NEW YORK — Disc jockey Scott Muni, the gravelly-voiced radio host whose encyclopedic knowledge of rock ’n’ roll made him “The Professor” to three generations of New York listeners, has died at 74.
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Muni, who spent nearly 50 years on air in the nation’s No. 1 radio market, died Tuesday. he had suffered a stroke earlier this year. But the cause of his death was not immediately known, said Josefa Paganuzzi, spokeswoman for Clear Channel New York.
Muni’s last gig was an hour-long afternoon show on New York classic rock station Q104.3, where he landed in 1998. He also hosted many nationally syndicated programs during his career, including “Scott Muni’s World of Rock” and the Beatles-oriented “Ticket to Ride.”
He was included in an exhibit on radio personalities at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
Muni’s voice was instantly recognizable, a low rumble announcing the latest tunes from the Beatles to Bruce Springsteen to Pearl Jam.
As the program director at WNEW-FM, he was one of the leading acolytes of the freeform radio movement and became a major influence on the next wave of DJs.
Known to his listeners as “The Professor” or “Scottso,” Muni was renowned for his interviews with artists such as Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Pete Townshend and Springsteen.
In one of his more memorable encounters, Muni was speaking with Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page when the musician suddenly collapsed to the floor in mid-sentence, wiped out by days of partying. The unflappable Muni simply put on a record, woke Page up, and conducted the rest of the interview with the guitarist lying on the studio floor.
Muni was a die-hard fan of Bob Dylan and the Beatles; after the 1980 murder of John Lennon, the DJ began opening his shows with a Beatles song.
“I did it all,” Muni once said when asked about the one thing he wanted to do before dying. “Some I did more than once.”
Muni was born in Wichita, Kan., and raised in New Orleans. His broadcasting career started in the Marines. He could be heard on Radio Guam reading “Dear John” letters sent to his fellow servicemen.
Back in the United States, he replaced Alan Freed in Akron, Ohio, before arriving in New York City in the late ’50s as one of WMCA-AM’s “Good Guys,” serving up Top 40 fare. He switched to rival WABC-AM in 1960, and was there during the height of Beatlemania.
But it was when he switched over to the new world of FM that Muni found his perfect place on the radio dial. He arrived at WNEW in 1967, helping create one of the nation’s first and longest-lasting alternative stations.
In addition to his radio work, Muni asked, “How do you spell relief?” in a Rolaids commercial. He also did promotional announcements for ABC’s “Monday Night Football.”
There was no immediate word on a memorial service, but Clear Channel-owned Q104.3 planned a weekend-long tribute to Muni featuring the music of the Beatles. He is survived by his second wife and five children.
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