Long John Nebel bigraphy, stories - American journalist

Long John Nebel : biography

June 11, 1911 - April 10, 1978

Long John Nebel (born John Zimmerman) (June 11, 1911 – April 10, 1978) was an influential New York City talk radio show host.

From the mid-1950s until his death in 1978, Nebel was a hugely popular all-night radio host, with millions of regular listeners and what Donald Bain described as "a fanatically loyal following" to his syndicated program, which dealt mainly with anomalous phenomena, UFOs, and other offbeat topics.


Jackie Gleason was a fan of Nebel's show (and also an occasional guest), and wrote in his introduction to Bain's biography of Nebel: "Why is [Nebel] so strangely entertaining?... because the best entertainment is entertainment that opens your mind and tells you the world is bigger than you thought it was."

Radio historian Michael C. Keith wrote: "Few people have before or since have brought to all-night radio the kind of ingenuity, originality and variety that Nebel did. He represents one of post-World War II radio's creative high points and another example of the special nature of overnight programming... He would come to be regarded as one of after-hours radio's true pioneers."(Keith, 88)

Nebel was a formative influence on talk radio: Donald Bain noted that in the early 1970s: "Fledgling (radio) announcers at broadcasting schools around the country were played tapes of Nebel shows as part of their course study." Recordings of Nebel's shows have circulated among fans of esoterica for decades.

Nebel's format paved the way for later radio hosts, including Art Bell, George Noory of Coast to Coast AM, Hilly Rose, Jeff Rense, and Clyde Lewis, all of whom have broadcast shows on paranormal topics. Colin Bennett called Nebel the Art Bell of his era.Colin Bennett. Manchurian Candy Date. Retrieved from http://www.forteantimes.com/articles/148_candyjones.shtml.

Format of the show

Nebel's program gave the impression of being freewheeling and unpredictable, prone to sidetracks and digressions; very different from the precise, mannered approach of most contemporary radio. There were occasional heated arguments—rather mild when compared to the conflict on more recent programs such as the Jerry Springer Show, but such open conflict in any media was quite startling in the 1950s and 1960s.

Nebel, along with his regular guests and panelists, would interview various personalities and claimants (such as psychic Kuda Bux), and take occasional telephone calls from listeners in the New York area. He would also interview novelists and discuss their books in detail. He was surprised on one occasion by novelist Iris Murdoch's response that she was a frequent listener and had modeled one of her characters after one of his guests.

Nebel's approach was unique: talk radio per se did not yet exist as it would in later decades, and Nebel was navigating largely uncharted territory. Sometimes, Nebel entered the discussions, other times he described himself as a "moderator" and allowed his guests to have spirited debates, commenting only occasionally to guide the debate, or to announce station breaks.

It was not uncommon for Nebel to disappear for 20 minutes or more around 3:00 am and leave his panel of frequent guests to run the show without him. Nebel usually invited callers during the last two hours of the program (from about 3:00 to 5:00 am); up to 40,000 people might try to telephone during this period.

Nebel was perhaps best described as a curious skeptic with respect to the reality of paranormal topics; he frequently characterized himself as a "non-believer". Regarding the claims of the many contactees he interviewed, Nebel stated: "I don't buy any of it." He also noted that he was intrigued by some UFO reports, but did not have any firm conclusions or explanations.

Some critics attacked Nebel for allowing crackpots free rein on the program, but he responded by saying his was not a traditional news or investigative journalism show, and that it was up to listeners to determine the validity of any guest's claims.

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