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Gary Blau, Silent Key

Well-regarded engineer and ham radio operator had cancer

Gary Blau, WPGC
Lee Chambers remembers: This is from 1983 — at the time, he was the chief at RKO’s WGMS in Washington and also pulled a weekend airshift at WPGC, also in Washington, where he followed me on the air on Saturday nights. This is Gary at WPGC.
Two years later, we were reunited at WNBC when he became Chief and I was Wolfman Jack’s on air sidekick.
Gary was a pal and a true radio guy. No doubt, he is phase aligning that great tower in the sky as we speak! Photo: Lee Chambers

Radio engineer Gary Blau has died.

According to his friend and colleague Hal Kneller, Blau died Sunday morning at a hospice facility in Sebring, Fla. after a three-year fight with cancer.

In 1999 Blau became director of engineering for Jefferson Pilot stations in Miami, which later were sold to Lincoln Financial and subsequently to Entercom.

He led the engineering for WMXJ, WLYF, WSFS and WAXY until last year when he was obliged to retire because of his health.

“Even during his retirement, while going for treatments, he kept his ham station W3AM active until as recently as last Sunday Aug. 23,” Kneller wrote to Radio World in an email.

Before Miami Blau worked in Phoenix, New York, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles in both radio and television engineering. During his early years in the business, he was a partner in the ownership of an FM station in Pennsylvania.

Gary Blau, Pam Viner, Greg Guise
Paul Courson, WA3VJB, provides this picture. He says, “Gary is shown at right with longtime television photojournalist Greg Guise, K3HOT, and Pam Viner, N3HFC. We met at the Gaithersburg [Maryland] hamfest years ago, and I continued in more recent years to enjoy spending time with him on AM on shortwave hobbyist frequencies, including the Florida AM Net.”
He was a regular on the amateur radio “Broadcast Net” and the SBE Net. In addition to his hobby of amateur radio and his career in broadcast engineering, Blau enjoyed building things from scratch, designing circuits and even making his own printed circuit boards, Kneller said.

He is survived by his wife Diana.

A post on Blau’s W3AM website about how to find AM on the amateur radio bands provides a sample of his personality and his sense of humor:

“While I use SSB, NBFM and other low-fi modes, I have a particularly warm fondness for the superior sound quality and relaxed and courteous operating style that is unique to AM (Angel Music),” he wrote.

“The organic experience of using vintage equipment with those curious glass objects inside that get so darned hot and smell so, well, electronic, flows naturally into the ultimate tranquility and Zen-like oneness with the ether you’ll feel when operating AM. So come on, pour yourself a highball, fire up that old Viking, and become a vessel empty of yourself!”

“And, the chicks really dig it.”

John Lyles, Gary Blau, Broadcast Electronics
John Lyles and Gary Blau at the Broadcast Electronics booth at the 1984 NAB Show. Photo: John Lyles.

John Lyles remembers: “Gary and I both worked at WUVT as volunteers (on air and engineering) at Virginia Tech in the 1970s. Later, he would help with various upgrades that WUVT went through, going to higher power, rebuilding studios and moving to a temporary studio. He always looked me up at NAB while I was at Broadcast Electronics, and we usually found lunch with Jack Sellmeyer.”

He adds, “I remember riding across Virginia in one of his cars and him playing his cassette mix tape. Over the years we had many discussions about modifying old AM transmitters for ham reuse and audio processing. G-Man was top notch in everything he did.”

Lyles also remembers, “Our last conversation about classic audio processors was a few months ago. He just got a tower installed at his Sebring retirement property to get a decent ham signal out. Then this happened. My friend Gary will be always remembered for his humor, honesty, engineering knowledge and great personality.”

Gary Blau, Mike Blau, Rob Waring, John Lyles. WUVT
Gary Blau, Mike Blau (no relation), Rob Waring and John Lyles at WUVT, c. 1975-78. Photo: John Lyles.

We asked readers to submit recollections and pictures.