Stellar Homegoing Ceremony for New York Radio Personality Vaughn Harper - Farewell to our Beloved Velvet Voice of WBLS-FM Radio

By Gloria Dulan-Wilson

Hello All:

From the time I received the news of Vaughn Harper's transition to Ancestor/Angel on Saturday, July 9, 2016, to attending his home going service on Saturday, July 16, there have been so many wonderful comments pouring in from all over.

Over the decades, so many of us have enjoyed - no, loved -  Vaughn's "Quiet Storm," his signature radio show, broadcasted on WBLS-FM radio, which was the key station of Percy Sutton's Inner City Broadcasting Company in New York City.  Whether you were a couple, or a single, his soulful selection of music, and that fabulously intimate voice of his, with that caressing basso quality, was jut the ticket to take your mind off of hassles, problems and issues.   That voice is now quiet forever, but still resonating in the realm of our Ancestor/Angels.

Like his predecessors, Percy Ellis Sutton, Hal Jackson, Frankie Crocker, Jerry Bledsoe, Vaughn was very much a part of a broadcasting dynasty, the likes of which may never be seen again. Inner City Broadcasting  Company was formed through a partnership between Hal Jackson and Percy Sutton; Frankie Crocker - who originally hailed from Buffalo, NY, was the programming genius; but Vaughn Harper was the voice that everybody gravitated to late at night.  The station was Black owned, Black run and Black oriented - a cultural oasis in New York City - but heard, loved and imitated around the world.    And while they may have been able to copy the format, no one could copy that velvet voice.  

Vaughn and Sandra Harper - The Love of His Life

I had known Vaughn since 1984 as a friend; but had originally met him in the 70's when he hosted a concert that featured my late husband, Lou Wilson's group, MANDRILL.  It wasn't until much later that I learned that Vaughn was a freshman at Boys High in Brooklyn when Lou was a senior, and that theirs was a long term friendship from Black in the day.  Vaughn loved Mandrill's music, and featured them many times on his show.  The last time we saw him was when he hosted their concert at B.B.King's in 2011.   It was a sold out, standing room only audience.  Vaughn and Ken "Spider" Webb were there for the entire event.  And they got together back stage after the set for some catching up.  Vaughn looked marvelous at the time, and we had no inkling that he was suffering.  They laughed and told Black in the day stories.  Sadly Lou passed in January of 2013 of cardiac arrest - no one saw that coming.  I'd like to think that those two are up there, looking at us and feeling the love that is emanating from the Sanctuary of Riverside Church. 

It literally took four Divas of Public Relations - Terrie Williams, Rachel Nordlinger, Robin Verges, and Robin Bell to put his home going tribute together.  Held at Riverside Church, with a mass turn out of New York's "radio royalty" - Dr. Bob Lee, Johnny Allen, G. Keith Alexander, Ann Tripp, Vy Higgensen, Ken "Spider" Webb, G. Keith Alexander, Charles Warfield, Jr.; as well as sports greats, including former New York Knick champion Earl "The Pearl" Monroe; and his many fans and friends - the sanctuary was literally standing room only.

The Harper Family - Seated in front is Sandra Harper 

Rather than a sad occasion, it was more like a family gathering - a reunion, of sorts.  With so many friends having been brought together to celebrate the life, times and contribution of Vaughn Harper over his lifetime, as I walked down toward the front of the Sanctuary, there was a buzz of energy in the room as friends and family embraced each other; greeted each other after not having seen each other for quite some time.  It was a warm loving feeling that permeated the entire Riverside Church.  Laughter and hugs, and fist bumps, posing for photos together throughout - and you knew it was because of the fact that all the people in Vaughn's life were positive, fun loving, uplifting personalities.  There was no where you could turn in the room that you did not feel that energy of love surrounding you.  That was what Vaughn Harper meant to us.  


Valerie Simpson opened the program with "Remember Me as a Good Thing."  

As Rev. Al Sharpton so aptly stated, "Vaughn Harper "was not a self indulgent person, which is why he was loved by so many; because you didn't have to be a fan to be his friend.  In the midst of turbulent times in this country, there was one thing we had - and that was the Quiet Storm. " He went on to say that "Vaughn had a voice that matched the name of the show," to which the audience burst into applause.  "If Vaughn had been more bellicose, he couldn't have really made the Quiet Storm what it became."  It was his mellow, but deep voice that kind of settled people into quietness, even though they were still in the storm.  "He would kind of let us know that we could make it trough the storm - he built up our hopes and built up our strength." 

