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Rick Sklar
Born c. 1930
Died 1992-06-22
Roosevelt Hospital, Manhattan
Cause of death medical error [1]
Residence New York City
Occupation radio programmer and consultant

Rick Sklar (born c. 1930, died June 22, 1992) was an American radio program director, who while at New York City's WABC was one of the originators of the Top 40 radio format.

Sklar grew up in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. He graduated from New York University and volunteered at WNYC radio as a writer. He then worked at WPAC in Patchogue, New York, and in 1954 moved to WINS where he was assistant program director. In 1960, Sklar became program director at crosstown competitor WMGM.[2]

He moved to WABC in 1962 and became program director there in 1963. Under his management, WABC became the model for tight-playlist, teenager-targeted Top 40 programming, with a strong signal and famed disc jockeys such as "Cousin Brucie" Bruce Morrow, Dan Ingram, and Ron Lundy. His relationship with the DJs he programmed for was contentious at times. Scott Muni departed from WABC after Sklar refused to remove Louis Armstrong's version of "Hello, Dolly" from the playlist. In 1968, Sklar decreed that only current music be played. DJs reacted by relabling the record library making everything current. Classics like "Earth Angel" and "Duke of Earl" were played frequently and Sklar backed off.[3]

In March 1977, Sklar was promoted to vice president of programming for ABC’s radio division. In 1984 he left ABC to start his own consulting firm, Sklar Communications. His autobiography, Rocking America: An Insider's Story: How the All-Hit Radio Stations Took Over America (ISBN 978-0312687977), was published by St. Martin's Press the same year.

In an interview recorded in 1982, when WABC switched from music to talk programming, Sklar said:

Everything has to end, that's life, WABC is … like anything else it's part of life, couldn't go on forever. But … it was a wonderful thing … it was a one-of-a-kind … I don't think there'll ever be another station quite like that. I mean, the scope of the thing was so huge, was so grand; everything that was done was on such a massive scale. We gave out buttons, we gave out 14 million with the WABC call letters and if we spot you we'll give you $25,000. You know, this stuff is … it's just not done today.… We'll miss it.

Radio will go on and on forever. Radio's the most adaptable medium there is, and … the old WABC's place in radio will be remembered by everyone who ever heard it, who ever grew up with it, it'll be part of millions and millions—tens of millions of people's lives, and certainly the lives of everyone in the radio business. Now we just have to go on to new things, and I think we will.[4]

Sklar continued to write articles and books as well as visiting various colleges discussing the business of radio in general. He was also an adjunct professor at St. John's University.[5] In June, 1992, he entered the hospital for a minor foot operation. Although in good health, he died on the operating table due to a lack of oxygen and other mistakes made by the hospital staff.[1]

Rick Sklar was posthumously inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame the following year.


  1. ^ a b "Hospital Fined in Radio Executive's Death". New York Times. 1993-10-08. Retrieved 2008-01-19.  
  2. ^ "Rick Sklar". Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved 2008-01-19.  
  3. ^ Fisher, Marc. Something in the Air. Random House. p. 198. ISBN 978-0-375-50907-0.  
  4. ^ From "WABC: Julian Breen, Rick Sklar", on Jonathan Wolfert, The First 20 Years (Dallas: JAM Productions, 1994) (promotional compact disc).
  5. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang (1992-06-24). "Rick Sklar, 62, A Dominant Force Behind Rock Radio". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-19.  

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