WHAV Announcer Phil Christie, Early Rock and Roll DJ, Dies at 87

Phil Christie during the dedication of the Edwin V. Johnson Newsroom at WHAV in 2009.

The voice of Phil Christie, heard several times an hour on WHAV, is silent. The early rock and roll era-broadcaster, whose career began and ended at WHAV, died last Tuesday at age 87.

During his nearly 70-year broadcasting career, Christie was heard on some of the most popular radio stations in Boston and New York.

He was born Feb. 25, 1928 in Brockton, the son of Greek immigrant parents, Gregory and Areti “Rita” Christie. The family moved to Andover during the 1930s.

While Phil was a student at Phillips Academy Andover in the mid-1940s, he found himself mesmerized by radio. He listened to the old WLAW when it was owned by the Hildreth and Rogers Company, publisher of the Eagle-Tribune newspaper. Christie was particularly inspired by the voice of the 1926 Amateur Boxing Middleweight Champion Arthur Flynn, who was heard on WLAW and would later join WHAV. He met Flynn casually since Flynn dated his next door neighbor. He discussed his inspiration on WHAV in 2007.

A youthful Phil Christie serves as disc “jockey“ for WHAV’s “All Request Dancing Party.“ To help explain the term, WHAV dressed Christie in a jockey costume and used a horse race theme in advertising.

A youthful Phil Christie serves as disc “jockey“ for WHAV’s “All Request Dancing Party.“ To help explain the term, WHAV dressed Christie in a jockey costume and used a horse race theme in advertising.

While still in high school, Christie made himself a fixture at local stations, including newly constructed WCCM and WHAV. He was permitted to give station breaks while a visitor at WCCM, but his first paid gig came when he won the ear of WHAV Station Manager Lew Sargent. Sargent hired Christie to spin records during the “All Request Dancing Party,” Saturday nights.

He graduated from Punchard High School in 1947, but was torn between whether to pursue a career in academia or radio. He decided to attend Boston’s Emerson’s College—well known for turning out successful broadcasters. He then attended Columbia University where he enrolled in the “NBC School of Announcing” at Rockefeller Center. Christie took classes in NBC’s legendary Studio 8H.

Phil’s big break came in 1949 when he went to work for WHDH in Boston. There, he worked with radio’s then-top comedy duo, Bob & Ray. Talented announcers were in big demand and many moved from station to station as the DJ ruled supreme. He was called into service at WBZ in 1951 and would serve several stints at the powerhouse station, including as the original host of “Program PM.” The show aired between 6 and 8 p.m. with fans from as far away as Guantanamo, Cubam and Australia. This was the heyday of Boston radio personalities and Christie was right up there at WBZ with Carl Desuze, Norm Prescott and John Bassett.

One of Hogan’s Heroes

With the DJ now reining supreme in the nation’s biggest cities, smaller cities like Bridgeport, Conn., and Worcester sought the prestige of big city talent. Bob Crane, who would later become Colonel Hogan in the television sitcom Hogan’s Heroes, was at WICC in Bridgeport. He personally hired Christie as his replacement when he left for Hollywood and KNX to take over for Ralph Story.

While at WICC. Phil moonlighted at New York City’s original DJ station, WNEW. He entertained all night, Saturday nights. WNEW at the time was the famed-home of Martin Block’s “Make-Believe Ballroom.”

Bernie Waterman, who bought Worcester’s WAAB in 1956, also sought to recruit big city DJs. He wined and dined Christie until an offer was made for the prestigious morning slot, and Christie couldn’t refuse. This also gave him an opportunity to return home to his Andover roots and make the daily commute to Worcester. That trek, though, almost ended his life and career when Phil was seriously injured in an automobile accident involving his Austin-Healey.

“It was an open car, a convertible. I’m fortunate. Thank God I survived. That’s all I can say. I don’t know how, but here I am,” Phil told WHAV’s Open Mike Show listeners in 2011.

Recovery from the automobile accident was slow and Christie made the decision to work closer to home. It was now 1961 and Christie hosted the morning show at WCOP, not long after the Boston station adopted the “Top 40” format.

Bringing Rock ‘n’ Roll to FM

It was time for a new challenge for Christie as radio continued to evolve. FM, in 1967, was about to explode into the dominant medium. WHDH-FM needed someone to rise to the challenge. He became program director and helped the station launch its new album rock format. While there he interviewed such rising stars as Linda Ronstadt and Steve Miller.

While at WHDH-FM, Christie coined the term “Underground Radio.” He recalled, “WHDH (FM) was playing beautiful music. They didn’t want any of that rock and roll stuff on WHDH-FM, so we had an engineer go down into the subway and he recorded the actual subway. We brought that back and mixed it with music. So, we had the sound of going into the subway, underground, going different.”

He rounded out his radio career by bringing rock and roll to WNTN in Newton in 1969, then moved on to WCAS, so named for Watertown, Cambridge, Arlington and Somerville, and then WJIB-FM on commercial wharf.

Return to WHAV


Phil Christie recording announcements at WHAV.

Christie was reintroduced to WHAV in 2007 when he hosted “WHAV’s 60th Anniversary Special—A Promise Fulfilled” with Tom Bergeron and Gary LaPierre. By that time, he had become the voice of Market Basket supermarkets, heard in all stores across the chain. He was also retained by WHAV to record station-related announcements and participated in the dedication of the Edwin V. Johnson Newsroom in 2009.

He is survived by his sister, Bess Liponis of Andover; seven children, Karen Foster of Northampton, Melissa Christie of Hamilton, Gregory Christie and his wife Karen of North Andover, Deborah Christie of Peabody, Ana Packard and her husband David of North Andover, Spryo Christie of New York Cityand Alexandra Christie of New York City; seven grandsons, Christopher, Steve, David Jr., Evan, Cameron, Patrick and Benjamin; a granddaughter, Paige; as well as several nieces and nephews.

His funeral mass took place at Saints Constantine and Helen Church, Andover, Friday, July 24. Interment was in Spring Grove Cemetery, Andover. Memorial contributions may be made to Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, 71 Chandler Road, Andover.