 Rev. Sharpton so appropriately stated that Vaughn didn't do radio to enrich himself, he did to enrich his people.  "We will miss him because there is not anyone that I can think of right now that their voices and their personalities matches their contribution.  So many times we meet people who are so different than what they project.  And Vaughn was always what he projected.  I knew him as an activist; I also knew him for my relationship with James Brown.  He would tease me when I would come to the radio station.  He would say are you here for a cause, or for your crazy Daddy?  Either one - (the audience again responded with laughter).  

"So Vaughn, we're going to miss you; and we will never forget you because as long as radio is important; as long as our culture exists, as long as there a stable hand in troubled times, then we know you're still with us.  And we know that you cared enough about us not to lower your standards, and therefore betray our culture.   May you rest in peace; and as you journey to the other side, say hello to my crazy Daddy."  

The ceremony was so rich with love and cultural tributes, I'm going to paraphrase some of the comments so that you get a deeper sense of the love we all felt, and continue to feel for this wonderful giant with the mellifluous voice.  This is more than a news item - and as you well know, I don't do sound bytes.  This is our Black history and it should not be taken lightly or as a quick read on a Kindle; but as part of the treasure trove of history that you won't find in the meanstream media.  

Gerald Alston, who sang "My Soul Is Anchored In the Lord" so passionately, stated:  
Gerald Alston

"I'm just so grateful to God that he was part of my life.  And there was one thing about Vaughn, if you ever wanted to know something - if you ever wanted to know how you were singing to day; if you didn't want your feelings hurt - don't ask Vaughn."

                                                                                                                                                                            Melba Moore who reached into our souls and had us hanging on every little nuance of her voice, as she said "Just Lean On Me;" brought tears to our eyes.  
Melba Moore
This sister is still one of the most amazing voices on the planet, didn't speak words, but let her soul do the speaking for her.  

Charles Warfield, Jr.,  WBLS - "Warmth, Beauty, Love and Sensitivity, were the meanings Vaughn gave to the call letters of WBLS.  This is Vaughn Harper with the Quiet Storm, he introduced himself that way."  He stated, "if you were his friend once, you were always his friend.  We were blessed in New York City with that voice.  But he also blessed us with a passion for his people."  Warfield went on to regale the audience with Vaughn's exploits with the WBLS Sureshots - the basketball team that played to raise money for various charities.  They often did display games against the KissKards, from the rival radio station WRKS-FM.  "Vaughn was extremely competitive" - no one was paid to play on the team, which go out two to three times a week, over a period of six months to play basketball and help the different communities.  "We were very proud of the Sure Shots and what they did and what they represented."  

Warfield asked those who were either part of the Sure Shots, or who had worked with Vaughn to stand in his honor one last time - one third of the room stood up.  

It should be noted that Vaughn had been on the basketball team at Boys High School in Brooklyn, had been inducted into the Legends of the High - a prestigious fraternity of those who had distinguished themselves after graduating from Boys High; attended Syracuse University on a full scholarship; he scored 1,000 points for Syracuse, and had been recruited to play with the Detroit Pistons, before a knee injury ended his career in 1968.  

Lloyd Williams, Chair of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, stated, "Vaughn, Percy Sutton said to make sure that I told you how much he loves you.  Hal Jackson told me that I must make sure I let you know how much he loves you." 
Lloyd Williams 
 Vaughn and Lloyd met when they were two and a half years old.  "We've been together for that long.  Day care, nursery, public school, junior high school - the whole trip!  I won't take you on that trip, but it was a good trip.  The whole thing.  I just want to ask you to do two things:  If there is something called friendship, I want you to always remember the friendship of Sam Penceal for Vaughn Harper; I think we should give thanks to Samantha for all she did for all these years, for all the help, for all the tears."  A standing ovation of appreciation.

Johnny "Duke"Allen, "It's not good to be the second or third person to speak, but I'm going to do it anyway.  Ladies and gentlemen join me in applauding Ms. Sandra Harper."  Johnny stated that the week prior to Vaughn's transition, he contacted Ken Webb and said they needed to go see Vaughn.  "When we got  there, he was drifting in and out; and we stayed for a couple of hours.  And we took pictures.  When we got ready to leave, I said Vaughn, we're going to go - he slowly took my hand with his left hand and he squeezed it goodbye.  And I thought about that all the way home - that was his way of saying bye.  The first time I met Vaughn was a Leviticus -  (the whole room cheered at the name of one of our former favorite legendary nightspots) - I heard this deep voice that melted all the girls.  He always said, 'good evening ladies and gentlemen,' and the girls would just melt.  He took advantage of it.  So I said, 'who is that?'  Vaughn Harper.  I was supposed to go on stage after him.  But I said, 'Uh-uh, not with my voice behind him.'  Vaughn was hired and trained by Frankie Crocker.  And it was with Vaughn that the Quiet Storm was born.  When Vaughn would end his show, he would say one word : "BYE."  So as I say goodbye to my friend - may he rest in peace."

