The man who introduced audiences to polka legends such as Frankie Yankovic, Whoopee John, and the Six Fat Dutchmen passed away at age 91.
Sinclair was the longest and oldest running radio host in Southern California radio until his death. His extensive television and radio career spanned more than six decades, including 36 years across two stints at KIEV (now KRLA) AM 870. He also worked at Los Angeles’ KFI AM 640 and national radio outlet CRN Digital Talk Radio.
Sinclair moonlighted on television, hosting the Polka Parade program based on his popular radio show.
Richard “Dick” Sinclair pursued his lifelong radio passion when he graduated from high school and worked at Montana senator Ed Craney’s radio station. He attended the University of Utah until the start of World War II and helped pioneer the Armed Forces Radio Service. While stationed at Guadalcanal – one of many South Pacific Islands where Sinclair set up radio stations – he launched a program called Polka Party, which featured polka music and originally included taped segments from Jack Benny.
The show’s charter audience was comprised of G.I.s stationed on the island – and became an instant hit. Its popularity would only grow. For a number of years, it was named the Armed Forces Radio Service’s “Most Listened to Program” according to government surveys. It was also at AFRS that Sinclair worked alongside legendary news reporter and talk show host George Putnam, who hosted the original Talkback.
But it was a schedule quirk that helped Sinclair and Polka Party dance into worldwide success.
Sinclair served as KFI radio’s staff announcer and financial editor (broadcasting from the Pacific Coast Stock Exchange), and also hosted “The Farm and Home Journal.” A scheduling error left open a Saturday afternoon timeslot. Sinclair filled the hour with polka music – and audiences wanted more. Sinclair and KFI’s 50,000-watt signal delivered.Polka Party was re-launched as listeners from 11 western states called the show and wrote the station. The show continued and expanded, becoming a mainstay on Saturday afternoons from 4 to 7 p.m. Listeners from far away as Australia called Sinclair, who began hosting a “good music” (easy listening) show on Sunday mornings.
A television show – “Polka Parade” – soon hit the airwaves in 65 markets. Sinclair hosted and produced the program featuring dancing, a nine-piece “All-Star Polka Band,” singers, dancers, and a live studio audience. Capitol Records capitalized on Sinclair’s and the program’s popularity, releasing a “Polka Parade” album. It became the record club’s “Alternative Album of the Month.” Sinclair recorded four more records for Capitol.
“People are drawn to the vitality and energy of (Polka Party),” Sinclair said a 1998 press release. “Young families would bring their little kids, who would dance around the studio. And older people liked it, too. Polka music appeals to a broad demographic.”
A then-new CRN becamePolka Party's home in 1983. The show was the network’s first live program and became a hit with CRN’s rapidly increasing national audience.
“I grew up listening to and watching Dick Sinclair,” CRN Digital Talk Radio CEO, President and founder Michael J. Horn recalled. “He graciously became my mentor and friend when I was starting out at local Los Angeles radio stations. So when the opportunity presented itself to bring him and ‘Polka Party’ to CRN, I jumped on it.”
CRN continued producing newPolka Party episodes until Sinclair’s death. The network is now running Dick Sinclair tribute shows Saturdays at 4:00 p.m. Pacific (7:00 p.m. Eastern) on the network’s CRN 1 channel and Sundays at 12:00 p.m. Pacific (3:00 p.m. Eastern) on CRN 2. The programs also air Saturday and Sunday mornings at 3:00 a.m. Pacific (6:00 a.m. Eastern) on CRN 1.
“Dick truly brought so much happiness to millions of people,” Horn said. “Fans of polka music got their fixes thanks to Polka Party and Polka Parade. He also introduced polka to generations who maybe never would’ve become fans of polka music or even been exposed to it.
“His professional influence will live on through generations of radio people,” added Horn. “I’ve passed along to my staff the skills I learned from Dick. Other network executives, show hosts and producers have done the same with their talent and staffs, as well. Those people will teach others some Sinclar-ian lessons. We’re going to miss Dick, but everyone will be able to enjoy him for many lifetimes.”
A private memorial was held on November 12.
A full obituary is available at http://desert.sn/2fLYC4B