It’s cliché to say that any person is one of a kind. But how else could you describe Big Daddy Graham? You could meet all eight billion people on this Earth and never find anyone remotely like this quirky, funny sweetheart of a guy. Eddie Gudonis was the cheapskate with the generous heart. The comic who could be profoundly thoughtful. The rough-around-the-edges neighborhood knock-around who knew how to charm. Just ask my wife, who was always enamored of Big Daddy, calling him, “a diamond in the rough.” He was not born with advantages. Eddie grew up in a dysfunctional family with a father who likely suffered decades from PTSD, a situation touchingly described in his first book, “Last Call . . . Remembering My Dad.” Big wasn’t blessed with a great education, nor did his family have money. But he had innate smarts and a work ethic that would exhaust ten CEOs. Consider the volume and scope of his creative work: Three books (two of which I had the pleasure of co-authoring), several record albums (who told him he could sing?), and a pair of brilliant one-man plays that he wrote and performed. Both of those shows had the ability to make you alternately laugh and cry. In recent years, confined to a wheelchair, he launched several podcasts, including one counting down his 100 favorite albums. He was crafting content right to the end. It all stemmed from his decades as a standup comic. He hustled for years, playing clubs near and far, opening for some Hall of Fame acts, entertaining at private parties, conceiving a joint act with Joe Conklin – “Two Funny Philly Guys” – that became a staple on the local scene. I had the pleasure of emceeing several of those shows with Joe and Big Daddy. Before the show we’d sit backstage. Joe would pace a bit, rehearsing his jokes and voices. Big Daddy would sit and fret – the audience wasn’t large enough; his new material wasn’t strong enough; the sound system wasn’t loud enough. Then he would go out and slay. The standup comedy led to a second career as a radio host, anchoring WIP’s overnights for decades. In this, I always thought Big Daddy was a victim of his own success. He was so brilliant at 3 a.m. – scarfing down snacks on the air, recalling his unique childhood, running the same birthday gag about former PD Tom Bigby for years on end – that the station never gave him the chance to work another daypart. After Eddie could no longer work overnights, Ray Didinger and I made him a part of our weekend shows, asking him call in with a top 5 list and a few jokes. We’d open the segment playing his theme song (“Who’s that man? It’s Big Daddy Graham.”) I know he enjoyed hearing the song. And I know our listeners enjoyed the opportunity to hear his voice. But let’s be honest about one thing: He probably had the worst voice in the history of radio. Nasal, raspy, with an accent somewhere out of Southwest Philly. Still, it was endearing. And everybody – I mean everybody – could do a decent impersonation of Big Daddy Graham. His quirkiness came out in the legendary stories that he told again and again. Hiding atop the toilets in the Palestra men’s room as a kid to avoid paying for Big 5 tickets. Driving naked – I think it was to the Flyers parade. Most of the stories started with the same opener: “Hey, dig this . . .” Who else in the world still says “dig this?” He’d call me on my cellphone and there would be no “hello” at the beginning or “goodbye” at the end. He’d just start mid-conversation, expecting me to know who it was and what he was talking about. He loved his Johnny Walker Blue and hated any food that was the color green. One night Big and his great wife, Deb, came to our house for dinner along with Ray and his wife, Maria. My own wife, Judy, spent hours preparing a gourmet meal of beef tenderloin, squash soup, salad, oven-roasted potatoes and roasted plum tomatoes. Big Daddy groaned and refused to touch 90 percent of it – eating only the beef (which he slathered in a pint of ketchup) and a loaf of bread he stole from the kitchen. My wife wasn’t insulted – how could she be? He was so funny and charming, even apologizing every time he dropped the F-bomb. Which was often. Big Daddy had a lot of tough breaks in his life, battling and beating throat cancer a few years back, and then sustaining the spinal injury in 2019 when he was walking on the beach with Deb. The best break he caught was certainly convincing Deb to marry him. That was always the case, and made abundantly clear as she heroically helped him through the last two years. Eddie cherished her, as well as their two daughters, Ava and Keely, their sons-in-law and their two grandkids. I know how proud he was that Ava is on WIP, because he boasted about it every time we talked, always adding, “But why don’t they pay her more?” My heart goes out to all of them. I’ll miss my friend in so many ways, as will all of the people who knew him personally, or anyone who just had the privilege of hearing him on air. He was special in so many ways. There is no one else on Earth like Big Daddy Graham.