Sam Penceal:  "When I thought about all the things I wanted to share with you, and I thought about experiences, I thought about towards the last part of  his life, when Vaughn was reluctant to speak in public and we were out together, they would ask 'speech!'  He would say 'Well what do you want me to say?'  I met Vaughn in 1958 - he was in the seventh grade, and I was in the eighth grade.  We became brothers.  We went to junior high school, thanks to some wonderful teachers who saved all our lives we got to Boys High.  Our coach, Mickey Fisher who was one of the three greatest coaches who ever lived, worked with Vaughn.  We went to Syracuse University together - and we have been together for more than fifty years.  I thought it would be good to let you know how Vaughn became the person that you admire and love."  

He continued, "One of the reasons Vaughn was so good at quieting the storms, was because he had a lot of experience raising the storms.  Vaughn was the youngest, the wildest and perhaps the most self centered of all of us.  I remember that while we are created equal; some of us are created more equal than others."  Stating that Vaughn was quite the lady's man, he continued,   "My wife and I are happy that he had the sense enough to marry the best young lady he ever met in his life."   He further stated that Vaughn would likely not have survived had it not been for Sandra at his side.   He related how Vaughn had endured series after series of operations, as the result of the stroke, a heart attack and the diabetes.   "Then he called me up one day and said 'Sam, I just want to thank you for being my friend;' and that was something I never thought about, I never expected to hear coming from this guy that we know who was always on the take.  Someone said you could tell how good a friend he is by how much money he's willing to lend you.  That didn't apply to Vaughn.  But his life has essentially turned around so that he embraced, cared for, and did as much as he could for everybody else.  And that makes me tremendously proud and tremendously happy that he is my friend."  He also stated that when Vaughn reaches the Pearly Gates, if there is a decision to be made as to which way he would be going, "You don't have to worry about that about Vaughn" because he's already paved his way by all the concerns and kindnesses he's done to others over his lifetime."

Keith Wright, NY State Assemblymember:  Extended his condolences to the Harper family.  "Vaughn - to agree with Rev. Sharpton - always made me feel as if I was the most important person in the whole wide world.  We all know him as the great voice, and the great basketball player, but there is the voice that has influence over generations and generations of folks.  And I would venture to say, to paraphrase Frankie Crocker, who used to say, 'If Frankie Crocker isn't on your radio, then your radio isn't really on;' well, if you didn't have Vaughn Harper's Quiet Storm on, your night was not complete.  I would also venture to say that over half the audience here at some point turned down the lights, lit a candle, bolted the door, put Vaughn Harper on the radio; and probably a lot of kids  here should be named Vaughn.  (The audience broke out with laughter and applause).  I don't know, I'm just guessing.  But, what hasn't really been told is that Vaughn was a passionate advocate for education.  Keith's son is a student at Syracuse University; he's here with me now because I knew that I'd better bring him here so he could pay homage to the man who helped him get into Syracuse University."   Vaughn and Sandra had attended a game at Syracuse when they were playing Duke University, and,  though he wasn't doing too well, because he was in the Hall of Fame, he was  signing autographs.  "Even though it was snowing, he wanted Syracuse knew of his commitment to his alma mater.    Vaughn was a special, special person.  Not many people like Vaughn come around.  So, in order to paraphrase the 106th mayor of New York (David N. Dinkins): 'Services to others is the rent we pay while we're here on earth.  Let us not let Vaughn look down on us and find any of us in arrears.'"

Alyson Williams,  "I think everybody respected Vaughn.  I don't know what your relationship to him has been, buy my journey has been great."

Alyson Williams

  She talked of how Vaughn was instrumental in making sure her music was heard when no one else wanted to give her a chance.  She performed "Just Call My Name" and brought the audience to their feet.   

Regina Bell  greeted us  in the spirit of this wonderful brother who touched so many lives in the entertainment industry, stating:  "Praise the lord everybody!  I thank God for my life; I thank God for Vaughn Harper.  I don't know even where to start, when I start talking about all the things I was able to do, because he was a voice for me when I didn't have a voice myself.  He spoke up for me; he introduced me into  circles that I would have never ever been able to have accessed on my own.  Vaughn Harper is the gift that just keeps on giving.  I am honored to ever have met this man in my life.  Very quickly I remember having a number one record and because my band was so large, I made it a vow that if I ever got shorted by a promoter,  in any way, I would never ever transfer that onto my band.  

