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The Old Codger (Courtney T. Edison)






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Jersey City , NJ USA


Courtney Edison, Radio Maverick, 146
EAST ORANGE, NJ (AP may 27, 2004)

Courtney T. Edison, a radio broadcaster and 78 rpm record archivist popularly known as "The Old Codger," passed away Wednesday evening in his bunker on Springdale Avenue, in East Orange, New Jersey. His age was estimated to be 146.

Earlier that day, Edison had programmed radio for three hours at Jersey City-based WFMU, a station with which he had been loosely affiliated for a decade. The cigar-chomping Edison's familiar tagline was that he "played 78 rpm records like they're going out of style." His exact age could not be verified, but he often taunted listeners by sneering, "I've got shoes older than you." The Oxfords he was wearing at the time of death dated from the late 1870s.

The cause of death was being investigated. Several bloody chromium Victrola styluses were reportedly discovered on the premises.

WFMU general manager Ken Freedman insisted that Edison was not officially on staff, but that "out of a sense of pity for a pathetic nuisance," the station had on infrequent occasions accommodated Edison's insistent requests for airtime. "The Codger" refused to play compact discs, cassettes, long-playing vinyl records, or any format except 78 rpm discs from his own collection, which he lugged to the station in a dilapidated shopping cart. WFMU program director Brian Turner alleged that Edison routinely abused studio equipment and staff, and disregarded station protocol with impunity.

On what turned out to be his final broadcast, Edison noted that he had been asked by a female staffer what he wanted for Christmas. He replied, "My house needs a dishwasher and a doormat. Which would you prefer to be?"

Although obsessed with musical sounds from yesteryear, Edison was consumed with hatred for Big Band music of the 1930s and '40s, once boasting on the air that he had "killed the Dorsey Brothers" (referring to Swing Era legends Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey). It is not known if his contention was literal or figurative.

"The Codger" was notorious for on-air come-ons to female admirers, often crooning that he loved "younger women -- age 45 or 50." Although never married, Edison had been linked romantically to actress/comedienne Sophie Tucker, vaudevillian Effie Cherry, singer Rosetta Duncan, actress Ida Lupino, R&B siren Nellie Lutcher, and TV sitcom star Betty Rubble.

Rumors that he was a disowned relative of inventor Thomas Alva Edison, who lived in nearby West Orange until his death in 1931, could not be confirmed. However, the broadcaster was alleged to be something of a pioneer himself, claiming credit for devising the speed bump and discovering dust mites. He also insisted he had taught the curve ball to early baseball legend Arthur "Candy" Cummings in 1867.

Edison began his broadcasting career in 1935 at WZKZ, Baltimore. After two months on staff, he was dismissed from that facility for ignoring station rules against disposal of cigar butts in the men's room urinal. Upon termination, Edison allegedly removed his shoes and nailed them to the station manager's door, attaching a note that said: "FILL THESE!"

Despite his remarkably advanced age, Edison was actually the second oldest active broadcaster, surpassed by his longtime friend Paul Harvey. Edison leaves a collection of over 48,000 78 rpm discs, 16 functional crank-wound Victrolas, and nine overflowing spittoons.

In lieu of flowers, mourners are requested to donate to the Museum of Forgotten Formats, in Pasadena CA.