Glen Macnow WIP Radio
I saw him several times and read one of his books. He was amazing to say the least. I grew up in Philly so I made a connection. I’m sorry more than I can say. You all will be in my prayers. Love Mary Ormsby
One of the greatest. Got me through many sleepless nights with his humor and his brilliance. RIP Big. Ron Cori
Got to know Ed through Darren D many years ago and we became good friends, he did a charity comedy night for my youth comedy program and gave the cash back. He was always one to help a friend. He helped further my career as well( hell, my info is still on this site after many years. My thoughts are with his lovely wife Debbie and daughters Ava and keely. Gonna miss you bud. Kenneth E. Miller Liberty Bel Bank
I saw Big Daddy several times as a standup, going back to the 80s. (Call In Sick!) I'll miss his always upbeat contributions on WIP. Eric Wagner
BDG- Gave me my chance in radio and my nick name IVR. He would always go out of his way to help me and give me advice. I was one of his very first interns. We had some great nights from the Press Carter night to bringing the girls on the show from Club Risqué. He was my mentor and hero.
Back in the early 80’s there was a local Central Bucks County cable TV show called the Comedy Cabaret on Suburban Cable TV (now Comcast). I think Big Daddy was on a constant loop every week. Big Daddy did two bits the first he discusses always waking up in the middle of the night while his wife was asleep. “Wake up I’m horny, wake I’m horny he sang. The bit was classic. Then he transitions into the Channel 6 News theme song Dat dat dat da da da da – then he shouts I want to see Monica Malpass naked. I called him up 15 years ago and reminded him of both and we broke up for 10 minutes. Rob Cleland
When my wife and I started our business nearly twenty years ago, several nights a week I would be in the office until between 3am-5am. Big Daddy would get me through the night with his show. The “Daddy I’m Scared” drop and hearing about BDG’s snack that night were the best. Thanks for being there BDG. Condolences to Big Daddy’s wife and family. Frank Dowd
He helped me get to sleep through a hectic period of my life and I’ll never forget that. I never got the chance to meet him but it feels like I lost a friend today. Ernest Marano
I first heard Big Daddy when I was a kid in grade school back home in Philadelphia. Big Daddy had me immediately hooked. Five years ago, I relocated full-time to Los Angeles. Nothing & nobody ever made me feel like I was back home more so than hearing Big Daddy’s unmistakable voice when streaming WIP. You are truly loved by so many & will be missed! Rest easy BDG! Bobby Flick
RIP BDG Rick Burns
Enjoyed listening to Big Daddy over the years, especially when I was working early mornings. I hope he’s bodysurfing in Heaven! -Gerry Smith
It was the week before the Eagles Super Bowl 2005 when my wife and I were in a sports bar at Front & Oregon Ave in South Philly and BDG was there as well. He saw my wife and came over and sat down right next to her and said: “what are you doing with this guy?”
