Long John Wade, 66, 1960s 'boss jock'

Posted: May 23, 2006

Long John Wade (Carl Wehde), 66, a radio "boss jock" at WFIL-AM in Philadelphia during the rock-and-roll explosion in the 1960s and the only disc jockey to accompany the Beatles on their first U.S. tour, died of heart failure May 15 at his retirement home on Cape Cod.

When the Beatles traveled to New York in 1964 to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show, Mr. Wade, who was working at nearby WDRC-AM in Hartford, Conn., snagged an interview with them and was invited to join the tour. For 35 days, 26 cities and 15,000 miles, Mr. Wade accompanied the Beatles on their ground-breaking tour.

Mr. Wade did live reports by phone with his brother, Don Wade, on WDRC-AM, which were sold to other stations across the country.

Mr. Wade developed a friendship with each of the Beatles. The temperamental John Lennon once punched Mr. Wade for asking what he said was an impertinent question, Mr. Wade's brother said.

They remained close. "Lennon invited Long John to join him and Yoko Ono for their infamous bed-in at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal in May 1969," his brother said.

Paul McCartney sketched a caricature of Mr. Wade with the nickname "The Fixer" on it.

"He was the fifth Beatle," said Larry Kane, the only radio newsman on the 1964 tour. "He really knew how to work them."

Mr. Wade was a radioholic from his childhood in New York. He ran the station at his prep school, New Hampshire School for Boys. After graduating in 1958, he worked for a series of radio stations while attending Boston University.

His first full-time job came in 1961, at WSPR-AM in Springfield, Mass., before joining his brother at WDRC.

In 1964, Mr. Wade married Rosemary Ward. The couple had twin daughters before divorcing in 1969.

He came to Philadelphia in 1966 to join WFIL.

He lived first in Upper Darby, then in Roxborough. He left WFIL in 1970 to start the American Academy of Broadcasting. The school, at Sixth and Chestnut Streets, closed in 1979. He worked at several stations while running the school.

"Long John was controversial and conversational. He knew what was important to young people during the time of Vietnam and racial unrest," Kane said. Mr. Wade would talk about those subjects on the air. "He was Howard Stern before Howard Stern. He traveled to the edge."

In 1979, Mr. Wade was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and gave up the school and broadcasting. Mr. Wade received treatment for his bipolar condition in a number of hospitals in California and Florida. He tried to study film in California, "but he went into mania again," his brother said.

"He was institutionalized several times," his brother said.

He settled in Cape Cod in 1993. In 1995, he had the first of a series of strokes that affected his speech.

In addition to his brother, Mr. Wade is survived by daughters Jennifer Luney and Stephanie Bass; four grandchildren; and another brother, Thomas Wehde.

A memorial service is being planned.

Contact staff writer Gayle Ronan Sims at 215-854-4185 or gsims@phillynews.com.

ONLINE EXTRA

Listen to the voice of Long John Wade via http://go.philly.com/longjohnwade

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