Friday, December 25, 2009

Biography of Radio & TV personality George Michael

George Michael (March 24, 1939 – December 24, 2009)[1] was an American sportscaster best known nationally for The George Michael Sports Machine, his long-running sports highlights television program. Originally named George Michael's Sports Final when it began as a local show in Washington, D.C. in 1980,[2] it was nationally syndicated by NBC from 1984 until its final installment was aired on March 25, 2007. Michael won a Sports Emmy in 1985 for his work on The George Michael Sports Machine.

Early life and career

Michael was born George Michael Gimpel in St. Louis, Missouri on March 24, 1939.[3] While attending Saint Louis University, he worked as a Midwest promoter for several record labels such as Scepter and Motown. After brief stints at WIL-AM in his hometown and WRIT-AM in Milwaukee, he became a disc jockey at KICN-AM (call sign changed to KBTR in 1964) in Denver in 1961, working under the name "King" George Michael for the first time. He earned the nickname due to his success at "ruling" evening radio.[4][5]

He moved to Philadelphia in September 1966 as one of the original "Boss Jocks" at WFIL-AM, which had just changed its format to Top 40 rock and roll. He served as music director and evening deejay, working the 6-to-10 pm shift. WFIL, which was popularly known as "Famous 56" after the transition, ended WIBG-AM's listener ratings dominance and became the city's most popular radio station by the summer of 1967.[5]

Michael, noted for his energetic style, was hired by WABC-AM in New York City in August 1974.[6] This was a daunting challenge not only because he was entering the nation's largest media market, but he also had to succeed radio legend "Cousin Brucie" Morrow, who had jumped to direct competitor WNBC-AM.[7] Several incidents from Michael's radio stint there have been chronicled in Morrow's autobiography.[8] Even though he was reunited with Dan Ingram and Ron Lundy, colleagues from his WIL days in St. Louis, Michael's time at WABC, which ended in 1979, was mostly frustrating because he was no longer a music director who had any influence on a playlist which was much shorter than the ones with which he was more familiar.[6]

His first experience in sports broadcasting also came in 1974 when he was a television announcer for the Baltimore Orioles on WJZ.[6] He declined an offer to work for the ballclub full-time in order to accept the WABC position.[5] As part of the deal to bring him to New York, Michael also worked for WABC-TV as the weekend sports anchor and a color commentator on New York Islanders telecasts for several seasons, paired mainly with Tim Ryan.[6] He served as an occasional substitute on ABC Contemporary Radio Network's Speaking of Sports show whenever Howard Cosell, the primary commentator, was on vacation or assignment.[3]
[edit] Television career

As the primary sports anchor at WRC-TV (News 4) from 1980 to 2007, Michael was easily one of the most popular media personalities in the Washington, D.C. area. Michael got significant latitude in his programming, employing a bevy of segments some might consider old-fashioned, including his "Tuesday Replays" and "Wednesday Wrestling." He also had devoted extensive coverage to and was considered a significant influence in the popularity of NASCAR, broadcasting interviews with famous drivers such as Dale Earnhardt well before that sport became what it is today. An avid equestrian himself, Michael also broadcast segments on bull riding and rodeo.

Michael's affable personality landed rare interviews with many aloof local and national sports personalities. For example, Michael's team at WRC had been the only local sportscasters allowed to broadcast from inside the Washington Redskins' FedEx Field during the season.

In November 2005, Michael was seriously injured in a horseback riding accident. He broke several ribs and injured his wrists during the mishap at his Comus farm in upper Montgomery County, Maryland. Michael resumed his duties in December 2005.
[edit] Later career

Michael left his role as WRC's daily sports anchor on March 1, 2007 following a dispute with WRC-TV (News 4) over layoffs of his staff. The George Michael Sports Machine went off the air on March 25, 2007.[9][10] He continued to host weekend sports panel shows, such as Full Court Press (basketball season) and Redskins Report (football season) as well as interviews at Redskins Park on Mondays with Jim Zorn and Joe Bugel through December 2008. He was completely dropped from WRC due to budget cuts despite the fact Redskins Report was consistently one of WRC's top shows. He indicated at the time of his layoff, he would like to work on a panel show again but not on a nightly newscast.[11]
[edit] Death

Michael died at age 70 at Sibley Memorial Hospital on December 24, 2009 after being diagnosed with B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia for two years.[3][12]. He is survived by his wife Pat, whom he married in 1978 and who produced the Sports Machine, along with daugthers Michelle and Cindi, son Brad, sister Jane, and brother Earl.


1. ^ "Washington sportscaster George Michael has died". The Washington Post. 24 December 2009. Retrieved 24 December 2009.
2. ^ George Michael official biography at WRC-TV
3. ^ a b c Bernstein, Adam. "George Michael, famed D.C. sportscaster, dies," The Washington Post, Thursday, December 24, 2009.
4. ^ Denver's KTBR/71: "Home of the All Americans" – Denver Radio Memories.
5. ^ a b c George Michael (profile) – Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia.
6. ^ a b c d "Hiring George Michael For WABC" –
7. ^ "The Cousin Bruce Morrow 'Party Tape'" –
8. ^ Morrow, Bruce & Baudo, Laura. Cousin Brucie: My Life in Rock 'N' Roll Radio. Sag Harbor, NY: Beech Tree Books, 1987. (ISBN 0-688-06615-1)
9. ^ John Maynard (2006-11-17). "George Michael to drop anchor chores, continue weekend sports panel shows". The Washington Post.
10. ^ Leonard Shapiro (2006-11-21). "Saying goodbye to George Michael". The Washington Post.
11. ^ Shapiro, Leonard. "Loss of Michael Is a Truly Deep Cut," The Washington Post, Monday, December 29, 2008.
12. ^


Bill's Comment: George Michael was one of the Philly Boss Jocks on "Famous 56", WFIL, in Philadelphia, from approximately 1966 to 1974. One of the last songs he played at the station was "When Will I see You Again" by Three Degrees. Heaven is waiting for you, George. WE will catch up with you, then. R.I.P.

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