As mentioned earlier, I didn't go to Kalamazoo and Western Michigan University on Thursday and Friday last week. So it came as quite a surprise to hear on the news Friday night that Rick Beckett had died. Who is Rick Beckett you say? Well I knew him as half of a team with Scott Winters of WOOD-AM radio's The Rick and Scott Show.
The morning drive to K-zoo has changed a lot over the years. Over 51 semesters the cast of characters and interesting radio shows evolves. But for the last several years I've usually had WOOD-AM on in the 9-10am range. And that meant Rick and Scott. These two have been paired together, and fired together, from a number of different radio stations and formats. But ending up as news talk radio really seemed to suit. Rick was famous for being both generous and acting, yes acting, like a diva. Once he was an alcoholic and out of control, but that was long before I listened to Rick. Last Thursday he died at age 54 of an apparent heart attack.
Today, Monday, they had a joyous memorial show and I got to listen to a wee bit of it. Scott Winters managed to survive, but later he will have a meeting with management to find out what is next for him. Rick-and-Scott, it was practically one word, one team. For the most part I am a loner in my work. There's me... and the students. Me... and the department. Me... and my graders. I can't even fathom to imagine how it is to lose a teammate like this. Well, actually I can -- and I don't want to go there.
Good-bye, Rick Beckett. And all my best wishes to help you through this, Mr. Scott Winters.
A Second Blow
Then radio legend Paul Harvey died at age 90. I know a lot of people have no patience for Paul Harvey, but I was always happy when my driving time corresponded to hearing even his short five minute morning update, let alone his longer fifteen minute broadcast. Some thought his reporting was too rah-rah or too folksy, but at heart I am a Midwesterner -- even when I first heard Paul Harvey in the New York metroplex. His stories and essays on "The Rest of the Story" were often interesting and like a really good Puzzler on NPR's Car Talk, the final gotcha was often unanticipated. As Harvey aged, he often had substitutes, but they never had that Paul Harvey delivery. "Hello, America -- stand by for news!"
He might've retired completely, except for 9/11. Though he didn't claim to understand how or why the world had changed, he felt an obligation to report -- and calm -- his audiences. To stop and report and listen. To make some sense, yet know that life also goes on. 9/11 may've been a national tragedy, but it was also an East Coast event. We were all affected, and I like to think that Paul Harvey managed to transmit the news to a larger audience.
Taking It On The Chin
As I head south on US-131, WOOD-AM fades. If I want the radio, I usually go to WLAV, classic rock station we are very, very fond of. And from 5:30 to 10am, that means The Morning Show With Kevin Matthews. Kevin returned to WLAV-FM the other year, having grown up in Grand Rapids radio from his days as a GVSU student, then moving to Chicago to make it big. No, Kevin's not dead, too. Far from it. But he was missing some days in the fall and it turned out he was going back to Chicago to get tested. And now he let's everyone know about what he calls "his disease". Kevin's got MS. He's been open about it and jokes about it, and I think we're all a little better for it.
I tell you, Grand Rapids radio listeners have had to deal with a lot lately. Well, change is inevitable. Life goes on. You think driving 77 miles each way a day is easy?