Jean Ruth Hay, the world’s first global disc jockey, died on Sept. 18 after suffering a stroke. She was 87.
At 24, the Philadelphia native offered to create a “painless reveille” for the troops stationed at Fort Logan in Colorado. Her daily wake-up call, which was aired on Denver radio station KFEL, led to publicity in Time Magazine and a job offer from KNX-AM in Hollywood.
During World War II, Hay’s radio program ”Reveille With Beverly,” roused American troops in 54 countries. Each day at 5:30 a.m., she opened a cold bottle of Coca-Cola, greeted an estimated 11 million servicemen with the signature line (”Hi there, boys of the U.S.A.”) and broadcast music by Benny Goodman, Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington and Artie Shaw on the Armed Forces Radio Service. She took requests and read notes from GIs on the air — a few of which turned out to be coded messages. In 1943, Columbia Pictures produced a movie about her radio program; the film starred Ann Miller and featured the vocal talents of an unknown singer named Frank Sinatra.
Hay remained in California after the war ended. She worked for a radio station in Santa Barbara and did charity work for Direct Relief International, a non-profit organization that provides health care and disaster relief. In later years, she hosted the TV show, “Beverly on 3,” and appeared in commercials for Carnation Milk, Wonder Bread and Kraft Cheese. Hay was also the spokeswoman for Pillsbury until 1965 when the company replaced her with the Pillsbury Doughboy.