I knew this day would come. And when he wasn’t behind the “Golden EIB Microphone” for an extended period in the past week or so I knew it was coming soon. But I couldn’t bring myself to think about talk radio without Rush Limbaugh. The world – not just the terrestrial radio world – is poorer without him in it.
You’ll hear this from a lot of people, but Rush Limbaugh changed my life. He really did.
Millions will say how he changed their views about politics. Politicians will point to his support for the “Contract With America” helping Republicans sweep into office and taking the House back after 40 years. Younger politicians will say they were first inspired to speak their minds from Rush Limbaugh. People would often say “he just said what I was thinking!” Listeners would shake their heads at the absurdities, guffaw at the nonsense, and indulge their righteous indignation along with Rush Limbaugh. But mostly they’d laugh with him.
The radio icon gave birth to millions of “Rush Babies,” though he never had children of his own.
But he was my radio dad.
As a young dumb kid out of college, coming up in the media world of radio and TV, Rush gave me a reason to hope that I would be able to make a place in the then dying world of AM radio, a medium into which I had fallen madly in love.
As a kid in Portland, Ore., a small parochial town back then, our AM radio experience was a combination of bassy radio men reading the school lunch menus and stilted weather reports, instructing parents to put galoshes on the kids, and sharing recipes amid the latest tunes.
But at night, oh, at night, after Johnny Carson was over, my dad would tune his big multiple-ban radio in to the world of talk radio. In my bedroom, where I was supposed to be sleeping, I could hear the muffled voices of the pre-shock-jock talkers from out of San Francisco, Salt Lake City, and Denver. Sometimes, if my dad was out of town, my mom would let me come into her room and we’d listen to Ira Blue.
When my sister won a transistor radio on a local kids’ show, she’d listen under her covers at night.
Radio was a mystery and a source of joy and entertainment.
Later it became a place to listen to the best play-by-play announcers in the business paint a picture so I could clearly “see” baseball games.
And Rush Limbaugh, who’d shared the same experiences, and had spent his early career getting hired and fired – a lot – while trying to be a Top 40 radio DJ, took all of his experiences, delights, passions, interests, yes, political beliefs, his insatiable curiosity, and his cheeky sense of humor and spun these things into radio gold.
In the late 1980s, when AM radio talents were still trying to make compelling radio by spinning 45s or carts that sounded way better on FM radio, reading perfunctory weather reports, and trying to do news and programming under the equal-time rule, Ronald Reagan’s partial deregulation of the radio industry allowed the other-than-late-night hosts the ability to speak out a little.
Rush Limbaugh, then in Sacramento doing talk radio and coloring outside the lines a bit, was loosed.
He singlehandedly brought back the entire amplitude modulation radio spectrum and made it cool – and profitable – again.
Suddenly, the brash young Rush Limbaugh was appointment radio.
On the West Coast, Rush was on from 9 a.m. to noon. If you were lucky enough to be on a station with Rush, and if you were lucky and talented enough to be on after him, you were golden too.
He’d mock eco-nuts with sound effects of chain saws cutting down trees, he’d use saucy songs to mock “women’s lib types.” He dubbed the Eleanor Smeals of the country “screamers,” and abortion-at-any-cost types as “femi-nazis.” He was an early skeptic of man-made global warming and often had Dixy Lee Ray, a scientist and former governor of Washington, on his program to talk about it.
He pulled off stunts such as a bake sale to call attention to political absurdities and inequality. Dan’s Bake Sale, so dubbed because Dan’s wife wouldn’t let him spent $29.95 for Rush’s newsletter, drew 35,000 people and Rush Limbaugh himself.
People whispered in his ear. Mark Levin, climate experts, experts of all kinds, would make sure that Rush got an earful of information on the latest crackpottery from the Left. That said, he also looked askance at the “expert” class of we-know-better-than-you nabobs who sat in the fortress-like Ivory Towers of academia.
AM radio stations, which had been losing steady ground to daytime TV and FM radio, were suddenly getting double-digit ratings in his time slot. Rush would blow the doors off the competition.
He put ideas through the crucible of his mind, add his spark, and produce a thick nugget of common sense. Suddenly, you’d think, “of course, I knew that.”
And that’s where I came in. Suddenly, there was room for someone like me.
I had some experience, I had opinions, and was near a microphone. For more than 20 years I held my own on talk radio shows, and still do on my own podcast. Rush hated podcasts. Oh, well.
The one thing Rush Limbaugh taught me, a belief that I tried to bear in mind with varying degrees of success, was to keep laughing.
Other people will talk about Rush’s classical liberalism, his well-deserved cultural-icon status, and the deep void left behind.
But I will never forget my radio dad.
Rush Limbaugh, you gave birth to thousands of us. We keep talking to pay homage to you.
You changed everything for me.
God bless you and your Golden EIB microphone from which I’m sure you’re broadcasting to the Heavenly Host.
Victoria Taft is the host of “The Adult in the Room Podcast With Victoria Taft” where you can hear her series on “Antifa Versus Mike Strickland.” Find it here.Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Parler, MeWe, Minds @VictoriaTaft