The Cassettes Of Hurricane Andrew

Aug 24, 2017

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.

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

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

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

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.

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."

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.

Credit Christopher Barfield, HistoryMiami

Frank Xavier Loconto

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

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.  

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

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

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. 

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

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