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Henry Pilder


Henry Pilder

Henry Pilder

There's no question that hard work made Henry Pilder a success at WGAR, but a great deal of his success came from his wife's throwing arm.  Pilder was the son of a blacksmith who aggressively pushed his son to study piano.  The young Pilder also had a keen sense of comedy and became known as an all around entertainer for his wit and his way around a keyboard. It led to part time on-air gigs at WJAY and WTAM for four years before a full time offer came from WGAR.  Up to this point Pilder had been supplementing his radio income with betting at illegal dog tracks, and that dropped dramatically thanks to an ambitious sheriff who shut the tracks down.   At WGAR Pilder "played chamber music like crazy" with Ben Silverberg, Charles McBride, Waldberg Brown and Ted Rautenberg, and the combo was so popular it was often picked up by the network.  At times Pilder worked with Silverberg and a cellist named Ivan Francisi to play background music behind a poetry reader on WTAM.  The problem was they couldn't hear the verse so they would time their performance according to the way he emoted before the mike.

In 1934 Pilder was still heard on WGAR but was moonlighting with Larry Revelle's band at Euclid Beach.  The hours were long and Pilder rarely had time even to get a bite to eat.  That worried his wife, the former Elizabeth Tabor, who literally took things into her own hands.  The two had been married just a few months when Elizabeth noticed her husband's failing health.  To battle this she would travel to Euclid Beach and stand on a balcony behind the orchestra.   The park would cut the stage lights for moonlight waltzes with the only illumination coming from revolving crystal balls.  Under the cover of darkness and hidden by stage scenery  Elizabeth would toss sandwiches onto Henry Pilder's lap.  But those same stage sets prevent a straight pitch so Elizabeth developed a curve that some likened to Satchell Paige's best efforts. 

John Kubat would gain prominence as a local distillery expert but at that time he was also Revelle's tuba player and worked the stage lighting.  He made a deal with the Pilders and timed the lighting to go down when he spotted Elizabeth warming up...and providing him with an extra sandwich.  It also meant that patrons rarely heard a tuba and piano playing simultaneously during moonlight waltzes.  Pilder stayed at WGAR for many years while also playing with the Cleveland Orchestra, often winning kudos as best instrumentalist in the annual Cleveland Press Local Radio-TV Poll.
 
(Source:  Cleveland Press)

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