He considers Rush Limbaugh a friend.  This from a good friend of mine this week.  My buddy was a caller on Rush's show.  "Butch" remembers the day.  It was 22 years ago.  We were talking about the broadcaster’s illness.  Limbaugh is taking the week off as he deals with lung cancer and treatments.  I’ll be honest, I’m worried about a talk radio universe without Rush Limbaugh.  Many people can’t remember what the media landscape looked like before his arrival on the national front.

I was working at a radio station in the late 1990s when management signed an agreement to carry the program.  I wasn’t familiar with the host.  A friend worked in a neighboring market where Limbaugh was already on-air.  He told me we better be prepared for a firestorm.  That’s how different radio was at the time.  Someone offering strong conservative opinions was rare.  Paul Harvey was a traditionalist and William Rusher had a brief weekday commentary.  None used satire and sarcasm to get across a point.

Paul Harvey was a traditionalist and William Rusher had a brief weekday commentary.  None used satire and sarcasm to get across a point.

Within a month of Limbaugh debuting at my then station, the pressure campaign began.  The National Organization for Women telephoned my boss and threatened a demonstration outside our studio.  “When do you plan to come by,” he replied.  “I’d like to notify the TV stations and newspaper”.  He knew it would be a big story and attract the curious to this new broadcast phenomenon.  N.O.W. abandoned the protest.

Then the First Gulf War broke out and people tuned in for news and many heard Rush for the very first time.  It propelled us to number one in the market for a decade.  People stayed after the war for the programming, which increasingly was conservative talk.  We were on the AM dial.  It was dying in the late 80s.  Rush revived it and saved thousands of jobs on AM radio.  He also revived my broadcast career.

I left for TV full time in 1996.  By 1998 I was working in news management and I was miserable.  In 2002, I went back to my old station and within 16 months joined a competitor as a morning talk radio host.  I’ve never regretted the career detour.

Liberals call local conservative hosts “imitators” as if we don’t have independent thoughts.  I guess the guy who fixes my car is an imitator.  He also has some skill and some knowledge about engines.  Even though people have been fixing cars for 120 years.  He’s still original.  He also serves a need in the market.

I owe Rush Limbaugh much.  He opened a door I didn’t even know existed in 1989.  I also consider him a friend.

 

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