So there were some nights when I had just enough money, even with the number one record, to pay my band.  And I would call Vaughn up, and I would tell him what was going on; and he would say come on down to Bleecker Street or Houston Street, and I would be part of the entertainment session.   And I want you to know that that was how I was able to pay my bills when things were tight.  The Harper family has been very good to me.  I called them the dynamic duo, because I look at her and she is a precious one; she is a wonderful wife; and she is instrumental and inspirational for all of us who are trying to stay in the family game.  When we think about dying, we want God to understand that we did our very best with what we had to work with; we hope that He understands that everything that came against us, we mixed it all up, but still tried to do what he would have for us to do."  

She dedicated the song to Sandra and the entire Harper family:  then she proceeded to take us back to our roots, as she sang "I Hope He Understands."  Wow! Powerful! Beautiful.  Again, bringing the audience to their feet - what a powerful tribute.

Steve Harvey, in a videotaped message paid homage to "The great Vaughn Harper - one of the greatest Quiet Storms of all times.  All of us here, and the family of WBLS, including all of us on the Morning Show, will miss him.  He was just a warm person - always the same; always willing to sit down and share with me things that he knew about the radio business.  Vaughn Harper was a living legend in the radio business.  His voice resonated. His voice had a golden touch to it. He was Vaughn Harper!  He was The Vaughn Harper!!  Through all these years that he lasted; and the game has changed so drastically, he remained the same and for ever relevant in his days.  He will be missed sorely by by the people of New York.  Everybody knew Vaughn Harper!  I was raised up on Vaughn Harper.  If you grew up in New York,  you were raised on Vaughn Harper.  Vaughn Harper was one of the great radio legends.  I mean, you look at New York, and the landscape of radio, you're talking Frankie Crocker - you're talking about some bad boys there who really set the tone!  Vaughn Harper was in that vein.  So our condolences go out to Vaughn Harper's family, the entire WBLS station, the whole city of New York,  they don't make them like that any more.  Vaughn Harper will be missed."  

Debi Jackson (widow of Hal Jackson):  "Vaughn Harper, I called him the man with the Sex Rated Voice."  She spoke of the many times they would travel together - "We went to the Bahamas and we stayed at the Bahama Mama.  The last trip we took was in 2011, and it was to Turks and Caicos.  It was Hal, myself, Sam, Vaughn, and Dr. Bob Lee.  We sat by the pool; we ate; we had a great time - we drank rum punches - he had Diet Coke.  I'm glad to say that back in the day, we went down to the Cotton Club for Melba Moore's tribute party, and Reggie Wells gave Vaughn Harper - Freddie Jackson was in the House; Mel'issa Morgan was in the House - and then with that VOICE he said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, Melba Moore.'  That was the last mike break. And I'm glad to say that I was part of it.  Love you Sam. "

Champagne Palumbo:  In a more traditional vein, read a prepared statement:  "It is with heavy hearts that we gather here today to mourn the passing of a dear friend and co-worker, Vaughn Harper.  The first time I met Vaughn was in May 1983, when I started working at BLS. The following September was my first time on BLS, when Frankie allowed me to fill in for Vaughn when he did the Sunday Classics.  From that day forward, we remained close partners in crime.  We spent every night together - of course with Sam's permission - we supported each other through thick and thin.  We were blessed to be a part of radio history in a time when radio was fun.  When we had the privilege to be creative - it was a time when radio and records had strong bonds, and the artists and reps were part of the scene.  

Vaughn Harper was more than just a radio personality.  He was a presence.  A presence that inspired and that many admirers tried to duplicate.  He had a warm and vibrant spirit; a rich velvet voice that enticed millions of listeners every night for over three decades.   Whenever Vaughn Harper stepped on stage, all he had to do was say 'Good evening' in his velvet voice, and the audience went wild.  His presence along with his velvet voice would launch the audience into the stratosphere, and earned him his legendary status.  Whether he was in the studio, or broadcasting the Quiet Storm, Vaughn always had people stop by the studio.  It was rare that Vaughn was in the studio by himself." She related the many visitors who would pop in including Luther Van Dross, who was the first to sing live on the air on The Quiet Storm; or crowding the group Sound of Blackness into the small studio; or Bobby Caldwell's stopping by with a bottle of Hennessey, and everyone getting silly on the air; or when the Ojays stopped by.  He was instrumental in introducing such artists as Laila Hathaway, Mint Condition and other new artists to his listeners.  She continued: "The memories are endless, just as my love for Vaughn.  The Storm has suddenly become quiet.  We are all individual sparks of the Divine, and when the soul's journey is complete, and it no longer has work to do, it decides to return home.  Vaughn's work here may be done, bus his legacy will live on forever." 

