Ted Heusel, 1920 - 2007
Born in 1920, Ted Heusel broadcast in Ann Arbor, Michigan for over 56 years. Heusel was a talk show host, News Director, and even an Ann Arbor School Board president. He was most famous for the well-known talk show, originally airing weekdays, then towards the end of his life, Saturdays from 3-5pm on 1600 Khz. Heusel worked at WPAG, WOIA and WAAM, all in the Ann Arbor area.
Theodore Heusel grew up on Dewey Street near Burns Park. He graduated from the old Ann Arbor High School, (which became the Frieze Building) and received a BA in English and History from Eastern Michigan University. Heusel also received an MA in theatre from The University of Michigan. Ted's education was the foundation for a long and illustrious career in the broadcasting industry, and well as a rich history of involvement in community theatre and the school board.
Teddy was the youngest of three boys, and was just twelve when his father died. His mother, Talitha, worked as a secretary in the sports department at The University of Michigan. Before his death, Ted's father worked at the Heusel Bakery on Liberty, founded around 1910 by Ted's German immigrant grandfather.
Ted Heusel spent his whole life as part of the Ann Arbor community. He attended Eberbach Elementary, Tappan Junior High, before attending old Ann Arbor High School. He worked as an usher at the Michigan Theater. Oddly, the man who spent much of his life performing and directing in community theatre never performed in a high school play. After high school, Ted attended Eastern Michigan part time before eventually enrolling in the theatrical graduate program at the U of M.
Ted hits the airwaves
Ted Heusel began his broadcasting career working part time at 1050-AM WPAG while he was in graduate school. He also spent time as a disc jockey on AM 1290 WOIA. In 1956, Ted became what was very likely the first radio-call-in talk show host in the world. Ted was on the air at WOIA and decided to open up the phones and have listeners call to discuss an upcoming area election.
In a 1987 article in the Ann Arbor Observer, Ted described the moment, saying, "I was running records one day and I decided, what the hell, let's start talking."
In addition to creating the radio talk show, and "open-lines" format where callers are not screened before going on the air, Ted Heusel was also the first radio broadcaster in Ann Arbor to give listeners daily police reports from the police station. He was also the first to provide election night radio broadcasts from City Hall, The County Building, and schools during their elections. Another accomplishment of note; Ted provided thousands of needy children with TEDDY bears over the years, thanks to his on-air solicitations during the holiday season.
In a 1995 Ann Arbor News article, the late Steve Filipiak said, "People trust Ted Heusel." Filipiak added, that's what sets Ted apart from talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, and Howard Stern. Filipiak said Heusel is "homespun, and people admire his work whether in the Ann Arbor Civic Theater, or as a radio host. He's a different breed." Steve Filipiak was a long time friend, colleague, and mentor to Ted Heusel.
In 1983, Ted made a change of venue, leaving long-time home, WPAG to join the team at 1600 WAAM. Hard core followers just turned their dials and followed him to the top of the AM dial. Ted had been on WPAG for 16 years, covering every position from morning news to host of the station's "Community Comment" segments in tale morning and early afternoon. At WAAM, Ted served as news director, as well as hosting his own three-hour show and the daily editorial "Heusel Report," five days a week. Ted continued to host his much loved talk show on WAAM up until just a few weeks before his death.
Among the thousands of interviews Ted has done over the years, some that stand out are Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., the B-29 pilot who in August of 1945 flew the famous Enola Gay to Hiroshima. That morning, when the world's first atomic bomb was released, the course of history and the nature of warfare was changed forever. Another very interesting interview for Ted was the day he interviewed the man who was convicted of shooting civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. James Earl Ray was serving a 99-year term for the assassination when he was interviewed by Mr. Heusel. Other famous guests Ted has had on his show over the years include presidential candidate John Anderson, civil rights leader Rosa Parks, several local political figures including former Ann Arbor Mayor Ingrid Sheldon, and current Mayor John Heiftje. Some of the repeat guests Ted's listeners always enjoyed were Author and Historian Grace Shackman, and the ever fascinating Ypsilanti wordsmith, Peter Fletcher.
Ted influences his community
For six years (1968 to 1974), Ted Heusel served his community on the Ann Arbor school board, including one year as president. He helped create Ann Arbor's alternative high schools, including Community High, and Roberto Clemente. Among his many accomplishments, Ted was the first to suggest that Ann Arbor's Huron and Pioneer High Schools play each other for a season-ending clash on the gridiron. The School Board was against it, saying that problems would ensue. Ted persevered and finally got the board to agree with him, allowing the now famous game. A few years ago the AAPS District honored Ted by naming the game after him - The Heusel Bowl.
Theodore "Ted" Heusel passed away about 1:00 am 04/27/2007. He will truly be missed. http://tedheusel.tripod.com