Thanks Rush: Conservative Talk Radio Pioneer

Americans owe a huge debt to Rush Limbaugh, now celebrating his 20 years as host of the nation’s most powerful and listened to radio talk show in America.

Rush’s contribution to the American people in teaching millions of them the need to stand up and fight for traditional American values is unequaled in our turbulent times. It is not an exaggeration to say that he has been the most effective and vigorous voice for the conservative cause, popularizing a movement conceived by the late Bill Buckley.

His contribution to my own career in radio was such that I can say that without his arrival on the scene as a nationally syndicated radio host I would never have been able to reach out to as many Americans as I now count as faithful listeners.

It didn’t seem that way at first when I got summarily fired from my job as a radio host at San Diego’s radio station KSDO to make room for a new nationally-syndicated show hosted by Rush.

I was given 48 hours notice to clean out my desk and be gone. This was after I had already negotiated a brand new 3 year contract and was 24 hours away from actually signing it, and suddenly I was out of a job.

Although I lived in Los Angeles I had been doing the show from San Diego every day and was driving from my Los Angeles house on Monday morning, coming back up on Wednesday, driving back there on Thursday, and coming home on Friday.

I had wanted to move to San Diego but my wife and family wouldn’t go along with it because they didn’t think the radio business was all that secure. They turned out to be right.

I wanted to stay in radio because I enjoyed it. I was then offered a job at WT MJ in Milwaukee Wisconsin, but I said to myself if my wife and family wouldn’t move to San Diego, they’d never move to Milwaukee. The last thing I was going to be able to tell them was pack up — we’re moving east.

At that point I decided that if I wanted to stay in radio I would have to start my own nationally-syndicated show. I had absolutely no money although I had a group of people in San Diego who wanted me to give it a try. On September 7, 1992, after having been let go in February of the same year, I started my own national radio talk show.

So I would drive 262 miles round trip between LA and San Diego to start my own national talk show. I had exactly five stations in my network, four were taped-delayed, one was live, and the live one had Monday Night Football so on Mondays I was driving to San Diego and back to do a radio show to which absolutely no one was listening.

My income was near zero, and I was at my wit’s end. In desperation I called my mom and told her my tale of woe. She listened patiently and then, when I asked her what I could do, my mom Jane Wyman, as tough and wise a lady as ever graced the Silver Screen said “Shut up and keep driving.”

It was the best piece of advice I ever got. So I kept driving and slowly my network grew and I began to make a living doing what I loved to do.

The road — literally and figuratively — was hard, as it has to be in a free-market capitalist economy. But I persevered and in doing so, proved — to myself, my family and my listeners — that I could compete successfully where so many others (especially liberals) cannot. Yes, it was tough, but I wouldn’t trade that experience for any sort of instant success. Like Rush, I’ve made it and will next month celebrate seventeen years in syndicated radio.

All of this wouldn’t have happened had it not been for Rush Limbaugh and the openings he gave those of us who were willing to walk through the door and give it a shot nationally. He truly led the way and proved that syndicated radio on AM and now FM radio was going to be a viable radio position to take.

Thanks, Rush. And thanks to all the loyal listeners that make talk radio the success — and political force — it is today.

Thanks Rush for getting me fired, and thanks mom up there in heaven. I did keep driving.