Bob Lee (aka Dr. Bob Lee):  "Vaughn Harper!  Where do you begin.  We had so many wonderful memories together at WBLS.  I was a skinny kid with a big Afro when I started here."  He had graduated from a Tech College, and they were telling him how to dress before going on a job interview.  He was wearing a suit and a tie and working in the record library at WBLS trying to put the records in order, but Vaughn took exception to his being dressed so formally in an informal atmosphere.  

"I was in there one day with a suit and tie and Vaughn leans into me and says, 'Yo, why don't you loosen up your tie.  I just looked at him.  I didn't know what to do.  He said loosen up your tie, man.  And it was right then I was bordered by Hal Jackson, Frankie Crocker.  We were in the van and we would get around the city.   Vaughn was in the van too.  We would get to the Soul Food restaurants.  Vaughn loved his soul food especially Sylvia's.  Vaughn knew were to get clothes too. He introduced me to someone called A.J. Lester (the crowd once again applauded wildly).  In 1986 I joined the WBLS Quiet Storm team.  You didn't want to get that Frankie Crocker call while you were on the air.  When I was doing the week end Quiet Storm, he would call up and say, 'Hey young man, what you doing?'"  Vaughn also knew how to mix, even before they had the specialized turntables, and nobody knew what was going on.  "My man, Vaughn Harper - Yo, Man!  I want to applaud you for all the work you've done over the years.  Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! We're going to have the Sure Shots II and we're going to beat the Kiss Kards! Thank you, Vaughn Harper!"

G. Keith Alexander (Using his best voice over voice) stated:  "In a world where radio was all the entertainment we had, there was only one radio station that had the ears of all of New York,  and there were stories of great new programs, as far away as Europe, in downtown hotel rooms, the papers told of the Total Black Experience - programmed by the Chief Rocker, Frankie Crocker; the music was hip the deejays were cool. It's upwardly mobile Black and multi-racial listeners were referred to as Beautiful People.  

It was the hot new media and lifestyle radio, known around the world as W-B-L-S!!  However, to the original founding deejays Ken Spider Webb, Vy Higgensen, LaMarr Rene, the late Al Robets, Johnny "the Duke" Allen, and yours truly, G. Keith Alexander.  To us, and our dedicated support staff, it was much more than just the hottest radio station, it was actually The Frankie Crocker School of Broadcasting.  The true fraternity of radio entertainment.  This close knit kinship soon grew to include the velvet voice of Vaughn Harper.  This smooth, deep, sultry voice set the mood for The Quite Storm, and garnered him numerous awards and a lot of voice over work.  It was almost like having the Barry White of late night playing beautiful love songs and chatting with recording stars.  Loved by millions of fans, and loved even more by the record promoters who always knew they had a friend on the air."  

He quoted a poem composed by Maurice Singleton III that was posted on Vaughn''s Facebook page.  "On my Facebook page, I posted the question - what is your best memory of WBLS Radio Legend Vaughn Harper?  One person responded, 'His voice puts you in the mood for romance before he played the music.  For me the music was the cherry on top of the whipped cream.'" 

"I'll always remember sitting with Vaughn in Sylvia's Restaurant; because he always loved soul food.  And I was amazed at discovering that he had his own dedicated table at Sylvia's.  And right next to that table was a plaque with his name on it!  Now, I'd never seen anything like that before.  But Vaughn was a regular at Sylvia's.  I always remember when I went to audition for a voice over part. And the room was filled with seven other voice over artists, including Vaughn.  When I got through the door, Vaughn flattered me and embarrassed me at the same time as he jokingly said, 'Oh no, G. Keith is here!'  I was mortified.  And I will always remember a lady overheard me talking about Vaughn, and said 'When I wash my hair, and stand in front of the radio, his voice blow dries my hair.'" (Now you know that all of us fell out laughing!!!)  

 G. Keith, who had been holding it together for the most part, became emotional when he started reminiscing about his personal interactions with Vaughn, "Recently, July 4th weekend, I had plans to go to the Bahamas.  And Ken Webb and Johnny called me  because they were going to go visit Vaughn on several occasions.  Each time I had a conflict; I was working, or something came up and I could go visit him.  And this particular time, when I heard that he was in rehabilitation, about three days before I left to go away, I called him.  And  we talked briefly - two minutes - he laughed - sounded like someone else was in the room with him; so I said, I'm going away, but when I come back, I'm coming up to see you.  He said, 'Okay.'  When I landed a week later, and took my phone off of airplane mode, all of these text messages and people had wanted to let me know that my friend had passed.  And I didn't get a chance to see him (his voice broke).  But I'm here today, along with all of you, and I just want to conclude by saying that he was a great guy and in his name they're getting ready to launch the Voice of Vaughn Harper Computer Department at one of the schools (not specified which or where);  and I think that when you think about what we can do to keep his name going, it will be a great thing. So,Vaughn, I know you're looking down here, and when it's all over and done today, you'll probably just say "BYE!'"

