Happy Birthday: Zacherley

Monday, September 26, 2016
Happy Birthday: Zacherley

Given the sheer volume of our catalog here at Rhino Records, we don’t always have time to highlight every single birthday or anniversary related to a song, album, or artist to which we have a connection. When the opportunity presents itself, however, we do love to step as far outside the box as we can and shine the spotlight somewhere that might surprise you, which is why we’re taking a few minutes to today to wish a very happy birthday to a living legend in the horror world...and given the birthday boy in question is turning 98 today, it truly is an honor and a privilege to do so.

His name is John Zacherle, but those who know his work generally only know him by his last name, since that’s all that he’s billed by. In fact, his fans will no doubt have already noted that we left the “Y” off the end of his last name in the preceding sentence, but that was an intentional omission, as the “Y” was apparently only added when he was hired by WABC-TV in New York. Still, we’ll be using the with-a-“Y” spelling throughout, just so you know.

Zacherley first came to fame – or at least the fame that has continued to follow him to this day – in 1957 as a result of playing Roland, the host of WCAU’s Shock Theater, where he would provide horror-themed comedy bits as interstitials during the airing of various scary movies. The program ran for almost 100 episodes, and it raised Zacherley’s profile considerably. Indeed, he was enough of a known quantity that when he left WCAU in 1958, he was able to move over to the aforementioned WABC-TV in New York, at which point he also started a brief career as a motion picture actor and released a single entitled “Dinner with Drac,” which he did with the assistance of Dick Clark, no less. By 1960, he had moved from WABC to WOR, and that’s also right around the time his first album hit stores: SPOOK ALONG WITH ZACHERLEY, released on Elektra Records in 1960.

Zacherley bounced around the dial throughout his career, spending time on WPIX in New York where he could be found hosting Chiller Theater, and on WNJU in Newark, where he hosted a dance show called Disc-O-Teen, of all things. In 1970, he introduced the Grateful Dead when they played the Fillmore East, in the early 1980s he appeared on Captain Kangaroo, albeit without his usual attire, and in 1990, he made a cameo in Frankenhooker. These are but three random credits, just to give you an idea of how diverse the Zacherley story can be, but if you’d like to find out more about it, you can check out Richard Scrivani’s book Goodnight, Whatever You Are! My Journey with Zacherley, The Cool Ghoul…or to bring it back to Rhino, as we like to do whenever we can, you could give SPOOK ALONG WITH ZACHERLEY a spin. Given the debates this evening, might we recommend that you consider starting with “Zacherley for President”?