Ron Chapman, who went from his Haverhill High School graduation in 1953 to a job as a WHAV disc jockey and eventually became a national broadcast hall of famer, died Monday at 85.
He gained fame under the name “Irving Harrigan” when he joined KLIF, Dallas, where he teamed up with Jack “Charlie Brown” Woods in 1959 on the “Charlie and Harrigan Show.” Chapman was inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters’ Radio Hall of Fame in 2010, the Chicago-based Museum of Broadcast Communications’ Radio Hall of Fame in 2012 and again, as part of the team of Charlie and Harrigan, in 2014.
According to research conducted by media historian Donna L. Halper, Chapman was born Ralph F. Chapman, son of Walter and Katie F. (MacDougall) Chapman, Jan. 25, 1936, in Newton, Mass. The family, which also included his brother James and sister Florence, moved to Haverhill later in the 1930s when Chapman’s father owned Riverside Variety Store, 3 E. Broadway.
The information backs an account of Chapman’s life by the Dallas Morning News, which this week noted “Chapman liked to say he was a poor kid who grew up behind a grocery store, which his father owned in his native Haverhill, Mass. His hard-scrabble experience inspired him to say, ‘I’ll show them.’ And his broadcasting career accomplished exactly that — he showed them.”
Chapman would remain at WHAV for at least two years, working with Patricia (Sprague) and the late Edwin V. Johnson. They remained lifelong friends and Chapman helped fund a scholarship in Johnson’s name in 2003 at Haverhill High School. Pat Johnson told WHAV this week she has “happy memories” of the days they spent working together at WHAV.
Halper’s research shows Chapman’s father died in 1948, but his mother worked as a bookkeeper at Haverhill’s Gerros’ Mens Shop at least part of the time when he worked at WHAV.
According to the Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago, Chapman went on to spend two years at the Voice of the United Nations Command in Korea before working for WHNC, New Haven, Conn. Following his tenure at KLIF, Chapman joined the staff of KVIL-FM, Dallas-Fort Worth, in 1969. He brought, what is known in the industry as the “adult contemporary” format to FM.
The Hall of Fame notes, “During his 31 years at KVIL, Chapman became famous for his upbeat humor and his participation in outrageous stunts and giveaways. At one point, Chapman broadcast live while skydiving from a plane. In one infamous stunt, Chapman told his listeners to each send $20 to the station; within three days, the station had received $200,000,” which was donated to charity.
In 2000, Chapman moved to KLUV, also in Dallas, where he retired in 2005. He came out of retirement two years later to serve as the “permanent substitute” for radio legend Paul Harvey. IMDb also notes Chapman played a part in the movie, “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders” in 1979.