Dionnee Harper, Vaughn's daughter, delivered a very tender family tribute to her dad:  "On behalf of the family, I would like to thank everyone for coming out on behalf of my mom and my dad.  When we were planning this, we were asked how we wanted my father to be remembered. the first thing that came to mind was that I wanted this to be a celebration of life.  As much as I'm sad that I've lost my father, I did not want this to be a somber occasion.  My father was an innovator, a man of ideals, a man of integrity; who stood for what he believed in.  My father was strong, resilient, funny, sarcastic, generous.  

And though he waited til the last minute to do all of the shopping, we were never disappointed.  I could always count on my father to give me that one unexpected thing that I didn't need, but that I actually loved.  And let's be clear, my dad was smart.  He had such a great sense of style.  I looked up to my dad so much - both literally and figuratively - so much of who I am is patterned after my dad.  From playing basketball in high school, for which he rarely missed a game; to attending his alma mater, Syracuse University, to moving to Harlem after college, to having a career in entertainment.  My father and I absolutely shared and had a passion for music.  There are so many things I admired about my dad, but what I think I loved most was that he had a good heart.  My family and I were lucky enough to be the recipient of his unconditional love every day.  Though he's no longer physically with us, I know that his spirit surrounds us and that he will forever be in my heart.   Daddy, we love you; I love you."

Note: From this point forward, the rest of message is totally from Imhotep Gary Byrd, who was asked to deliver Vaughn's Eulogy. 

Gary Byrd:  Greetings in the name of GOD and the Ancestors, in whose footsteps we walk, and upon whose ideas we fly."   Gary indicated that he, too,  had planned to see Vaughn, because his wife had put out the word that it was time. He had inadvertently left some material at another radio station, and after retrieving it, ended up staying up all night working on a project til five in the morning.  "There was a time, because I am the brother to Vaughn Harper and Jerry Bledsoe, that wasn't so unusual.   But when I crossed the sixty year threshold, it became a little more difficult."  Gary then related how serious and important the art  of caregiving was.  Having been care taker to a life partner and a friend, he queried Sandra about what was happening with Vaughn.

Imhotep Gary Byrd Delivered the Eulogy

"When Sandra described to me what was happening to Vaughn, I was alarmed, and said he's going to wind up having to be rushed to the hospital.  She said, I'm going to hang up the phone and call Sam right now.  She called me back in ten minutes and said, Vaughn has been rushed to the hospital.  When I sit alone the thing that comes back in my mind is the way that I met Vaughn - I met Vaughn through Jerry Bledsoe (aka Jerry B) - Jerry Bledsoe was my mentor.  Jerry Bledsoe put me on the radio at age 16 in Buffalo, NY.  And the year we cross the threshold of fifty years in broadcasting in New York.   Thank God I don't look it, but you know."

Gary was originally asked to just say a few words at the service; but later was told that he might be the host; however, it  turned out that he was earmarked to deliver the eulogy instead.  And what a eulogy it was!!  Leave it to Gary Byrd to come up with something unique and completely different from the norm.

 In writing Vaughn's eulogy, he discovered that Sandra and Vaughn were both Pisces.    He fully grasped the synchronicity between Vaughn and Sandra - and that magical link between the two, that meant that they were cosmically made for each other.  He considered Vaughn to have been fortunate to have had someone with him who understood him, and had the empathy and love necessary to see him through all the health challenges he had to endure.  
Gary told the audience:  "I'm a quadruple Pisces - I have four planets in Pisces- but when you tell me that you have two people - dynamic duo was mentioned - two Pisceans together, that's a whole other kind of relationship. That takes it to a whole other level.  And then she said the magic word.  When I asked her how did you guys get together, she said, 'Jerry Bledsoe took me to a club and said there's someone  I want you to meet.  The person that Bledsoe wanted Sam to meet was Vaughn Harper. Jerry introduced me to Vaughn Harper.   So he kind of hooked us all together.  And, in this particular moment, that we have come together, for his home going celebration we really can acknowledge, as I was hearing, that this celebration of a Beloved Father, Brother, Son, Activist, Husband, Radio Personality, A & R Man, and friend to many was one of the truly kindest and most generous people you could ever meet through the entertainment business.  

I have the privilege to deliver the eulogy. I'm touched, and at the same time, I'm happy to be here because I had the privilege to call him FRIEND.

We are members of - as I heard them say - a unique fraternity.  You see, there are things all over the country that affect radio stations.  There are Black radio stations whose programs don't do anything. But there's only one NEW YORK CITY.  There's only one NYC. And I want you to understand that if you wind up getting to NYC, you've crossed ten years and twenty years and thirty years - oh, you have become a radio legend .  You are a NYC BRP - New York City Black Radio Personality. 

