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The Big Q | Click and Clack from Car Talk

The Big Q | Click and Clack from Car Talk
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With equal doses of humor and diagnostic insight, Tom and Ray Magliozzi, NPR's "Click & Clack, the Tappet Brothers," have been taking calls from automotively challenged listeners for 33 years.

Photo/Art by Jason Grow
With equal doses of humor and diagnostic insight, Tom and Ray Magliozzi, NPR’s “Click & Clack, the Tappet Brothers,” have been taking calls from automotively challenged listeners for 33 years.

Car Talk co-host Tom Magliozzi, one half of the Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers NPR radio team, who entertained millions of Americans every Saturday with their unique blend of humor and automobile savvy, died Monday, November 3, at age 77. From its debut in 1987 to when live shows ended two years ago, Car Talk had become one of NPR’s all-time favorites. A nation listened to Tom’s booming laugh and his kid brother Ray’s banter, and the car information came along for the ride. Their voices still are with us each week with archival shows that will continue. Yankee’s interview with the brothers ran in November 2010 and took place not far from their boyhood home in East Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Tom and Ray Magliozzi’s Car Talk originated on WBUR in Boston in 1977, attracting a large local following before premiering in National Public Radio syndication in 1987. Car Talk is now heard by more than 4.3 million listeners each week. The Magliozzis also write a nationally syndicated newspaper column, “Click and Clack Talk Cars.” Their most recent book is Ask Click and Clack: Answers From Car Talk.

Ray: We’ve been fortunate to have very interesting callers. They’ve sustained us. If it weren’t for the callers, we would have quit after the first couple of shows. I certainly didn’t want to sit there and talk to him [gestures toward Tom] for an hour every week.

Tom: Hell, no!

Ray: As a matter of fact, for the very first show Tom was supposed to be part of a panel of car experts. The host was supposed to ask questions, but no one else showed up, so Tom asked if he could take calls from listeners. That’s how the show was born. It was that simple, that serendipitous. The next week I came. Somehow the host got dumped, and it was just us from that point on.

Tom: Yeah, thank God we were able to take calls! [Laughter.]

Ray: For at least the first six months, we thought that [WBUR] was a studio just for BU [Boston University] students. Then we started getting calls from places like Framingham. [Laughter.] Remember, this was the seventies. Public radio was still in its infancy. I was listening to Gordon Lightfoot. I discovered him at the Harvard Coop, looking through the folk-music section. Great album cover; he’s sitting there with his guitar, kind of stretched out, with cowboy boots and a leather vest. I didn’t know any of the songs, but I bought the record. It was $1.19. I still have it. Now there’s probably no place to buy a record in Harvard Square.

Tom: Third floor of The Garage [the Cambridge shopping arcade].

Ray: Oh, that’s right. Anyway, the callers are the most important part of our show. Often we can zero in on something interesting. Some people are very open, they’ll divulge something right off–“Hi, I’m a microbiologist”–and we can explore that. [Laughter.]

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