I was a fan of his since “NUNS” was played on WMMR. My condolences to the family. RIP Big Daddy. Ron, Newtown Square
I met Big Daddy Graham in Roxborough in 2011 at Quizzo. I was taking care of my Mom with dementia, and that night was quality mental health for me. I listened to him at night and loved him. Rest in peace, buddy! Marian Ciliberti
Big Daddy will be missed as a fixture here in Sea Isle City. We just saw him last month at the Pour House watching the J-Bros. He looked great and in great spirits so I called a few of his close friends to let them know he was out and about! Such and shock and will surely be missed by all. Tony & Sandy Ieradi
I am an overnight truck driver and have been for many years. Big Daddy Graham was always who I would listen to in the middle of the night and it was always a pleasure to hear him talk. I never quite got the opportunity to see him live at an event but I will always treasure that man for being able to keep me awake and alert throughout the night. Richard Luton JR
Being an Orthopedic Surgeon many the night I listened to Big Daddy as I drove to the hospital. I also listened to him most nights. He will sure as heck entail people in heaven. Morton Rubin
Heartbroken for his immediate family and his radio family as well. Long time WIP middle of the night listener while delivering papers. What joy and laughter he brought every night. RIP. You are truly missed. DWR Painting
Remember in 2017 when you passed thru Honolulu on a cruise...and gave me a call while docked to possibly meet up. Ultimately your cruise ship had to leave, and as you texted, In another lifetime... as a fan, that was such a cool moment in my life. Thanks for all you've done for us fans. We love ya, BDG! Rick Morse
What can I possibly say that hasn't been said about BDG.. But I started listening to him from his start on wip. I had a long commute to work and just loved him and his quirky show. Since his paralysis I've been holding out hope that he would somehow someday make it back to WIP so he could keep me company on my long commute. But I'll cherish all the great memories of the man and his crazy show. He was one of a kind. RIP Large Father! Bill Kirkwood
I injured myself several times at the gym when BDG would make me laugh uncontrollably in the middle of a set. I miss his show and the man behind it. Frank J. Gontowski
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” Rest easy BDG Rich rmodelmac***@*****.com
I spent many an early working hour listening to Big Daddy. My deepest condolences to his wife, kids and extended family. Thank you Big Daddy for the joy you’ve brought me and Rest In Peace. Craig Rosas
I feel deeply saddened by this loss. I lived around the corner from BDG in Sea Isle and ran into to him around town and had the good fortune to chat with him a few times. We saw him at the old Coffee.comedy in Sea Isle and at the Deauville. We saw his one man play in Pitman (that show would have done Broadway proud) and one of my favorite possessions is his book, "Last Call". Anybody from that period can relate to some part of that book. He was a treasure. Over the years he had his share of physical burdens but you never heard him complain. My thoughts and prayers to his family. RIP, BDG. Jack Fleming
Big Daddy Graham was always this larger than life character I would hear on the radio. His wit, his passion, and, in a way, his randomness had a way to draw in fans. I am truly saddened by his passing but know he will live on in so many memories shared by all. My deepest condolences to his direct family and extended family. My thoughts go out to them during this difficult time. Rest in Peace good sir Michael DiPaolo
BDG my heart is heavy I’m so devastated by your passing I want to thank you for all the many nights where you made me laugh while listening to your show delivering for the inquirer. You will be missed tremendously. I still followed you after you left the air on your Facebook page and shows you had including the top 100. Again thank you may you rest in peace to we see you again!!! To your family I’m praying for you during this difficult time!!!! Ronald Lee Adams Jr
I have worked the night shift for 38 years at UPS and Big Daddy has driven with me for millions of miles. He was like a good friend on the radio laughing & crying but the best thing was he was 100% PHILADELPHIA!! He will be missed. RIP BIG DADDY GRAHAM Bill Graham
I am so sorry to hear that Eddie has passed. We went to St Clement grade school in Southwest Philly but in different classrooms. May he rest in peace. Praying for his family E Seefeldt