We are bound together by a wealth of Black music; we are bound together by a love for the Black community; and we're bound together for Black radio.   Now like ideas with the PC - some of you may not go back to those days, but Melvin Linny in Washington, DC was the pioneer of the Quiet Storm.

He may have been the pioneer, but Vaughn Harper perfected it.   Today if you track his amazing journey, it's aAnd some of you may have had tears - but it's okay.  Ray Charles had a great saying - he'd say just let your body move from side to side, and let your conscious be your guide.  We have said our final goodbyes today to our Brother Vaughn Harper.  

Originally when I was just going through by asking me a simple question, how he must have felt to have been drafted by the Detroit Pistons basketball team.  He understood the value of the team concept.  And he knew how to play his position.  When you can see where that concept began in the team that came here today -  I'm on the phone with Sandra DaCosta, and Sam is nearby, and I hear someone say, 'Yeah, the family is coming - I think it's forty of them coming!'  Well the fact of the matter is that where do we learn how to become part of a team, except through family - that's where it starts.   Can we give the Harper family a round of applause."

"Vaughn dealt with a grave disease - he suffered from diabetes.  There are many of us in this audience who are suffering from it now, personally or through someone in your own family.   One of the first things that is supposed to happen with that diagnosis  when you get diabetes is that you're supposed to be given a team.  The team is supposed to work with you; but in the end, it comes down to a caretaker.  The person who is with you day in and day out, through the highs and the lows that occur. The amputations that may come and the threat to eyesight and the blindness that may come as well. Not too many people can meet this challenge of being a caretaker.  And some days, you are blessed if you have someone.  I say that because this sister is the one who faced that challenge, and met it on the 24/7 battlefield.  She has been on the team fighting the diabetes challenge for ten long years, down to his final breath.  Dedicated to his life and his health.

Gary Byrd has a way of placing emphasis on each word, much in the same manner as a minister (only not as loud), in order to focus the audience's attention on how significant a particular issue is.  

"Soft and Warm - a Quiet Storm - quiet as when flowers talk at the break of dawn.
A power source of tender force
Radiating - turn me on."

"She kept him going!   She is the answer to his life.  The sister is still standing for her man and her family. (an ground swell of applause drowned out the rest of his statement - but by this time Gary was in preaching mode).  Y'all remember that?" Audience responded "Yes," of course.
"Well I guess you can understand when you lose somebody who you share breath with, when this service is done, Sam has to go to through the grief and bereavement tunnel.  She not only has to go through the tunnel, she's got to listen to this brother in her head, playing "The Love We Had Stays on My Mind" -  because Vaughn keeps playing these tracks all inside her head.  You have to know that it's going to take some time; it's going to take grace, courage, and it's going to take her entire family and network of friends to be there in that space that's left. And I trust that she'll have that support.  We've been here before. Black and beautiful is the list of those infrastructures:  Percy Sutton, Hal Jackson!!   

[Amazingly enough, Gary could have been talking about me, because that's the very experience I had after Lou's sudden  passing; and I'm sure he himself experienced the same pain after the passing of his life partner.  Palpable, excruciating, heartbreaking pain, followed by ongoing conversations with them, though they're no longer on this plane of action; and oh so many, many memories.  You can feel, but you can't touch them around you; but they're very much a presence in your space, your mind and your heart.]

Inner City movers each of whom has a story to tell and respect for that beloved man.  But today,  the teacher does not have the story to tell and the facts that we love and hate.

Today we share the story of a young man who had his own plan; what was the boy coming with?  What was it?  As I was sitting down in meditation - I meditate two and a half hours a day - and I meditate like that because my brothers were Vaughn Harper and Jerry Bledsoe, so I'm still recovering from the 1970s and talking to them every day.  But I was trying to tap into what was it that Vaughn was working with.  And it hit me out of nowhere, and the answer -Oh yeah! yeah! yeah! that's it!  

  by Imhotep Gary Byrd

He came with game!
He knew how to play his position, 
Whether on the court or in the air;
He moved with inner vision 

At 6 feet 4, he had the altitude
But he was gifted with a voice and raptitude
That brought him accolades and platitudes
All that brings us here today

In this moment, in this place, 
To ask God's glory and his grace
For a brother who  brought a sense of peace 
Into any and every space

Yes, soft and warm, 
The Quiet Storm
Turning him on!

He was the power source!
A gentle force
A giant whose voice and mix of music
Gave you no other choice!

You heard of the Quiet Storm with Vaughn
That was it! It was done!
The Quiet Storm where relationships were born
Where babies were made and grown
And then grew up to make their own.  

