My first hero in a lifelong love affair with the radio medium was the legendary Dick Purtan, who tells me how he first began visiting Detroit with his father when he was a child. And he recalls fondly his days at the famous Keener 13, his first stop in Detroit radio.
He says Keener was a fun place to work and a natural fit for his evolving talents.
Then as the Big 8 CKLW began to demolish the competition in Detroit radio, Purtan recalls a time when he had to stick up for himself and the kind of radio show he thought listeners wanted to hear. And he was becoming increasingly weary of the trend to program radio stations from New York rather than locally, like at WXYZ, a station where Dick would eventually work.
Purtan describes how he first started to hone his on air philosophy listening to morning radio in Buffalo where he grew up and then later to groundbreaking morning teams in New York. His goal was to entertain and be informative.
When Purtan retired from radio in 2010, he was already beginning to see what he sees as a decline in local morning radio. It was becoming more about music than locally-based talent, entertainment, and information. So he decided it was time to hang up the microphone and headphones.
While he’s dismayed about much of the current state of radio, he’s optimistic that things will get better someday, especially on local talk radio.
Purtan’s advice for young people who want to get into the constantly evolving broadcast and communications world is to understand and embrace what appear to be the industries of the future.
During our conversation, Purtan references a couple times his decision not to succeed J. P. McCarthy at WJR when that morning radio legend died suddenly in 1995. Here he provides the inside story on how close he came to moving to WJR. Mike Fezzey’s honesty and the fact that Purtan felt he’d already tried the ‘JR thing in Baltimore ultimately led him to decline the opportunity. “It just didn’t feel right.”
Purtan tells me about learning that two of the most famous and successful talents in radio today consider him their hero: Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern.
Keep in touch with Detroit radio legend Dick Purtan on Facebook.
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