What Rush Limbaugh meant to me
Bottom Line: It’s rare I’m at a loss for words. Today is one of those days. It's hard to put to words the impact of Rush Limbaugh. Here are my thoughts from February 4th of last year after we learned of the reality of what he would face and subsequently what he battled for over a year...
Like many who’ve been fortunate enough to forge a career in radio, I loved the medium long before I was near a microphone. And there was one reason why. Talk radio. And there was one person who drew me to it. Rush. I remember the first time I found Rush Limbaugh as a kid. I was leaving school and thought the Atlanta Braves were playing a day game, so I turned the radio to AM. Turns out it wasn’t a day game. Instead, I heard someone I’d never heard before, communicating information in a way I’d never heard before. I didn’t entirely grasp what I was listening to at first, but I realized it mattered. Before long, I commonly would flip the radio to the AM dial after school and it wasn’t just when the Braves played day games. I wanted to hear the end of Rush’s show.
As a child of the 80’s who grew up in the district represented by Newt Gingrich - what Rush said resonated with me and by the time the Republican Revolution and Contract with America came to be I was hooked. I knew that, if sports didn’t work out for me (as every boy who plays sports dreams), I wanted to communicate information for a living. The passion for information and desire to communicate the truth omitted by mainstream media, that’s with me to this day, started with Rush. Now, during that era I was also living in the golden era of Atlanta talk radio that grew out of the revolution Rush had created for the AM dial. Within a matter of a few years, legendary local hosts like Neal Boortz and Clark Howard became mainstays as hosts nationally as well. I’d try to listen to when possible – though Boortz's time slot was challenging for a school kid to say the least.
Then came Sean Hannity. The local host who grew out of Rush’s wake and quickly became my go to in the afternoon. These are the legends who shaped my career, but far more importantly in the case of Rush, shaped the country for generations. But Rush’s influence on my story didn’t stop there. It was just the beginning.
After high school I was to begin a TV internship that would coincide with college and my plan to eventually become a news anchor. Or so I thought. Immediately I realized what traditional TV news was...everything that led me to talk radio in the first place. Once I realized that I’d work as a reporter covering only the stories assigned and if successful would sit behind a desk reading from a teleprompter that I may have little or no control over...I had an early-life crisis. What I thought I wanted to do for a living, as a kid who thought he’d figured things out, had crumbled. I never followed through on the internship. Instead, I realized that if I was going to have control of my message, I needed to be in talk radio. Through a set of semi-desperate circumstances that I managed to navigate involving pickles and pickle juice (I’m not kidding), I landed a radio internship. As a radio stunt guy. Not exactly where I wanted to be in the industry, but I was in the industry and that’s what mattered most. I had quickly realized news/talk radio opportunities for an inexperienced teenager weren’t exactly robust.
I toiled for the next three and a half years, having some success along the way, on the music side of radio. The entire time I was looking for that first opportunity to make the move to talk. In fact, my first PD would often tell me I should listen to Rush less and the station I was on more. That never happened. Instead, I pleaded with all around to help me make the move to talk radio. That day happened shortly after 9/11 when I was told to show up to a different radio station at a different location on a specific day. I was told to be ready for anything and don’t expect to leave for a while. That was the day that WTKS in Savannah was born. What was once a Radio Disney station that had essentially been abandoned, was ready to launch a News Talk Radio station. My dream was finally becoming a reality. The reason why...we won the rights to Rush Limbaugh. The only reason that station was launched, and the only reason I’m here today is because of Rush Limbaugh. From his influence on me as a kid to his act of saving the AM band, which was dying before him, to the day I was called to help launch a talk radio station – my story is all because of him.
22 years later I owe it all to Rush. This entire industry owes it all to Rush. None of us would be here without him. Stage 4 lung cancer has a 4% survival rate. Rush Limbaugh is one of a kind. If anyone can beat it – he can. Please pray for Rush Limbaugh. He’s a hero for what he’s done for this country, for the industry, and right next to my parents, he’s my hero.
Now, more than a year later, the realization that Rush is no longer with us has left me with the realization of who he was. Family. Losing Rush hits every bit as hard. I know it’s that way for you too. Sixteen years ago, iHeart presented me with the opportunity to move to South Florida. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to call WJNO my home. As Rush Limbaugh’s adopted hometown station many wondered if he and his golden EIB microphone were here at our studios. There weren’t. He broadcasted from a private state-of-the-art studio a few miles from here. Over the past year, even during a pandemic, the outpouring of support for Rush has been incredible with so many of you wanting to do something to let him know how much he meant to you. I’ve maintained a space in my office for the cards, pictures, prayers, well wishes, hand knitted quilts, etc. (pictured). I’m sorry to say I was unable to bring them to him. However, today we know, he knows how much you loved him, and your messages are all received.