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The Cassettes Of Hurricane Andrew

Twenty-five years ago, in those harrowing days and weeks after Hurricane Andrew, people were trying to figure out how to cope with the destruction and trauma that the storm left behind. One of the ways they did that was by recording songs and sending them to TV meteorologist Bryan Norcross.

Norcross had stayed on the air for 23 straight hours, simulcast on the radio (Y100), and it was his voice that guided so many terrified people through the storm. In the aftermath, he became known as the hero of Hurricane Andrew.

The cassettes started coming right after the storm -- people would mail them in or drop them off at his TV station in downtown Miami, WTVJ. Some of the recordings were people sitting around on the floor singing into a tape recorder. One was a full chorus. Several were studio recordings from professional musicians. Another, "The Bryan Bunch," was a send-up of "The Brady Bunch" theme song.  Several of the songs ended up getting played on  Y100.

Credit Courtesy of George Butch
Courtesy of George Butch
Bryan Norcross (left) in action at the WTVJ newsroom during the Hurricane Andrew coverage. Norcross recently published the book, "My Hurricane Andrew Story."

Norcross kept all these cassettes in a closet for 25 years until the HistoryMiami museum called and asked him to guest curate its exhibition for the Hurricane Andrew anniversary (through Jan. 14). The cassettes are now part of that exhibition.

The songs are below, where you can meet a few of the people who sent them in. Also, Bryan Norcross talks about how his work during Hurricane Andrew permanently damaged his vocal chords.  Click the story above to listen to more about why people sent in their songs, and what it was like for Norcross to hear them 25 years later. 

Credit Christopher Barfield, HistoryMiami

Natalee George Thornburgh

Credit Courtesy
Natalee George Thornburgh in 1992 (left) and today (right).

Natalee George Thornburgh was 13 when she recorded this with her sister Karlee, their friend Tara Levene and Tara's mom Lisa Levene. Natalee's family lost their house in Hurricane Andrew, and the sisters lived with Lisa and Tara for a while.

"Hurricane Song" (after "The Bear Song")

Thornburgh remembers her mom telling her about seeing Bryan Norcross at the Falls shopping mall in South Dade about a year after the storm. Every person near him in the store " just started applauding him and crying and saying thank you."

Natalee George Thornburgh shares her memories

Credit Christopher Barfield, HistoryMiami

Nancy Bowers and the Cypress Sounds Chorus

The Cypress Sounds Chorus in 1992.

Nancy Bowers was the new director of the Cypress Sounds Chorus, based in Plantation, when they sang a version of the song tailored for Bryan Norcross.

Bowers says when the Miami-based sister chorus of Broward-based Cypress Sounds lost everything because of Hurricane Andrew, she suggested they merge. They did and it paid off during Sweet Adelines chorus competitions.

The Cypress Sounds Chorus recorded this version of "That's What Friends Are For," with a few embellished lyrics to thank Bryan Norcross.
Nancy Bowers shares her memories

Credit Christopher Barfield, HistoryMiami

Frank Xavier Loconto

Credit Mia Laurenzo / WLRN
Frank Loconto poses with a picture of himself in the music studio in 1992.

Music producer and songwriter Frank Loconto had a music studio in Sunrise and relatives in Country Walk in South Dade. He wrote this song after seeing the devastation in Country Walk. He'd been in the Army in the Korean War and said the scene reminded him of that.  

"We Will Rebuild": copyright 1992, FXL Sound Studios, Otto Music Pub., ASCAP

Loconto says, "I couldn't write a song about a hurricane and do it in a Frank Sinatra style."  

Frank Loconto about composing a song after a life-changing event like Andrew

In the 1950s, Frank and his brothers had a band called The Lane Brothers. "Boppin' in a Sack" was a hit in 1958. "It almost sounded kind of sexy, but it wasn't," he says. "There was this thing called the sack dress at the time." The song's about dancing in the wrong attire. Today, he hosts a TV show on BECON TV.


And we end with a mystery that we hope our readers will help us solve:  

Credit Christopher Barfield, HistoryMiami

"The Bryan Bunch"

Did you record this song or know who did? Let us know! You can drop us a line at news@wlrnnews.org or tweet @WLRN

"The Bryan Bunch": We're not sure who made this hilarious send-up of the "The Brady Bunch" theme song, and we'd like to find out. Was it you?

Bryan Norcross remembers hearing "The Bryan Bunch" on the radio. He thinks this song sort of pokes fun of his voice, and talks about how his broadcasting voice got better when his vocal chords were damaged from talking on the air for 23 hours straight during Hurricane Andrew.

Listen to Bryan Norcross react to hearing it again for the first time in 25 years

And here are the rest of the songs from the cassettes that are part of the HistoryMiami Hurricane Andrew exhibition:

"The Saga of Andrew": Submitted by Harold H. Wegman. Three (three!) different versions in at least two seemingly different voices. In this song, Hurricane Andrew "unleashed the fury of hell."

"Winds of Steel": Submitted by Flaming Youth. Nostalgic heavy metal.
"Survivor": Submitted by Anne Yarrow. "Andrew, you took everything we had. Andrew, we never knew a wind so bad."
"Pick up the Pieces": Submitted by Bob Baglos, a high school teacher. An upbeat tune about resilience.
"With You All the Way": Submitted by Mike Adams. Tape jacket says: "Dedicated and inspired by the volunteerism in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew."
"Ray of Hope": Written by Kevin Sepe, lead vocal: Elin Michaels. The power was still out when they recorded this song. They managed to rig a system to give them enough power to record and produce it.

We had help on this story from  WLRN TV Producer Mia Laurenzo.