Introduction to Les Crane
Les Crane (1933-2008) was an American radio disc jockey, television personality, and a one-time recording artist, being responsible for his spoken record hit “Desiderata” in the early 70s music era. He was born Lesley Stein in New York (some sources say he was born in California). Stein started his career as a disc jockey in Texas and Philadelphia before settling in San Francisco’s Bay Area. There he hosted for local radio stations, eventually rising to popularity. Les Crane (since named by a station manager he worked for) rose to fame when he married his third wife, the actress Tina Louise in the mid-1960s (they divorced in 1974). He had also been a television host for ABC, where the Rolling Stones made their first American TV appearance there. Crane also hosted the late-night talk show The Les Crane Show, a short-lived program attempting to compete with The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson; he also briefly acted on films, his best-known appearance being in the movie An American Dream in 1966. He recited the Max Ehrmann poem Desiderata and recorded it in 1971. It became a Top 10 pop hit and won the Grammy for Best Spoken Record that year. In later years Crane entered the computer software industry. He died in California in 2008, aged 74.
Les Crane early years and career
Renowned American host Les Crane achieved his only hit single with the spoken record “Desiderata” in 1971. Crane was born in New York City, New York on December 3, 1933; his real name was actually Lesley Stein.
Crane finished his education from Tulane University where he majored in English. After graduation, he spent the next four years serving for the US Air Force where he became a jet pilot and a flight instructor for helicopters.
In 1958, he had his first radio stint in San Antonio’s KONO and later moved to Philapdelphia’s WPEN. He made some noise for being a controversial host while working for KGO, a popular and influential radio station in San Francisco. It was at this station he was given the surname “Crane” by the station manager Don Curran.
Channeling as a television host, Crane had his first show in 1963 for WABC-TV. In 1964, the Rolling Stone had their first TV appearance on Crane’s show, exclusively for the New York audience. The show was later aired nationwide and titled The Les Crane Show. In 1965 the show was retitled as ABC’s Nightlife but it was cancelled later that year. During the mid-60s Crane also tried his hand at acting, having few guest roles on television shows and appearing in the film An American Dream. He also married actress Tina Louise (of Gilligan’s Island fame) in 1966, therefore amplifying his own popularity (they eventually divorced in 1971).
Les Crane only hit “Desiderata”
In 1968, Crane was back in Los Angeles where he hosted a talk show on KLAC but he soon left when the station was changed into a country music format. In 1971 he attempted to enter a recording career by cutting spoken record entitled “Desiderata,”. It became a #8 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 . The success of the record earned him a Grammy Award in the category of “Best Spoken Word.” “Desiderata”’s popularity led it to be considered “a New Age anthem” by a certain writer.
Crane thought that “Desiderata” was in the public domain by the time he recorded it. However, it was written by author Max Ehrmann (1872-1945) in 1927. Therefore, the rights of the famous prose poem belonged to Ehrmann’s immediate family, and royalties were distributed appropriately.
Devoted oldies music fans will probably remember Crane as a one hit wonder.
During the 1980’s, Crane was in the software industry and became a chairman of The Software Toolworks (now Mindscape). This was obviously far off from his previous show business career.
Crane passed away in Greebrae, California in 2008, aged 74.