“Hello Edward! Welcome to Heaven. Nice seeing you again. It’s been too long & I’ve been waiting for you. I bet people didn’t think you’d be here immediately. Same goes for me. I told everyone I’d spend some time in purgatory, but I got a one way, expedited, non-stop pass to the Gates. You should have seen St Peter’s face when he saw me! I’m a guy who has connections. It takes some time getting accustomed to the environment & surroundings here. But once you do, it’s spectacular! Let’s grab a cocktail & catch up. You didn’t drink much in your later years but in heaven, you drink all you want & not get hangovers. It’s perfect for a guys like us! I’ve seen some of your peeps here. I saw your Dad & he mentioned how proud he was of you & loves you more than he could ever express. He always has a cold brew in hand & is happier than a pig in shit. Your Mom is making a lot of noise & pissing off the neighbors; she’s cranking the jukebox & singing show tunes. Love that woman! Sinatra wants to thank you for being a loyal fan. He’s a couple blocks over. Charlie Watts arrived just before you. He’s living with John Bonham & Norm Macdonald as he hasn’t been assigned living quarters yet. He’s a little miffed the Stones weren’t your favorite band. There are movies every night; Blazing Saddles whenever you want! Godfather I, II, & III. There’s another Godfather coming out, but I’m not supposed to tell you that. Since you’ve left the mainland, you might not think you had any influence or people will forget you. Not true! You might not be there physically; you’re in all the hearts & minds of your loved ones & it requires no effort on your part. You’ve done the hard part back on earth. You had such a terrific life with Debbie, Keely, Ava & family. You have many close friends, who loved you. You’ll see them all the time. Your influence is your legacy & it never goes away. You’ll see ,,,,, Sports you say? Every day is the Super Bowl. Up here we have MAJOR influence. We vote & majority rules. I can say for fact, the Cowboys will never have a Super Bowl win again as long as we have voting rights. Paybacks. Karaoke is every night during happy hour. Debbie & the girls would love it. I can fish every day & always catch at least 1 stripper. Weird thing tho,,,,,,,,, I throw the fish in my cooler & when I get home there’s a bunch more. Same for the wine. The Big Guy really takes care of us. Ok Edward, finish your cocktail. We have a cruise on my boat. Don’t bother bringing your sound dock. I had a Bose entertainment system installed in my vessel. “There, she is gone. Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast, hull and spar as she was when she left my side. And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port. Her diminished size is in me — not in her. Thus the ship remains strong and able, carrying precious cargo safely to its destination. And, just at the moment when someone says, “There, she is gone,” there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!” And that is dying…
Henry Van Dyke
So while we’re gone literally, figuratively, we’re really not. We’re in all the hearts we’ve touched. You’ve left a lot behind Edward. Footprints in the sand. Cheers! Rick Steffa 1955-2014
I miss him so much. ..I work overnight driving a truck... I used to set my alarm clock to 2am so I could hear. When your smiling. Big Daddy got me though some rough days in my life... He was one of a kind... John from Swedesboro
Our very own Sea Isle city’s, greatest comic passed away on the same date my sister did. Only the good die young and only the funny pass over on September 8. Sea Isle will never be the same. (We Had Our Very Own “Norm Macdonald” right here in Sea Isle) See you at the Springfield in the sky where the band is wearing white polyester pants and red ruffle shirts and you had to carry Band-Aids because your feet were bleeding from broken bottles…Thanks Big D Victoria Boyle Sea Isle.
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OK, so it’s not quite as famous as Bruce Springsteen’s “Greetings from Asbury Park,” postcard album cover, but both postcards serve the same purpose. To send a message from point A (Sea Isle City) to point B (Anywhere, USA) for a mere thirty five cents. I love postcards, and I have since I was a little kid. Speaking of Bruce, I have a cool story about that album cover that I will tell you later.
Me and my Mom used to lug our bags on the 36 trolley to board a bus from 13th and Arch Street in downtown Philadelphia and head on down to Wildwood New Jersey. But first, we would make a pit stop at the Collings Lake Diner which was the midway point along the way. This diner had a jukebox and when the bus would arrive the owner of this diner used to insert a nickel into it and play a song called “Hello Dolly” by Louis Armstrong. Now for those of you who don’t remember Louis Armstrong, Louis was a famous trumpet player who was just as well known for having this extremely gravelly voice. (Think Tom Waits)
The owner would croon along with the song and when Armstrong’s trumpet solo would begin, the owner would pull out a trumpet of his own and play along with the record to thunderous applause. It was so cool and I always looked forward to our bus stopping there.
My mother looked forward to the Diner as well because they also sold Jersey shore postcards there and my mother would buy about ten of them and then proceed to fill out the cards right on the bus for the rest of the trip before she got anywhere near the shore. I would even help her pick them out. My Mom preferred cards with beautiful shots of the beach or awesome sunsets on the bay, where I went with any postcard that featured the boardwalk or a roller coaster.
My Mother would then write on the back of these cards generic messages like “Beautiful weather” having no idea whether it was going to rain nonstop or not. “Terrific room” not knowing if it was cheap flophouse because we never spent even one night there.
