As long as I’ve been in town, I can’t recall a time when Sonny Eliot wasn’t on the air in Detroit, be it radio or TV. I’m sure his 63 years on the air is an all-time record that will never be surpassed. Sonny and I didn’t hang out together, but I got to know him through a mutual friend, and so we had some lunches together. (One time Sonny, myself, Howie Young of the Red Wings, and one other guy even caught the matinee performance at the Empress Burlesque! Yes, we were two wild and crazy guys!) During those extended lunches I didn’t want to discuss broadcasting. (We both had enough of that) But rather I’d ask Sonny about his WWII years as a U.S. Air Force Bomber pilot and his experiences after being shot down over Germany and imprisoned in a Nazi Prisoner of War camp for 16 months. Sonny used his great sense of humor to keep his fellow soldiers and airmen laughing, and I’m sure under the additional pressure of being Jewish it wasn’t easy for Sonny. But he did it!
Sonny’s style of being the “funny” weatherman was a first. Until that time the “Weather Guy” on the television evening news was always “super straight”. No laughs during the weathercast, just the info. Sonny changed all that with his jokes and references to various towns around Michigan, especially Engadine in the U.P. Sonny’s style of being the funny/humorous weatherman caught on all around the country. Later that changed; the “Weather Guy” was serious and the “Sportscaster” became the funny or wacky one with lots of shtick.
I don’t know if you’ve ever met Sonny, but he is a “what you see is what you get” kind of guy. Always on! Although I hope for his beautiful wife Annette’s sake he wasn’t ALWAYS on!
What a year it’s been for on-air broadcasting retirements in Motown. First it was me retiring in March after 45 years on the air in Detroit. Then Eric Smith after 45 years on the air in May. Then Jerry Hodak after 45 years this month. And now Sonny Eliot after 60 plus years! There must be something in the water…And maybe that something is Geritol! Come to think of it Sonny – you, me, Eric and Jerry – we’d make quite a Mall Walking Foursome! Let’s lace ‘em up fellas!
Good luck and good health Sonny, and may all your years ahead be as “Sunny” as you are!