAGNE: And from Bob Hope to Bing Crosby to Lauren Bacall and beyond, Walker has spent his career bringing a bygone era back to life and giving listeners a much-needed break from the daily grind.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE BIG BROADCAST")

WALKER: Well, hi, again, everybody. It's time for "The Big Broadcast." It's Sunday night. So if you have any problems that you face in the week to come, don't worry about them. If you have any problems left over from last week, forget them. They're gone and done with, OK? For now we just want to revel in the memories of that wonderful golden age of radio from the '30s, '40s and '50s. So settle back, relax and get ready to enjoy "The Big Broadcast."

GREENE: Ed Walker hosts "The Big Broadcast" one last time this Sunday. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.