Radio Host Keeps Sinatra Legacy Alive

Thursday, October 19th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BALA CYNWYD, Pa. (AP) — When Sid Mark was growing up in Camden, N.J., in the 1940s, his sister used to send him to buy the recordings of an up-and-coming crooner. Six decades later, Mark is still into Frank Sinatra and, fortunately for him, so are his listeners.

Mark hosts three radio programs a week devoted to Sinatra's music and has had a Sinatra show in some form or other for 40 years.

``Sinatra is the soundtrack of our lives,'' said Mark, 67, who hosts live programs Friday nights and Sunday mornings from his memorabilia-adorned studio at WWDB-FM in suburban Philadelphia. It is the only music program on a station with mostly news and talk programming.

And it is all Mark — and Ol' Blue Eyes.

The host programs the shows and runs the equipment. He is a font of Sinatra trivia, of course — but he keeps the talk to a minimum. Occasionally, Mark will give a behind-the-scenes account of a recording session or replay one of the interviews he had with Sinatra, who died in May 1998 at the age of 82.

Although the disc jockey has heard all of Sinatra's 1,440 individual recordings of about 1,000 songs, some several hundred times, Mark says he never gets bored. After all, this is not just another singer he's talking about.

This is an artist, he says, comparing Sinatra to Picasso.

``You go to a museum and every time you see something different. You hear things you didn't even know existed before,'' he said.

Sinatra was best known for renditions from the songbooks of such great mid-20th century composers as Harold Arlen, Cole Porter and Richard Rodgers. He later branched out and rerecorded songs made famous by more modern singers and composers, including the Beatles, Billy Joel and Jim Croce — who once interned for Mark.

Though Mark has always been a fan of Sinatra, his professional association with the singer came about by accident.

In the 1950s, Mark began his radio career with a program dedicated to jazz. One day, he played an hour of Sinatra.

``The phones lit up,'' he said.

The segment soon became a regular feature. It later expanded into all-Sinatra shows.

For Mark, it wasn't just Sinatra's music. It was the man, too.

``He represented everything every guy wanted to be, the way he acted and handled himself,'' he said.

Since 1979, he has hosted a weekly two-hour syndicated program, ``The Sounds of Sinatra,'' which airs on 115 easy-listening stations. On WWDB, Mark's show has gained in popularity among adults ages 25-52, a group of listeners advertisers want to target.

``People who live here have grown up on the show and they want to pass it on to the next generation,'' said WWDB general manager Dennis Baker.

Mark said he would like to see younger listeners embrace the music their parents and grandparents still love.

``He has done a song for every occasion, and his songs last because a diamond looks good no matter what you wear,'' he said.

The DJ ends every program with tape from an interview he did with Sinatra in 1987, concluding with a snippet in which he tells the singer he loves him.

``I love you too, Sidney,'' Sinatra says back.

Mark has an album containing 100 letters from Sinatra, and his adulation is such that he refuses to discuss any controversy involving the later singer.

``He was a great friend and had tremendous loyalty,'' Mark said. ``He once said to me, 'If anyone hurts you, call me.'''