But for relatives she didn’t care for as much (which was about half of them) she would send them the standard and obligatory “Wish You Were Here”.
“Wish You Were Here”. Ever wonder how many millions of postcards have had that message written on it? Imagine the surge of such a postcard when Pink Floyd used it as a title of one of its albums. I have a cousin named Fred who is a mailman and one night at a party I asked Fred that exact question. “We are not allowed to read those cards.” Was his reply. Later on, at the same party, Fred, who had a couple in him by then, came up to me and he whispered in my ear “about half of them.” Even though a mailman could care less what’s written on them he can’t help but see “Wish You Were Here” because it usually takes up all the space that’s allotted for a message. No one ever writes “Wish You Were Here” in small letters.
Did you know that you could have sent a postcard from the Titanic? It stopped in France and Ireland before it headed across the ocean and people actually sent letters and postcards from those countries to New York. So, imagine you’re in Brooklyn, the news is already broken about the sinking of the Titanic, and then you get a postcard from somebody you know that was on it. And that postcard had “Wish You Were Here” written on it. Now that’s creepy.
Where do I get my postcards? Right here in Sea Isle at Dalrymples. You can get the stamps there as well. I dig Dalrymples. (Sounds like a it should be on a tee shirt). It’s a small general store that sells a little bit of everything. There were plenty of such stores in Southwest Philly where I grew up. I stop in every Memorial Day Weekend to make sure their selection of paperbacks has a copy of “Catcher In The Rye.” Dalrymples remines me of the general store in the movie “Jaws” where the cop goes to buy material for the “Beach is closed” sign.
Back in the day when I was on the road as a standup comic the hotels I used to stay in had their own brand of postcards. Drawing or photos of the hotels themselves with the words “Welcome to the Atlanta Omni” written across them. They would keep them right on the front desk and I would swipe about a dozen of them. One year I used them as Christmas cards. “Buffalo Marriot” it would say on the front and “Happy Holidays” I would write on the back. But, alas, texting and email, amongst other iPhone features, have all but killed off the postcard.
But not for me. I love getting them and sending them. My sister and I have been sending them to each other for decades. You can buy box sets of really cool postcards and I do once a year.
To get back to that Bruce story, when Springsteen’s management submitted that postcard, it virtually had no chance of being the cover. Columbia Records had an in-house rule that all debut albums had to feature a photo of the artist as a way of introducing them to a new audience. But the man in charge of choosing covers was a collector of vintage postcards and the rest is history.
So send out a postcard today to someone you love. I’ll even tell you what to write on the back of it. Care to take a wild guess?
“Wish You Were Here”
Here's My latest article for South Jersey Magazine
Believe me, I know how important the word “freedom” is to us and particularly to military veterans. My Dad fought in World War II and actually won a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his courage during the Battle of the Bulge. My brother saw action in the Vietnam War. Me? I was drinking warm beer on hot summer nights on street corners.
But we fight wars to protect our freedoms even if that freedom is to drink beer.
So, I am going to do something a little bit different and focus on the syllable “free.” Free. It’s a tremendous word isn’t it? No matter what word you place after the word “free” it’s going to sound great. Free food. Free Beer. Free tickets. Free samples from Laura’s Fudge in Wildwood. I once dated a chick who worked at Laura’s and I had all the free fudge I could eat for the entire summer.
FREE FOOD AND DRINK
I have guy friends who hate weddings and I’ve never understood why. All the women are dolled up to the max and then free food and drinks are piled up on top of that. It’s the trifecta of “free.” Any event whatsoever gets pushed to the limit of fun when you hear those magic two words, “Open Bar!” Those two words spread like wildfire at whatever event you are at. Open Bar! (By the way, I so prefer a free smorgasbord where you can wolf down four chicken cordon bleus to a “sit and order” meal where, depending on your server, you feel embarrassed ordering up even “seconds.”) If people were trapped in a burning building and you yelled “open bar” to them, they would fly out of that house in a South Jersey second.