He said it was not for him self
He said it was a mood
And across the decades it became 
New York's nightly food

Stirred by a master chef
Who every night had a brand new mix 
To pull off his musical shelf.

He came with game 
From Boys High School 
Where he became a star and a jock
To Syracuse University
Where he and the Orangemen had it locked

Now when Frankie heard that voice
And the way the speakers rocked 
He knew that his new WBLS would rise up in his stock
'Cause Vaughn Harper came with game

You see guys all over the city 
Already knew his name
Now FC knew that when that voice hit the airwaves
It would drive the ladies totally insane
Especially since Vaughn Harper knew 
How to stay in his lane.

We all witnessed the domination of the late night radio game
Year after year always just the same
The Quiet Storm pushed Vaughn Harper to international fame
And Vaughn's galaxy of Black music 
Where no night was ever the same!

He discovered new artists
Exposed their music and kept many of the great legends alive
Providing a useful platform 
That in truth helped many of them survive.

Now on the way he met a Sister
Who he could not leave alone!
Like Earth, Wind and Fire said
Their love was written in the stone!
Vaughn and Sandra went into their shared Pisces Dome
And went on a multi decade journey
With a love that was all their own.

The challenges came - The ups and downs in an entertainment career
Especially in the radio game that - as Mr. Warfield knows 
Can change from year to year.
Sometimes you have to face life - even the firing squad
Even though you were great on the radio 
Even though you are  a star

And then there's that other thing called the game of life
Which brought him a brand new challenge 
With the diabetes knife
And a heart attack which threatened his instrument
His amazing voice
And almost sidelined his career 
And the lifestyle of his choice

But come back he did 
Until that final day 
When he knew he had to hang it up 
And finally call it a day

At his last birthday party 
Dr. Bob Lee said
He almost fell as the result of toe amputations
And it was clear later 
He was not doing well

But he could still bring up that smile
And that rumble in his voice
That made him an all time favorite
Still the people's radio choice

I remember him coming with his cane
To an event at the Harlem State Office Building
And I brought my son who has diabetes type I
And how much Vaughn always reminded me of my friend
Jerry B, our talented brother 
Who certainly showed us how to have a lot of fun

So when the word came that Vaughn had taken his final breath
You could hear how many sighed at the news of his sudden death
Some just closed their eyes
And others just sat and cried

He had such a generous, beautiful spirit
You couldn't dislike him if you tried
Along the way he supported charities
Giving his share to save their lives

Just one of the reasons he'll remain one Deejay
Who will never be forgot
Because he came with game
He knew how to play his position 
Whether on the court or on the air
He moved with precision

But he was gifted with a voice and raptitude
That brought him accolades and platitudes
All that brings us here today

In this moment, in this place, 
To ask God's glory and his grace
For a brother who  brought a sense of peace 
Into any and every space

Soft and Warm, Vaughn Harper's Quiet Storm
Radiating, Generating
Turning us on!
Now that he's gone
We say rest in peace beautiful Brother
And know you made us proud 
As you continue that Quiet Storm
Somewhere up there in the clouds

Wherever we hear a Quiet Storm
We know it was Vaughn Harper's voice
That turned it on

(Standing Ovation from the audience - naturally)

The family, friends and fans who had gathered for their last goodbyes filed  out as Vaughn's wonderful voice spoke over  Smokey Robinson's epoch making song, "QUIET STORM" playing throughout the sanctuary.

people who came to pay their last respects included flautist, Bobbi Humphrey, Harriet Michel, Ruth Hunt, Don Thompson, Earl "the Pearl" Monroe (NY Knicks Champion), Melba Moore, Ann Tripp, Vy Higgensen, Jean Parnell, Ken "Spider" Webb, Tony Blade, Richard Spears, 

Shirley Scott, vocalist John Pressley, Sandra Trim DaCosta,   Onage Alan Gumbs, Michael Garner (100 Black Men), Zach Husser (100 Black Men  & Omega Psi Phi Fraternity), Dennis

 Rahim Watson, Debbie Miller, Mal Woolfolk, Kojo Ade; and the Ancestor/Angel Spirits of Percy Sutton, Frankie Crocker, Eddie O'Jay Jerry B, Hal Jackson, and a host of other Ancestor/Angels who are well pleased with us indeed for paying homage to the brother with the Velvet Voice.

Gloria Dulan-Wilson chatting with Ken Spider Webb

In total appreciation for the treasure trove of memories you have given us all, Vaughn, Rest in Power.

And to Sandra, and the Harper Family - my profound condolences at your loss; may you all treasure the memories of this great and wonderful FINE BLACK BROTHER/MAN!

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