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Van Lane - WELW Hall of Fame

He was born “Maury Paul Schechter” in Czechoslovakia but came to the U.S. when he was an infant. After graduating from Cleveland Glenville High, he went to Ohio State University, where he discovered radio and began working at WOSU on campus, as well as at WBNS in Columbus.

Van was drafted and entered the army in 1942. While serving as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corp. in 1945, he was instrumental in forming the “Bedside Network” for Armed Forces Radio.


A special tribute poem to
The Gentlemen, Van Lane
Upon his military discharge in 1946, his golden voice earned him his first radio job as a Disc Jockey at WTNT in Augusta, Georgia. He continued to promote causes for veterans, and solicited celebrities such as Bob Hope and Spike Jones to visit veterans at the local hospital. He also was active in the Services Golf Tournament, which eventually led him to broadcast the Masters Golf Tournament on radio from 1946 to 1948.

From 1946 to 1950, Maury was a Disc Jockey for WTNT in Augusta and WDAR in Savannah. Early in his commercial career, station management did not permit him to use his real name, so he called himself “Mr. X” until he conducted a station promotion for his listeners to give him a better radio name. “Van Lane” was born and became his professional as well as the name most of his friends knew him by from that point onward. Van also became the voice of the SAL minor league baseball’s Augusta Tigers.

In 1950, Van returned to Cleveland, but one year later and until 1955, Van became a Disc Jockey at WEIR in Weirton, West Virginia, where he also broadcast high school football, basketball and baseball as Sports Director. He also broadcast his first horse races at Waterford Park in Chester, W.V. in 1955.

In 1956 and 1957, Van became General Manager at WLIO in East Liverpool, Ohio, and in 1958, he moved back home to Cleveland, Ohio and became Sports Director of WDOK. He broadcast Cleveland Barons Hockey, and originated the “Knothole Club” for the Cleveland Indians, which became so popular that the Mayor of Cleveland would declare “Knothole Club Days” so member youngsters could get free admission to see Cleveland Indians games.

Van also became an expert in broadcasting live horse racing, and received exclusive broadcast rights from all race tracks in Greater Cleveland to broadcast race results on his innovative “Thoroughbred Horseracing Network,” in which results were broadcast as often as ten times daily. The network expanded to many stations including Cleveland’s KYW, WHK and WERE, and stations in Akron and Youngstown. Van also was responsible for securing network sponsorships.

During the late fifties and early sixties, Van also became involved with television, and produced several programs, including the daily “Vanity Fair” on WEWS Channel 5, as well as ”Magic Touch”, “Stump the Sports”, and “Three Bears Talent Show.” He also produced a harness racing show on WEWS hosted by Paul Wilcox. Besides on-air production, Van also was often responsible for securing show sponsors.

Based on the successful promotion of the race tracks, in 1964 Van became public relations director for several tracks owned by the DeBartolo Corporation, which also led to his involvement in the early strip center and shopping mall industry.

In 1968, Van was lured back to radio, becoming Assistant Manager of WABQ. Over the next twenty years, he would serve in nearly every capacity of operational and sales management for stations in Cleveland, and across the country owned by United Broadcasting Company, eventually becoming a Vice-President of that major broadcast corporation.

In 1988, Van began independently consulting for several stations in Georgia and Ohio, including WRMR in Cleveland. He continued to consult nationally until his passing, but in 1990, after assisting with the sale of WELW Radio in Willoughby, Van became General Sales Manager of WELW. The consummate professional, Van was first in the office every morning, always dressed dashingly in his suit and tie, and eager to make something happen in the industry that he loved.

Over his lifetime, Van overcame a number of serious illnesses, and one bout with cancer affected the golden vocal tones that made him so popular in his early radio career. Adapting to this change, in addition to his managerial duties, he became an expert in operations and sales training. In his 55 year career devoted to the television and radio broadcasting industry, Van worked with hundreds of radio and television owners, managers, broadcasters and account executives. He especially delighted in seeing many of the young people he trained go on to become key executives in major market stations across the country.

A true broadcasting legend, Van Lane, passed away on Sunday, October 3rd, just two months shy of his 90th birthday. He left behind two sons, Peter and Todd, his former wife Joy, and countless dear friends, fans, and admirers of a creative and ambitious man who truly is a legend in broadcasting. His relationships were always the highlight of his career, but he also received countless awards and honors. He especially was pleased with recently receiving a special award from the Cleveland Association of Broadcasters, and with his induction into the WELW Radio Hall of Fame. Although he spent many years with major stations, he always loved most what he called “community radio.”

Additional information on the life of Van Lane can be found at www.VanLane.com, including rare audio of his earlier on-air days, and more recent interviews of his reminiscing on some of his life’s highlights.


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