NEW YORK — Bob Grant, who ranked eleventh in TALKERS magazine’s 20th anniversary Heaviest Hundred (published in 2010), which lists “the 100 most important radio talk show hosts of all time,” died on December 31 at 84 years old after a brief illness.
Grant, whose signature opening line in New York radio was “Let’s be heard!,” drove his rollercoaster career through numerous stations in New York City where listeners followed some of the more racially-charged issues in town.
Brash and confident for a guy who stood 5-foot seven, Grant was described by TALKERS in the July/August 2010 issue as an “infamous watchdog of public figures, 40-plus years in New York radio.”
Upon learning of Grant’s death, TALKERS publisher Michael Harrison stated, “He was a founding father of modern talk radio whose influence on broadcasting technique, style and societal role go way beyond the boundaries of conservative broadcasting.”
Bob Grant’s roar was aimed way beyond the geography of the Empire State. His daily closing catchphrase throughout the 80s and 90s “Get Gaddafi!” was uttered long before the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi made headlines on local radio or newspapers. According to one longtime listener, “As a kid growing up in Queens, I’d hear my parents’ radio tuned to Grant every afternoon and wonder, ‘What’s Gaddafi mean?’ It wasn’t till in the 1990s when I was reading the papers every day that I realized how prophetic Grant was.”
He didn’t just take on ruthless dictators in sunglasses, Grant lashed out endlessly against communism, women’s lib, and Viet Nam war sympathizers, just to name a few of his favorite targets. Listeners would wait patiently for his trademark verbal whipping to callers who sided with these issues: “Get off my phone!”
Grant credited legendary host Joe Pyne for opening his career door when the management at KABC in Los Angeles pulled Grant off the sports desk to replace Pyne the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. Station managers at the time were concerned Pyne might say something inappropriate during a time of national mourning.
Bob Grant, whose original name was Robert Ciro Gigante, was born in California in 1929. After his stint at KABC, he came east to WMCA in New York where he stood out from among less combative colleagues (Sally Jessy Raphael, Barry Gray, Bruce Williams, and Alex Bennett for example). Another chapter of his life began in 1977 when he made a stop at WOR, the first of two “tours,” and then on to WWDB-FM in Philadelphia.
Returning to New York to WABC in 1984, Grant’s show dominated the ratings and lasted 12 years until he was fired for remarks he made concerning the death of then-Commerce Secretary Ron Brown in an airplane crash. After his contract was terminated, he went crosstown to his old stomping ground at WOR, where he took shots at his replacement host up the dial, Sean Hannity.
WOR axed Grant in 2006 – but not because of ratings, according to the New York Post, but rather due to advertising challenges. His program on WOR morphed/collapsed into one-minute commentaries that ran on WOR twice a day, as well as various appearances. Around July 2007, his fill-in appearances for colleagues in New York began to pick up. He then re-landed at WABC and would stay there for less than one and a half years at which point the station pulled him again to make room for more changes.
Grant kicked off an internet radio show with UBATV.com in July of 2009 where listeners were now treated to a video component. Grant left in January 2010 after having returned to WABC for a third stint three months earlier. He continued broadcasting a Sunday programming until July 28, 2013 when he retired due to failing health. He also wrote weekly columns for his website (originally sponsored by NewsMax) www.BobGrantOnline.com until February of 2013.
He has been credited by scores of younger conservative hosts with being one of the main inspirations in their careers including Rush Limbaugh.