Obituary: Bob Tracey / KDKA disc jockey in 1950s, '60s

Died Jan. 26, 2007

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While a disc jockey at KDKA radio in the 1950s and '60s, Bob Tracey earned a large following throughout the United States with his fan club, the "Tiger Troop."

Distant listeners may have been attracted by the warm voice that called them each "tiger." Local listeners maybe have been taken by the man behind the voice, a vibrant personality who drove to work every day on his Vespa scooter.

Mr. Tracey, of Carnegie, died Friday from complications of pneumonia, said his wife, Marjorie Michel. He was 83.

"He had a gorgeous voice," Mrs. Michel said. "I haven't heard anything to compare it to."

Mr. Tracey, who was born Robert Charles Michel in Rutherford, N.J. to Edith and Lester Michel, used two names while at KDKA.

He started as Johnny Ryder, part of the Ryder Brothers team that broadcast late-evening programs. He came by Bob Tracey when he moved to a mid-afternoon slot. At the time, a well-known DJ at another local station had a surname similar to Michel. The station renamed him Bob Tracey to avoid confusion among listeners.

Mr. Tracey found out about his new identity when a Westinghouse executive presented new DJs with engraved lighters. When he saw his, bidding good luck and good ratings to "Bob Tracey," he handed it back, saying, "This isn't my name."

The executives responded, "It is now."

As a DJ, Mr. Tracey loved the music he played and spent many Sundays listening to the records he had been sent the previous week. Though he kept a certain fondness for the sounds of the big band era, Mr. Tracey had a gift for picking out the next hit song of the day. Among the songs he spotted before their rise to fame were Dionne Warwick's hit "Valley of the Dolls" and Richard Harris' "MacArthur Park."

Mrs. Michel said her basement is still filled with 20,000 records.

In addition to music, Mr. Tracey enjoyed Hawaii, and he led annual listener trips to the islands before moving there with his wife for a year.

Prior to joining KDKA in 1954, Mr. Tracey served in the Navy during World War II and later worked as a page at NBC in New York while studying acting.

He went on to work radio stints in North Carolina, Syracuse, N.Y., and Altoona, where he met his wife. The couple were married in 1947.

A few years later, Mr. Tracey almost aquired another name. Mr. Tracey was visiting his friend Bob Keeshan at the NBC studios when Mr. Keeshan offered him an acting role in a pilot television program. Mr. Tracey turned it down because, as a pilot, the role was unpaid, and he had to provide for his wife and small children.

The role was for Captain Kangaroo.

Though he missed his initial chance at acting, Mr. Tracey found himself performing long after he left KDKA in 1969.

He stayed in broadcasting by recording commercials, acting in local theater, and performing in several films, including "The Mothman Prophecies," "Houseguest," and "Black Dahlia."

"He was an actor. There was no two ways about that," Mrs. Michel said. "He was always on stage, always liked to be the center of attention."

Mr. Tracey also liked riding scooters. He was turned on to the alternative method of transportation when fellow KDKA DJ Clark Race brought his scooter into the station one Saturday. Mr. Tracey borrowed it over the weekend, and his love for the two-wheeled vehicle was born.

Nothing would stop Mr. Tracey from riding his scooter down the Parkway West to the KDKA station, Mrs. Michel said. Not even a stormy winter.

When snow covered his driveway, he simply had his four children pull him and his scooter up to the road.

This love led him to own and operate his own shop, Bob Tracey's World of Cycles, for more than 20 years before retiring several years ago.

"He did things his way," Mrs. Michel said.

In addition to becoming an entrepreneur, Mr. Tracey taught himself computer programming, learned how to fly a plane, and routinely worked in his garden, growing orchids.

Besides his wife, Mr. Tracey is survived by four children, Candice Michel of Brookings, Ore., Gregory Michel of Franklin Park, Dana Mandolini of Bolingbrook, Ill., and Marjorie Pintea of Bridgeville; a brother, Douglas of Hackensack, N.J.; and seven grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. today at the William Slater II Funeral Service, 1650 Greentree Road, Scott. The funeral is at noon tomorrow at SS. Simon & Jude Church, 1625 Greentree Road, Scott.


Brittany McCandless can be reached at bmccandless@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2533.


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