Vaughn Harper, WBLS disc jockey from Teaneck, dies at 70
Vaughn Harper of Teaneck, the velvet-voiced disc jockey long synonymous with New York radio station WBLS, where he showcased R&B, jazz and blues on his late-night show, “Quiet Storm,” died Saturday at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center. He was 70.
The cause was complications of diabetes, said his wife, Sandra.
“A lot of people my age are not aware of the history of our music — black music,” Mr. Harper said in an interview with Newsday in 1988, several years after he rolled out “Quiet Storm” and a dozen years after he joined WBLS, at 107.5 on the FM dial.
“A majority think that music started with Prince. They’ve never heard of Frankie Lymon. I feel I have an obligation to show the progression that has taken place.”
Mr. Harper stitched together songs from the likes of Luther Vandross and Anita Baker and Nat King Cole with a soothing, and inimitable, baritone — a voice that younger people may recognize from the video game Grand Theft Auto IV.
“I’m prejudiced, but it was the most amazing voice in the world,” his wife said. “It was his feeling — he was able to tap into what everybody needed. I don’t know how he did it.”
A decade before that voice became familiar to listeners in the metropolitan area, Mr. Harper made his mark in a different field — basketball.
The Harlem native, who was known for his leaping ability, starred at Boys High School and at Syracuse University, where his teammates included future NBA great Dave Bing and Jim Boeheim, now the longtime Syracuse coach. As a senior in 1967-68, Mr. Harper led the Orangemen in scoring; he averaged 13.5 points per game for his three year-career. He was drafted by the Detroit Pistons but never reached the NBA.
Mr. Harper came to the attention of WBLS while working as a nightclub host in Manhattan. The station, in a tribute on its website, said he “easily became the signature voice of WBLS and New York City.”
He left the airwaves after suffering a stroke in 1993, but recovered and worked at other stations before returning to WBLS. He retired in 2008.
Mr. Harper is survived by his wife of 28 years; three daughters, Dionnee cq Harper of Manhattan, Brieanna cq Nesbitt of Manhattan and Melanie Garrett of Pittsburgh, and five grandchildren.
Viewing hours are 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday at Riverside Church, 490 Riverside Drive, Manhattan, followed by the funeral service.