You don’t even have to put the word free in front of fireworks because they’re always free. I dig it when the fireworks are exploding at the end of it. Some jokers will always turn to a kid and go “this must be the finale.” Or “that wasn’t much of a grand finale.” The one exception to fireworks that you have to pay for are at the end of July 4th Phillies game. Those fireworks shows are so sensational you won’t dare complain about them. Try it one year and get some tickets. And they shoot them off at the end of a couple games now. Check the schedule.
It’s so cool nowadays when a friend raves about a particular song, you say “email it over to me.” And I assume you are aware that can pick up your remote, point it at the screen and say into the voice command “Pokerface by Lady Gaga, YouTube” and it will pull up the video or lyrics to virtually any track since the recording industry began. The only problem with this is that file sharing invention has collapsed a lot of the music industry. So, here’s what I do. Let’s say U2 has dropped a new record. (“Dropped” proves I’m hip to some new jargon, eh?) If I love even three cuts off it, I then pay and buy the album. It’s my way of personally keeping the music industry alive.
Believe it or not you can still buy a television that comes with an antenna or “rabbit ears. It will present you with ABC, NBC, PBS, CBS, FOX, and 17. All of it completely free. My brother in law Tommy does it with his TV and claims that those channels cover all his news, entertainment and weather needs. All free. (And he still owns a Betamax machine)
Gas stations have free bathrooms. There are two problems with them. One, they attach these keys to giant keychains like a cinderblock. This is supposedly done to prevent anybody from stealing one of these bathroom keys. So, I ask you, who in god’s name is barreling down Route 130 sees a gas station and goes “I’m going to steal the key to that bathroom. That way I’ll always have it.” Not to mention you have to go so bad you’re doing the Macarena in front of the gas jockey
Two, a gas station restroom is the last place you want to go. You look for a bar, a Wawa, any place that has a bathroom that doesn’t look like a scene from “Walking Dead.” It’s so smelly and stanky with the one dangling lightbulb. It’s so scary I’m waiting for Norman Bates to use the urinal next to me. Ugh!
I love it when I bump into a younger relative who discovers that I grew up in the late sixties and early seventies. “Wow, all those “Free Love” and “Make Love Not War” signs. It must have been awesome.” Like there were women ripping off their bras and burning them at every other development. I still have stars on my hands from chicks whacking them when I would try to even touch a bra strap. It all sounds good but trust me, it never happened.
I do not perform stand-up comedy on the road like I used to. Dag, I used to stay in a different hotel once, maybe twice a week. Back in the day, hotels, even motels, would have postcards sitting on the front desk when you checked in. The Cherry Hill Hyatt, the Poughkeepsie Holiday Inn, Motel 5 in Albany (they were too cheap to put you up in a Motel 6) I started “borrowing” these postcards and after a couple months I had absconded sixty, seventy postcards. One holiday season I used them all as Christmas cards. I threw a New Year’s Eve party, and my cards were the talk of the town. “What hotel did you get? Oh, I got a Baltimore Sheraton. Oh yeah? I got a Cleveland Hilton.”
My family and I once lived in Sea Isle City during the off-season. I practically lived on the Garden State Parkway I drove it so much. One night I drove up to exact change lane and I discovered I didn’t have any change at all. One of my kid had taken it so there I was with no money at all. What to do? There were a million cars all around me, so I figured “what the heck.” I drove through it without paying. And nothing happens. No big lights flashing. No sirens wailing and most importantly, no cops chased me.
“Let’s just say I “misplaced” that change the rest of the year.
A great moment in rock history courtesy of the Tielman Brothers. Click the photo
Big Daddy Graham & Joe Conklin taking a stab at Sinatra's "Summer Wind!" Click Here
Hey! If you need any mortgage work done whatsoever get hold of my main man Ken Miller at 856-830-1131 or 609-238-3293 firstname.lastname@example.org NMLS #152270
This is the street that I grew up on and I used to sell newspapers at that newspaper stand and my house I grew up in is up on the right hand side past the factory.
HEY! I'M LOOKING FOR ALBUM COVERS. I DON'T CARE ABOUT THE CONDITION OF THE VINYL...
Philly wins 56 to 45! (There was no "X")
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