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MMD > Archives > January 2014 > 2014.01.26 > 02Prev  Next

Passing of Albert Petrak, Reproducing Piano Fan
By Marc Goodman

This is a bit late but Albert Petrak, a very early and devoted fan
of the reproducing piano, died earlier this month at age 87.  He was
the man who turned me on to the Duo-Art when I was a teen!

Marc Goodman
Cleveland, Ohio

 - - -

WCLV 104.9 ideastream
Albert Petrak - 1926 - 2014
Friday, January 10, 2014

Albert Petrak, self styled as "Old AP", a long time WCLV air personality
from 1972 to 2003, has left us.  He died Wednesday, January 8, at the
age of 87, following a short illness.  He is survived by sisters Joan
Mansell and Jane Petrak of Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, and brother Paul
Petrak of Florida, and by Michael DeSavoy, his certified caretaker and
companion of the past decade or so.

Albert's first job in radio was for KYW-FM, now WMJI.  KYW-FM was owned
by Westinghouse Broadcasting, and Albert was the only announcer on the
station.  He voice tracked the classical music on to rolls of tape,
which were played on the station's automated system, then bicycled to
other Westinghouse FM stations around the country.

Albert made his debut on WCLV in 1972, and then left to work for a year
at WQED in Pittsburgh, then at WITF in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and at
a classical station in New York, which was owned by an Episcopal
Church.  The call letters escape me.

He was the first WCLV announcer to be assigned to a regular shift,
"First Program".  Prior to this, following the philosophy of a former
station where I worked way back in the mid 20th Century, WFMT in
Chicago, WCLV announcers were not considered personalities but conduits
to the music being presented.  Announcer's shifts were rotated, evening,
afternoon, and morning.  But in time, it became apparent that AP and
"First Program" were made for each other, so he became the regular host
of the 6:15 to 9:00 AM show.

Yes, 6:15, because Albert took the Shaker Rapid to work and the first
rapid got into Terminal Tower, where our studios were then located, at
6:10 AM.  So AP would rush up to our Penthouse East studios on the 15th
floor and turn on the transmitter.

AP was a free spirit, often ignoring the dictates of the program
manager -- me.  There was a rule that no sopranos were to be aired
prior to 9:00 AM.  AP regularly broke this regulation.  I would send
him a memo, which he would then gleefully read on the air.

He was known for using the Bouree from "Terpsichore" by Michael
Pretorius as his theme.  He had 32 versions of the Bouree, including a
vocal version, "Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead," from "The Wizard of Oz."
He would rotate these versions at the top of the hour on First Program.

Before WCLV, he served in the US Navy, was employed at a record store
in the Arcade, and then by Discount Records on Euclid Avenue, located
where the BP building now stands.  He left WCLV in 1989, to open a
record store on the West Side, later moving it to the Pavilion Mall in

He had an immense knowledge of recordings.  You would ask him, "What is
the number of the Epic recording by The Cleveland Orchestra and George
Szell of the Walton Partita for Orchestra?"  And the answer would come
immediately, "BC 1054."  He published a Guide to a Basic Record
Library, first for LPs, and then for CDs.

He was a rabid enthusiast for piano rolls and was involved with
an organization [IPAM] that worked to preserve the rolls.  He owned
a Duo-Art roll of George Gershwin playing the piano part of "Rhapsody
in Blue."  And he arranged for a Duo-Art piano to be taken to Severance
Hall, where WCLV and the Orchestra's audio technician of the time,
Vlad Maleckar, recorded the roll, sent it to New York.  There, Michael
Tilson Thomas conducted the Orchestra, with the George Gershwin piano
part added to the Orchestra.

AP's ashes will be scattered on the beloved farm in Pennsylvania where
he grew up.

Albert Petrak, 1926 to 2014.  Colleague, good friend, imp.  He put his
stamp on the characteristics of WCLV that will continue.

AP - God Speed.

Robert Conrad

 [ Robert Conrad and co-owner Rich Marschner established WCLV,
 [ Cleveland, Ohio, in 1962.
 [ From  including this
 [ delightful anecdote from an admirer:
 [ "One October 9th in the early eighties, Albert played "Sgt. Pepper"
 [ in honor of John Lennon's birthday. Within minutes, Robert Conrad was
 [ calling for him to cease and desist. Good work, Albert. Up, up, up!"
 [ A nice photo of Albert is at
 [ Albert Petrak's web site, The Reproducing Piano Roll Foundation,
 [ is at  His MMDigest articles are indexed at
 [ -- Robbie

(Message sent Mon 27 Jan 2014, 00:51:54 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)

Key Words in Subject:  Albert, Fan, Passing, Petrak, Piano, Reproducing

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