Hello! Long time no write. I hit a dry patch recently and couldn’t get my brain in action to put something out there that you might find readable. And then came the bombshell last week that Rush Limbaugh was battling advanced lung cancer. This is a shocker to his fans, and a serious problem for the radio stations that broadcast his show. The reality is there is only one Rush Limbaugh. There’s never been anyone that could knock him off his golden throne although there have been a lot of wannabes. Nobody can bring in the ratings like Rush. He was/is a game changer.
I lobbied hard to put The Rush Limbaugh show on WHAS in Louisville, where I was program director. Convincing management wasn’t nearly as hard as convincing the Limbaugh syndicator that the move from 5000 Watt WWKY (where the Limbaugh show aired) to the 50000 Watt blowtorch signal of WHAS was a no brainer. Rush’s affiliate guy in New York was Lee Vandenhandle. Lee already was familiar with me from my Grand Rapids days at WOOD Radio. Lee was a West Michigander, where they say “if you ain’t dutch, you ain’t much. Vandenhandle played me like a Stratavarius. He knew that Rush was gaining on WHAS in the ratings. He also knew that eventually he would have to give me the show. Oh, wait. Did I say give? There would be no giving. The show would come with a hefty rights fee price tag. It took months of negotiations and two trips to Lee’s office in Manhattan before I got the deal done. And that was the easy part.
Putting the show on the air was gut wrenching. It meant the beginning of transitioning WHAS from a full service Adult Contemporary station to a News/Talk franchise. When we announced that the Rush Limbaugh show was coming to WHAS, the staff reaction was a big fat thud. Milton Metz, who hosted the long running “Metz Here” evening talk show came into my office and, in his inimitable way of talking said “ are you fucking nuts! Listen booby, Limbaugh is a demagogue “. Nobody could say fuck like Metz. He gave the word real class. Wayne Perkey was much more animated. He just yelled at me. Tom Dorsey, entertainment writer for the Louisville Courier Journal gave me some great publicity: WHAS Making Big Mistake with Limbaugh? In the process, one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in the business, Jack Fox, lost his midday program when I brought in talk show host Jane Norris to follow Rush. The rest is pretty much history. Nasty calls to the switchboard and some of the most vile letters landed on my desk. The ratings took off.
So let’s wrap this up. I don’t particularly care for Rush Limbaugh’s shtick. It’s not where I am politically these days. But let’s face it, his contribution to AM radio was immense. I’ll give him that and, of course, wish him well.