The staff and extended family of WPRB 103.3 FM are sad to report that the host of “Nocturnal Transmissions,” Dr. Cosmo, passed away over the weekend after a long illness. Dr. Cosmo’s show has been a cornerstone of WPRB’s on-air programming since 1991, not to mention a constant presence in and around the WPRB studios.
Cards and flowers may be sent to 1124 Larkin Way Napa, CA 94558 after Wednesday. Per the request of Dr. Cosmo and his family, donations can be made to WPRB.
A memorial in the Princeton area is currently being planned.
Here’s what fellow WPRB DJs and DJ alumni have to say about Dr. Cosmo:
One of the joys of being a member of the WPRB community is getting to know some truly amazing people. George was one of the best storytellers I’ve ever met. One particular story he told me sums up for me George’s mischievous sense of humor: He was headed to a King Crimson show around ’81/’82 and he got the idea to bring a frisbee, make his way to the front of the crowd, and wing it DIRECTLY at Bill Bruford’s bombastic gong. Crimson had, (and still has,) a behemoth touring setup, with a ludicrous number of racks and extraneous percussive instruments and it was exactly the kind of playful but harmless gesture that poked fun at that without really disrupting the show. He actually pulled it off, no doubt causing a wave of uncomfortable shifting and sidelong glares from prog fans all around him, then receded back into the crowd! Brilliant! I’ll miss George’s energy, his bottomless enthusiasm for music, his humor, and, of course, his great stories. Friday nights on WPRB will never be the same. – Lizbot, “Doubleplusgood”
George believed in the magic of radio and aimed for each show he created to form an alternate universe if possible though he might settle when they were merely much more than the sum of their parts. He was also an incredibly decent, public-spirited, and humble human being. – John Weingart, “Music You Can’t Hear on the Radio”
WPRB became considerably less creative and challenging overnight. For some reason in the hours since I heard this sad news I keep thinking of your “traffic reports” during the classical programs you hosted one summer and they bring a smile to my face. Thank you for two decades of unparalleled broadcasting and friendship. – Jon Solomon
Like many of us in WPRB-land, I was deeply saddened today to learn that our friend and colleague George Mahlberg, better known as “Dr. Cosmo,” had passed away this weekend. George was a true renaissance man with limitless interests and passions, and a consummate professional in everything he did. WPRB has lost a true friend and major presence. – SKM
One of my very first shows on WPRB was subbing for the DJ in the timeslot before Dr. Cosmo’s “Nocturnal Transmissions.” The last song of my show was a tune on vinyl — I think it may have been The Tubes’ “White Punks on Dope” — and it was going to run over about 90 seconds into Dr. Cosmo’s time I, of course, told the good doctor he could pod it down if he wanted to start his program promptly. Instead, as soon as the clock struck 10 p.m., he abruptly stopped the 12-inch with his hand and then started spinning the record backward at different speeds all the way to the beginning of the song. At first, I was little irked and thought his action somewhat rude, until I realized that those 4 or so minutes of manipulated backward music was far more provocative than any of the sounds I had filled the airwaves with over the previous three hours. I’ve since on more than one occasion bragged about my clever “collaboration” with Dr. Cosmo. – Paddy, “All Ages Show”
[W]e had the good fortune to have Dr. Cosmo sit in with us during our show, as we had the slot before his. We had a lot of laughs, and his musical knowledge was second to none. I could ask him about some obscure sixties band, and he would whip out his Ipod and have whoever I was talking about already stored there. I particularly enjoyed the looseness of his show, and the knowledge that you could never predict where he was going next, be it some unknown European prog band, a forgotten garage band, or a total improv on some topic or event that others would never even think of, let alone broadcast it from the seat of their pants. — Frank, “Mike and Frank’s Radio Free America”
Cosmo came on board at WPRB sometime in 1991—about a year prior to me, but his experience and radio wizardry far surpassed anything in my stable. He was older than most of PRB’s other non-student DJs, and had a long résumé of radio credentials, reaching all the way back to the 70s when he’d been a programmer at L.A.’s then-adventurous K-Rock. He was also a brilliant storyteller, had a voracious appetite for unusual sounds, and most of all, he really enjoyed the company of young people who were passionate about radio. To call him an inspiration and a hero may sound trite, but after spending the last 18 hours reckoning with the news of his cruel departure, I’m having trouble denying how appropriate those terms are. Recollections on his Facebook page, as well as the phone calls and emails I’ve fielded from former WPRB colleagues seem to validate the sentiment. There are probably dozens of mic break techniques I’ve nicked from him over the years, and I feel no shame in admitting it. WPRB was beyond fortunate to have a shepherd like him, even if only a small minority of the staff were aware of how incredible his talents were. – Mike Lupica, “Hip Transistor”
Dr. Cosmo left a mark on everyone he met. His incredible radio voice and physical presence were backed with a lifetime of amazing stories to tell. He had a way of relating his adventures that was engaging and not prententious, though many of them were certainly brag-worthy. His life had taken various paths – astrophysicist, DJ, actor, writer…and he was a mentor to my budding Photoshop ambitions, having created the much reproduced “In-A-Gadda-Da-Oswald”, a brilliant retake on Jack Ruby’s assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald. – Stephanie Obodda, WPRB DJ alumna
Dr. Cosmo siezes control of the airwaves during WPRB’s inaugural membership drive, October 2007 (courtesy of Adam Flynn):
If you have memories of Dr. Cosmo and “Nocturnal Transmissions,” please share them in the comments — we’d love to hear from you!