Author Zev Chafets realized the obvious after interviewing radio’s Rush Limbaugh for a 2008 New York Times Magazine portrait: Limbaugh deserved the biographical treatment.
It’s doubly fortunate Chafets proved to be the right person for such an assignment.
Chafets’ Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One is a rarity: a book that acknowledges the professional greatness of “El Rushbo” while putting his career in context.
The author respects the Limbaugh legacy without the equivocations a progressive scribe would bring to the project. That doesn’t mean the author is a tea party devotee, or even a card-carrying conservative. He is genuinely curious as to what makes the talk show titan tick, which makes An Army of One a necessary read for media-philes and Dittoheads alike. (Click here to listen to Ed Driscoll’s recent interview with Chafets, taken from PJM Political on Sirius-XM’s POTUS channel.)
The portrait is exasperatingly thin at times, expending too much energy detailing Limbaugh’s radio monologues and not enough on the man behind the microphone. But the book eventually catches fire.
Chafets starts in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Limbaugh’s bucolic home town. The Limbaugh name first took hold there thanks to the radio host‘s grandfather, a local legend who practiced law up until the age of 102.
That’s sobering news for liberals praying for the day the man’s grandson steps away from the golden EIB microphone.
We get a peek at the town’s historic roots and some sterile quotes from Limbaugh’s high school pals. Perhaps there’s precious little dirt from Rush Limbaugh, the early years. But Chafets does a better job describing the host’s old stomping grounds than its most famous resident — for a while.
Limbaugh took to the radio in his teen years as “Rusty Sharpe,” much to the dismay of his father. “Big Rush” wanted his son to be a lawyer, or a similarly acceptable career. Spinning records hardly befit the Limbaugh name.
“Rusty” was a natural on air, even if he eschewed politics in favor of the day’s chart toppers. It’s understandable that a young man would prefer to focus on rock ‘n’ roll rather than breaking news, but it took an awful long time for Limbaugh to embrace the conservative chatter that would make him a star.
It’s also one area An Army of One doesn’t fully explore.
Limbaugh flitted from one small radio market to the next, and even spent time in the Kansas City Royals’ organization before finding his true calling: no-holds-barred conservative talk.