Harris Mankin (aka Harry Boswell), RIP
My old friend, mentor and former colleague, Harris Mankin, passed away recently. You may have known him by another name (see the list and obit below, courtesy of Brian Rhea). Harry would have wanted his obit published far and wide. He was somebody. The world is a smaller and less interesting place without him.
He was born Harris Heathcoat Mankin in Queens, New York on March 7th 1942. He grew up in Sunnyside, Queens. His father, a Doctor, his loving and pampering mother a housewife. Educated in the New York public school system, he attended PS 125 for Junior High and graduated from William Collin Bryan High School, Queens in 1960. Harry’s love of creative writing led him to a BA degree in Journalism from Brooklyn College – he really did want to become a newspaper man like one of his Uncles, but it was the radio bug that bit this kid from New York City at a young age. His insatiable appetite for radio was ignited through the great Alan Freed on the #1 station at that time 10-10 WINS! Harry would attend many of Alan’s local theater shows but his first taste of “live rock and roll music” was with his boyhood friend Alfred Goldsmith in December of 1955. As young teenagers, they both waited on line to see Alan Freed’s Rock and Roll Show at the Paramount Theater that started at high noon – featuring Count Basie, Joe Williams – The Cleftones, The Heartbeats, The Cadillacs, The Crests, The Valentines, The Rems! There was something about these shows – this excitement – this early movement that would consume him. Harry witnessed the birth of Rock and Roll and it’s beloved DJ – Mr. Alan Freed – Harry would tape songs off the radio and do intros just the way his idol Alan Freed would do! Radio would never let go of Harry – even in his retirement years, he could been seen wearing big “cans” – his headset radio was most always tuned in to a ballgame or some kind of music station! His first radio job was as a “copy boy” at New York’s legendary WOR in 1967. Changing ribbons on the teletype, answering phones and bringing coffee and the newspaper to Mr. John Gambling was quite an influence on Harry. It must have been something be experience part of the Gambling family morning show dynasty that spanned 75 years at WOR. To really be anything in radio – you needed a First Class Radio Telephone FCC license. Harry got his “Chocolate First Phone” license from the Elkins Institute in Chicago in 1968 (they would say, “you memorize the answers and the questions will take care of themselves”) he passed on the first attempt and then went to work at WBEE in Harvey, IL 1570AM … a Chicago suburb. In 1968, Harry got a gig filling in to read morning news at Friendly Frost’s WTFM in Queens. Harry worked as Shep Shanley at WLIX on Long Island from late ’68 into 1969. In 1969, Harry ventured west for the first time. He inexplicably wound up at 970AM WREO in Ashtabula OH, on Lake Erie. The first air name we know of was Grant Growdy at WPAC late 1969 – 1971. Harry worked at the sister station, WHRF in Riverhead, NY as JJ Flanders. Harry’s known Air Names include: Shep Shanley Grant Growdy JJ Flanders Barney Lovesitt Harry Callahan and Harry Boswell – a name he picked with the help of John Libynski a good friend and Top 40 disc jockey in Roswell, New Mexico. He was Harry Callahan on WRCN, Riverhead, NY from 1972 to March 1973. He worked at WVBN – “The Super B” in Utica, Upstate – New York. ’73 or ’74. Hi did Summer relief fill-ins at WHYN – Springfield, MA in 1973 & 1974 Was Harry Callahan on WNLC, New London, CT in Fall 1974 – 1975. And also Harry Callahan on KNFT, Silver City, NM in Jan 1976 – March 1976 He was in Washington DC at WMOD/WBAL after the Silver City stint and before going to KPEN in Los Altos in February 1977. Harry worked evenings at K-PEN and would sign-off the station at 12midnight. Later the station went 24 hours and Harry was moved to overnights in 1978 where he worked as the “night watchman” for many, many years. Harry Boswell worked at 97.7 KPEN through many ownership and format changes. From fusion Jazz to Beautiful Music and whether pulling an air shift or writing and producing commercials, he was always a hard working and dedicated pro. In 1987 a demo tape appeared on the desk of KFRC program director, Dave Sholin. (little did Dave know that it was a studio tape produced by his friend Brian in the KFRC production room) Spotting his obvious talent, Dave wanted to reach out to Harry for an interview. He was hired immediately and started doing weekends at RKO Radio’s newly minted KFRC Magic 61 in San Francisco. In a few short weeks he moved to his # 1 rated 9am to 1pm shift where worked full time till the early 90’s. Harry was full of radio stories. He had a ear for doing voices and if he loved you or despised you, he could capture your voice, your mannerisms, very easily. He had a “nickname” for everyone. Our name for him was friend, brother and simply, “Boz.” Harry passed away in Las Vegas on December 12th 2009 after injuries he sustained from an accidental fall at his home. Today would have been his 68th birthday.