Radio legend Mike Whorf on life, love songs

Feb 14, 2013

Mike Whorf in his home recording studio.
Credit Peter Whorf

Mike Whorf is known to countless Michigan and Midwestern radio listeners as the long-time host of WJR's Kaleidoscope.  The daily program which aired from the mid-1960s to the late 90s won the coveted Peabody Award in 1968, as well as numerous other statewide and national honors.

Kaleidoscope brought listeners on an hour-long journey into people, places and events - woven together with period music, archival news recordings, and Whorf's distinctive narrative. Kaleidoscope often showcased uniquely American topics.  This was particularly so during America's 1976 bicentennial celebration. To mark the occasion, Mike chose to produce a series of programs devoted to composers of the Great American Songbook of the early to mid- 20th century.  Through a friendship with famed songwriter Gerald Marks, Whorf was able to conduct dozens of in-person recorded interviews in New York and Los Angeles with the likes of Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen, Sammy Cahn and many more.  The interviews were incorporated into Kaleidoscope as a weekly showcase of the composers and their music. Recently, the interviews and radio programs have returned as the subject of two books authored by Mike Whorf:  "American Popular Song Composers" and "American Popular Song Lyricists: An Oral History, 1920s to 1960s." WKAR's Peter Whorf visited with his dad earlier this week to talk about how the Kaleidoscope radio project of the mid-70's led to the books of today.