Sid Marka longtime Philadelphia disc jockey who made Frank Sinatra songs the center of his vast musical universe for more than six decades, died April 18 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He was 88 years old.
His daughter, Stacey Mark, confirmed the death, at a hospital, but did not name the cause.
Mr. Mark brought a warm conversational style to his shows. Between selections from his treasure trove of vinyl albums and CDs, he offered bits of his aficionado’s acquaintances, told stories of his dating Sinatra, and played snippets of interviews with him.
He has hosted three shows on various Philadelphia radio stations: “Friday With Frank”, “Sunday With Sinatra”, and the syndicated “The Sounds of Sinatra”, which ran for 43 years and at its peak was heard on 100 stations. He also hosted a fourth, “Saturday With Sinatra”, on stations in New York.
In 1966, Sinatra’s office invited Mr. Mark to Las Vegas to see him perform as a reward for helping boost Philadelphia sales of the singer’s new live album, “Sinatra at the Sands,” by playing it nonstop for one week.
While there, he dined with Sinatra and a host of other stars, including Jack Benny, Lucille Ball and Milton Berle. Afterwards, Mr. Mark recalled, Sinatra told him, “I’ll see you at the show,” but Mr. Mark replied that he and his wife, Loretta, didn’t have tickets.
“He thought it was pretty funny, like everyone at the table,” Mr. Mark told Vice.com in 2009, “and he gave me a little pinch on the cheek and said, ‘No, you’re sitting at our table.’ I walked in with all these celebrities and everyone knew who everyone was, but they had no idea who we were. Like, “Who’s that with the Pope?”
It was the start of a friendship that lasted until Sinatra’s death in 1998. Mr. Mark attended many of Sinatra’s performances and occasionally visited him at his Waldorf Towers suite in Manhattan. Sometimes, during a concert, Sinatra singled him out from the audience.
“I love him, and I say it publicly, I love him,” Sinatra told The Spectrum in Philadelphia in 1991. “He’s one of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life.”
Sidney Mark Fliegelman was born on May 30, 1933 in Camden, New Jersey. His father, Aaron, and mother, Sylvia (Pfeffer) Fliegelman, owned a variety store in Camden. The family lived above the store, where Sid got his first taste of Sinatra’s music while listening to his sister Norma’s records. He hoped to land a radio job one day.
He entered the US Army in 1953 and served at Camp Polk (now Fort Polk) in Louisiana. His admiration for Sinatra’s music grew when he listened to his records on the radio at night in the barracks.
“Somehow his voice got to me and I realized he knew exactly what he was talking about,” he told Vice. “If he sang about loneliness, he knew what loneliness was. If he sang about love, he knew what love was.
Mr. Mark stopped using his surname early in his career, but never changed it legally.
After his release in 1955, Mr. Mark got a job at the Red Hill Inn, a jazz club in Pennsauken, NJ, as a talent coordinator. His responsibilities included driving entertainers like Count Basie and Duke Ellington to and from their hotels. They often talked about Sinatra, further fueling Mr. Mark’s interest in his music. More importantly, he was hired around this time as a disc jockey at WHAT-AM, a jazz station in Philadelphia. He hosted an hour-long show called “Sounds in the Night”.
One evening in 1955, when the station’s night DJ failed to show up, Mr. Mark was asked to replace him.
“It was a show called ‘Rock and Roll Kingdom’ and I wasn’t going to do that,” he told The New Yorker in 2021. He asked his audience what they wanted to hear, and one fan suggested playing an hour of Sinatra’s music. “The guy who was there all night got fired for not showing up, and they kept me.”
Several months later, in 1956, the show officially began airing as “Friday With Frank”.
By the early 1960s, Mr. Mark’s popularity in Philadelphia was growing. He hosted “Friday With Frank” and a daily six-hour jazz show, “Mark of Jazz,” which would run for nearly two decades, on WHAT. He also had a weekly jazz show on local public television.
Mr. Mark hosted “Friday With Frank” for 54 years, “Saturday With Sinatra” for about 17 years and “Sunday With Sinatra” for over 40 years. “The Sounds of Sinatra” will remain on the air and feature archival broadcasts, said his son Brian Mark, the executive producer.
Besides his daughter and son Brian, Mr. Mark is survived by his wife, Judy (Avery) Mark; two other sons, Eric and Andy Fliegelman; and two grandchildren. His marriage to Loretta Katz ended in divorce.
Mr. Mark’s Sinatra show playlists did not consist entirely of Sinatra’s solo recordings. He also played duets recorded by Sinatra with singers like Liza Minnelli, Lena Horne and Sammy Davis Jr., as well as records by Dean Martin, Tony Bennett and Davis.
There have been other Sinatra devotees on radio over the years. William B. Williams highlighted Sinatra’s music on his “Make Believe Ballroom” on WNEW-AM in New York (and gave him his nickname as chairman of the board). Jonathan Schwartz was known for his loyalty to Sinatra on several New York stations. But with four Sinatra shows, Mr. Mark was probably singular in his commitment.
“DJs can often be disappointing in person, which was not the case with Sid”, James Kaplan, the author of a two-volume biography of Sinatra — “Franck: the voice » (2010) and “Sinatra: The Chairman” (2015) – said in a telephone interview. “He was physically impressive, a big, striking looking guy who had real warmth. He didn’t have a bogus atom in his body, and he had a genuine love for Sinatra and everything about Sinatra. His enthusiasm was real.