Sunday, February 7, 2010

Another Passing? BC Hangs up the Headphones on Saturday Morning Open Phones

I didn't actually hear it. But according to some reports, WTVN morning host Bob Conners announced he was giving up his popular Saturday Morning Open Phones program. He still plans to host his Monday through Friday morning gig.

Saturday Morning Open Phones began as something of an anomaly and until this weekend remained one. The former reason was at the time, WTVN was for the most part playing music when this show began. The latter one is that largely the callers could have their say without much moderation.

Indulge here while I stroll down memory lane for just a moment to give some background.

Sure, WTVN had began to make the transformation to talk radio (other than the Speakout public affairs program that aired Sunday evenings)in the late 70's when Dale Ulmer , just released from WBNS was named evening host at the station. Dale was to begin blending music and chat. Ulmer stuck around for a few months and returned to his native Minnesota. He was replaced by Paul Davidson, who was overnight host of the station at the time. Paul was a nice guy. He wasn't cut out to be a talk show host. Talk radio didn't really take hold at the station until Steve Cannon came south from Akron to host the evening show at WTVN about 1979 to begin playing phonograph records and to share fancy patter. Cannon, then using trivia and star interviews instead of politics struck a chord with Columbus audiences. For an evening radio show, Steve brought the station a lot of attention.

Sometime after that Bob began opening the phones to Central Ohio on his Saturday morning show. I can't remember for sure, but my guess is sometime around Desert Storm.

What came after that was a eclectic collection of callers and listeners. Callers promoting everything from the latest from the John Birch Society to the Cat Lady with pets to adopt to someone promoting a local ice cream social, spaghetti dinner, church yard sale or community festival. Politically it was libertarian/fringe in terms of tone, however there were more people from both sides using the show to "showcase" their political leanings.

All came on, all had their say and were largely left unchallenged. Even those who were talking events on the political fringe. It actually became something of the charm of the show.

Fast forward to today. Bob was one of the few major market talents still holding down a 6 day per week shift. Old timers like me will remember that the man who held the morning show shift, John Fraim, exited WTVN in part because his demand to only work a 5 day week was pushed back. (Maybe Bob figured the dust had settled after more than 30 years and he could finally get the day off!)

Listeners reportedly heard Bob say he could now take his wife out to dinner Friday night like most others do without having to worry about getting up early Saturday to make the show by letting the Saturday show go.

Now well into his 70's maybe Rockin Robbin and Don Howard as Bob was known in his days in Pittsburg at WEEP and KQV is slowly beginning to hand over the reins of the morning show. If so, then so be it. Columbus loses what is possibly one of its most identifiable radio personalities when that happens. Bob has became our Walter Cronkite and Paul Harvey all rolled into one.

Bob has created a legacy here in Columbus. As entertainment and radio especially begin to become more of a homogenized commodity, standout local personalities/entertainers like Bob will become fewer and fewer.

Bob, all the best in whatever lies in your future.

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