EARL MCDANIEL / 1928-2014Longtime broadcaster created the "Perry and Price" show
by Erika Engle
Earl "The Pearl" McDaniel, the former general manager of KSSK AM-FM who made a name for himself during the formative years of rock 'n' roll, died Wednesday night in Arizona at age 85.
McDaniel had cancer surgery two years ago, according to longtime friend Don Barrett, but the cause of his death was not released.
McDaniel prepared an email for his daughter to send to friends upon his death which began, "I died today," and spelled out his last wishes, including that he be cremated and have no funeral. In the email he thanked friends for their contributions to his life and made it clear he wanted no sad songs sung for him.
McDaniel had a talent for promoting radio stations, rock concerts and, on one occasion, a parade.
He had the idea in 1983 to get KSSK morning radio host J. Akuhead Pupule, or Aku, to tell listeners to come out for a parade April 1. Thousands of people lined up along the usual route from Ala Moana Boulevard into Waikiki. The radio station aired audio from a televised parade with commentary as if it were a live event. There was no parade. It was an April Fools' Day joke. Bomb threats were among the angry calls made to the radio station that day and for some time thereafter.
McDaniel is credited with creating the "Perry and Price" morning radio team of Michael W. Perry and Larry Price, which succeeded Aku following his death in 1983 and remains Hawaii's No. 1 radio show today.
He also is credited with the $1 million giveaway to not only retain the late Aku's listeners, but also to help cement top ratings for his new morning team. Some 4 million entries were received for the contest, though Oahu's population at the time was about 700,000.
McDaniel will long be remembered for his truisms, which his former staffers still recite.
On marketing, McDaniel would say, "It's all tinsel and foil, and underneath all that tinsel and foil, there is real tinsel and foil," said Suzi Mechler, McDaniel's longtime executive assistant.
McDaniel would tell reluctant advertisers, "Something terrible happens when you don't promote: nothing."
"I still use that line today," Mechler said.
He also had a soft side. When Mechler's son was born with a potentially lethal heart problem, McDaniel made sure her health insurance premiums were paid even though her three-month maternity leave stretched to eight months. "I would have worked for that man for free," she said.
In his pre-Hawaii broadcast days, McDaniel worked in Los Angeles in the 1950s and '60s at big-time stations including KPOP and KFWB when AM radio stations ruled the airwaves and were making the transition from pop music to rock 'n' roll.
McDaniel was credited with being the first to play "Heartbreak Hotel" on the radio and was sent to Las Vegas to present Elvis Presley with the gold record onstage. McDaniel "produced and presented live stage shows with the major rock stars of the era. He also had the first record hop/dance show on L.A. television," according to Barrett.
In a recent email to Mechler, McDaniel wrote, "If I were to have an epitaph, it would be, 'Earl McDaniel ... from 1928 to 2014, he lived.'"
He is survived by two daughters and was preceeded in death by his wife of 50 years, Ellie. In keeping with McDaniel's wishes, no service is planned.
Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased