Rush Limbaugh: Jan 12, 1951 – Feb 17, 2021

An American icon passed this week. Please indulge me in my recollections of him.

I am proud to say that I was around as the format we now call talk radio was getting started. It was in 1976 and I was an ambitious 22 years old and newly hired at WFAA 570 AM in Dallas. I had just made the jump from being on the air to selling advertising.

My arrival at WFAA coincided with the ascendancy of FM radio and the migration of music listening away from the AM band. The management at WFAA had the foresight to see that it was going to become increasingly difficult for AM stations to compete against FM stations for music listeners. And thus, they made the decision to abandon music altogether in favor of a format called “News/Talk.”

It was, at the time, radical. Unlike music formats such as Top 40 or Country, there wasn’t much of a template. In addition, the format was hobbled by a federal regulation called the Fairness Doctrine, which mandated that broadcasters give time to opposing viewpoints on controversial topics. The practical effect of the Fairness Doctrine was that politics of every stripe were largely avoided in longform programming such as talk shows.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan trounced Jimmy Carter to win the presidency. In 1984, he won 49 states in the greatest electoral landslide since George Washington. In 1987, he signed an executive order that suspended the Fairness Doctrine.

At more or less the same time, former ABC Radio executive Ed McLaughlin heard a talk host on KFBK Radio in Sacramento. Ed knew talent when he heard it and he began acting on a big idea. The conventional wisdom in radio at the time was that listeners wouldn’t listen to a talk show from out of town.

Ed thought otherwise.

He got Rush placed on WABC 770 AM in New York, which was owned at the time by his former employer and which had, itself, recently abandoned music for talk. Concurrently, Ed began calling AM radio station owners across the country seeking to have them as affiliates to what would become the EIB Network.

Those phone calls gave the AM radio band a much-needed reason to live on.

One station that he called was KTBB AM 600 in Tyler, Texas. The man who owned KTBB at the time didn’t return the call. For lack of interest at KTBB, Rush’s show wound up in East Texas on two weak AM stations – one each in Tyler and Longview – that operated synchronously.

Because I liked the News/Talk format I bought KTBB in 1994 and I quickly came to understand how badly I needed Rush. So, in 1997 I paid just under a million dollars for those two weak AM stations. (I still own one of them.) I told people at the time that I paid a million dollars for the Rush Limbaugh Show and they threw in two AM radio stations at no extra charge.

It was more than I paid for KTBB and the best money I ever spent.

Rush Limbaugh proceeded to help build my company and provide a good living for my family.

You know you’re seeing a master at work when what he’s doing looks easy. I have done enough talk radio to know firsthand that it’s not. Rush’s ability to take a topic du jour, distill it, and extemporize on it at length – all while entertaining – is without peer.

Rush could do an entire three hour talk show – and never have a guest and never take a call – and yet be riveting for all three hours. It is impossible to describe how difficult that is. I know of no one else in the business who can do it – and I know just about everybody in the business.

I have loved radio from the time I was a kid. One of the reasons for that – though I couldn’t articulate it at the time – was its capacity to connect with listeners one-on-one. It was personal between me and that guy on the air, and yet it happened on a mass basis. Radio at its best isn’t one connection with a million people. It’s a million connections with one person each.

Nobody has ever done that better than Rush Limbaugh. And I’m pretty certain that no one ever will.

We’re going to miss you, Rush. God bless you.

And thank you.

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Paul Gleiser

Paul L. Gleiser is president of ATW Media, LLC, licensee of radio stations KTBB 97.5 FM/AM600, 92.1 The TEAM FM in Tyler-Longview, Texas.

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29 Responses

  1. Michael Gauthier says:

    People talk about Tom Brady being the greatest of all time and he is in his field, but despite that he has lost hundreds of games. Rush on the other hand has been the #1 talk radio host for 30+ years and nobody ever surpassed him, ever. He was the greatest of the greatest with only Johnny Carson as a close second. Fortunately, during that time, Rush did an amazing amount of good for this country.

  2. Mark J. Mueller says:

    Paul, as usual you did a great job with your tribute to Rush. I loved listening to Paul Harvey but even more after Rush came to the radio. As everyone else, he will be missed. I hope but am not sure anyone else can step up to the plate and take his place.

  3. G. A. walters says:

    R. I. P. Mr. Limbaugh. You had an amazing effect on a lot of people.

  4. Michael Reagan says:

    We are very fortunate to have lived during the era of Rush. This one paragraph sums it all up as well as anyone can: “Rush could do an entire three hour talk show – and never have a guest and never take a call – and yet be riveting for all three hours. It is impossible to describe how difficult that is. I know of no one else in the business who can do it – and I know just about everybody in the business.”

    Listening to many of the other’s, we hear quiet a bit of repetition on a subject. Rush never repeated himself unless it was utterly important and the point was a must. He will be sorely missed. But, Rush Limbaugh will live on as legends do. Thank You for honoring Rush.

  5. Buddy Saunders says:

    Paul, thank you for sharing your own history with Rush. Oh, how we all will miss him. Your thoughts, along with those of Michael, Mark, and G.A., rightly honor a great man. Sadly, we contrast that with the obituaries from Time Magazine and the New York Times, both of which had nothing good to say about Rush, casting him as they did in life as a bigoted monster with an equally deplorable following.

  6. Jim says:

    Very few people in history have an impact that defines their generation. Rush was one of these people. I can say to almost anyone I ever meet that “I was part of the Rush Limbaugh generation”, and they’ll know exactly what I mean. And those that hope that conservative voices will be silenced now that he’s gone will be disappointed.

    (Personal note: Not sure if this is possible, but it would be great to meet some of these passionate conservatives one evening over at Kiepersol to raise a glass of your special blend to Rush’s memory.)

  7. Ron Eagleman says:

    May I simply say “DITTOS” to Paul’s commentary and all of the thoughtful tributes to Rush that have been posted. I would like to add that there is another part of his character that I have always respected… his ability to accept adversity without whining or using it as an excuse. Even with the autoimmune disease and loss of his hearing, he continued to carry on, and eventually was able to get a cochlear implant. This one event would doom most talk show hosts, but he got up off the floor and continued to grow his audience. Paul has already testified to the difficulty of such an endeavor, even with the advantage of normal hearing. His post-surgical addiction to Oxycontin was another huge obstacle, which he admitted to the nation, and then promptly entered a rehab program. Can you imagine the assaults from the media and other left wing institutions that he endured on a daily basis? Even during the agonizing side-effects from the lung cancer treatments, he continued his show with only modest references to his dire circumstances. Most people, including myself, would have retreated to a corner, and lamented: “why me”? Yes, we have lost a friend and a mentor, but his contributions and patriotism will live on with his millions of ditto heads!

  8. Pete Faz says:

    My time listening to Rush went back to the days of KEES Radio–he was always ahead of the curve,and will be greatly missed.

  9. Richard Anderson says:

    A fine tribute to American patriot and Radio broadcaster Rush Limbaugh. I shall miss listening to him very much.

    The conservative movement that was brought to millions of Americans via talk radio first on AM and now FM radio also could not have come at a more crucial time. Mr. Limbaugh would want each and every American patriot to carry forward with zeal the same message he brought, which is…

    the U.S.A. as FOUNDED in 1776 under GOD is an EXCEPTIONAL NATION –unlike any other country ever in the history of the world– and is worth fighting for to keep and to preserve, defending “her” from all enemies both foreign and domestic.

    The paramount enemies of America today, IMHO, are… antifa, black lives matter, communists (this includes the CCP), fascists, leftists, marxists, socialists, and wokeists — in short, the very groups who are in the news on an almost daily basis, actively scheming in attacking and destroying our Constitution, our Declaration, and our AMERICAN way of life. We CANNOT let them win!

    Patriots who cherish AMERICA must push back against these groups and their despicable ideologies even more strongly with OUR OWN AMERICAN ideals… LIFE, LIBERTY, FREEDOM, CAPITALISM, and THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.

    Thank you Mr. Gleiser in all that you are doing at KTBB 600AM & 97.5FM to preserve and defend conservative FREE SPEECH, as that is what our Founders had in mind in the building of our great Republic — the U.S.A..

  10. Dr. R. Paul Cochran says:

    May he rot in the pits of the devil’s bowels. Never a more one-sided, bigoted and hypocritical person ever walked this earth. I do not wish death upon anyone, but there are some obituaries I read with great pleasure.

  11. C M Solomon says:

    It is a fact that the brighter the piercing of the Light of Truth that shines into the pit of the Darkness of Evil and its Father of Lies that dwells there, can always measure its depths by the reaction of the Left to that intensive Beam of Truth. For the last 30 years Rush’s program was my most wonderful anchor to the greatest principles of Freedom and Liberty that is celebrated by all patriotic Americans as the greatest nation ever founded on Biblical principles and unalienable rights as bestowed directly by our Creator (God Almighty that made the universe and all its Glory). Rush always made the most complex and controversial issues into simple and logical truths, founded on moral grounds of right and wrong. This is why he was despised by the Left who could not defeat his arguments, but could only demonize him as the cowards that they continue to be.

    The incredible talents of Rush “on loan from God” to proclaim these American truths kept me strong and able to withstand the Lies from the Left that permeates every day life in America. Those that love Rush the most are those that were willing to accept the Light of Truth and abandon the absolute Evil that they had previously accepted from the Left. I know of no other man in my lifetime that has had a more POSITIVE influence on more millions of listeners than Rush Limbaugh to encourage us to love and defend our American blessings of Liberty and the Constitution on which it is based.

  12. Dr. R. Paul Cochran says:

    So now I see how your CEO/Master-in-Chief is – deletes any logical responses he doesn’t agree with. What a one-sided, far right hypocritical man you are. I will NEVER read your news again and encourage my friends in Tyler, Jacksonville and Dallas to do the same. You are a one-sided bigot-in-residence.

  13. Dr. R. Paul Cochran says:

    If you would like to discuss the reasons for the deletion of my responses, feel free to email me, but, I have a feeling I will not get so much as a piece of junk mail from you. And I’ll be happy to provide my phone number if you would prefer to discuss it in person!

    • Ron Eagleman says:

      Anyone who feels the need to insert Dr. in FRONT of his name deserves little respect or credibility. This one juvenile act of insecurity reveals more than the adolescent and truly hateful comments. Maybe we could be enlightened and impressed as to how the doctorate was earned? Perhaps from the same institution as Dr Pepper?

  14. C M Solomon says:

    Satan, the Father of Lies, never “runs out of” his locust followers (that blindly devour the Truth) who willingly spread his Lies throughout the World to enslave additional victims. Please note the contemporary language of the hate-filled Left: doxxing, cancel culture, critical race theory, global cooling, global warming, climate change, climate deniers, systemic white racism, white supremacy, transhumanism, religious bigotry, gender fluidity/identity, infanticide, LGBTQ, reparations, xenophobia, nativist, globalism, social justice, and finally, equity (good), equality (bad).

    In the spirit of Rush Limbaugh’s continuing wisdom, we know that the Lies of the Left have swapped good for evil. The Left uses their hateful language to blame the Patriots for the mayhem that they themselves are guilty of wreaking on society at large in order to cover up their evil deeds and their long term negative consequences. The wisdom of the Scriptures seem appropriate here: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

    It is time for all Patriots as taught by our beloved Rush, the “Doctor of Democracy,” to expose the Evil Leftist takeover of the Nation designed to destroy our unique American Liberties. We should identify these tyrannical forces as enemies of the people that have used theft and deception to justify their illegal authority to rule over us under “Color of Law.” Don’t we still have freedom of speech? Just who do they think they are? We should use non-apologetic, highly descriptive language to flush out their deception and illegal claim of authority. Wake up Republicans! The time for politeness is over! The Left is vastly outnumbered, and they KNOW that we KNOW of their tyrannical goals.

    It is obvious that they fear the vast American people that value Liberty because they have constructed warlike walls and barriers to keep out and protect their little kingdom of tyranny in Washington, DC. There were more peaceful, happy, and well behaved Patriots (500,000) that attended Trumps rally on January 6, 2021 than ALL of the Federal bureaucrats that reside in the Washington, DC metro area that are supposed to be “servants” of the Republic. The Commiecrats are FEARFULLY at war with the Constitutional American Republic and their protective WALL proves it because they KNOW they are guilty of treason and subversion of the Constitution and are determined to defend their newly established tyrannical power at all costs. “Me thinks they doth protest too much.”

    The Commiecrats are now setting the permanent rules for the future political struggle against the Constitution. Trump supporters be damned! It was their Leftist rioters that stormed the Capital 30 Minutes BEFORE Trump finished his speech at a distance of an additional 30 minutes walk to the Capital for another scheduled rally that never happened because the Left preempted the deliberations in Congress that were underway to consider the validity of the electors. This orchestrated riot by the Left was designed to be their excuse to rain damnation onto the 500,000 Trump supporters as “insurrectionists.” The videos of the Leftists (Antifa-BLM rent-a-mob) are available to prove their own despicable guilt as a willing tool of the Commiecrats that supported them from the start. Lastly, the violent mobsters of the Left are the reincarnation of the “Brownshirts” from the Nazi era that are determined to subjugate us due to fear of personal reprisal if we don’t cooperate with their agenda. Why do you think so many fair-weather Conservative politicians are unwilling to forcefully expose the fraudulent Left and their hyperactivity now underway?

  15. James W says:

    Been listening to Rush since 1988, that he brought us all along for this magnificent ride is a great privilege. So many meaningful events that have occurred in our country, were conveyed to me by the greatest voice and mind this nation had to offer, go with God, you were a faithful friend a fearless teacher and all around good guy. Rush may be gone but his words live on in all of us.

  16. Matthew E says:

    I think the Dr. nailed it ! I will give Rush this though, he admitted in an interview, available on YouTube, sorry not fake news,what he was trying to do or accomplish with his Radio Show, not a quote but he says,get as many followers (listeners) as much advertising etc,and make as much money as possible, and anyone else in the business that says their goal is not the same is full of it! Yes he needs to make a living like anyone else so don’t go there folks,it simply says it all,it’s all about the money,not convictions,beliefs,ideology, MONEY!!!

    • Ron Eagleman says:

      Like so many of your ilk, you are thrilled to believe anything that supports your own belief system; even if it comes from a source that has proven to do very dishonest hit jobs. Creative editing is the hallmark of CBS; just ask Governor DeSantis regarding the latest 60 Minutes journalism masterpiece. It was interesting that nothing was said about the millions that Rush gave away to charities. Yes, he made a lot of money because he drew a huge audience, and therefore, could charge confiscatory advertising fees. I guess in some circles, being successful in the private sector is contemptible, but becoming wealthy by feeding at the public trough is somehow admirable? So, you think the good Dr. nailed it? “May he rot in the pits of the devil’s bowels”….. how juvenile! I am still interested in what kind of Dr. could spew such vile remarks….could I guess….not a Dr. of Divinity?

      • Matthew E says:

        That was a very mature response, thanks; also I hear those charity donations are very helpful when the tax man comes calling ,and also I watch,read from many different sources that identify as Liberal and conservative and maybe some somewhere in between ,seems a little like projection there in you’re comments , Rush said it himself, straight from horses mouth as they say, truth is often difficult. :-)

        • Ron Eagleman says:

          Oh, so gifts to charity are to get a percentage back in a tax deduction? That makes a lot of sense, just like your refusal to understand creative editing. If you had paid more attention, you would understand the subtlety of his humor. Yes, truth is difficult, and so are facts.

  17. Matthew E says:

    Yes it does make sense, it’s a well used tax deduction for many,Corporations, individuals, nothing new,and I often tell people I personally think that if that were not in the tax code 80-90% donations would dry up across the board,sad but probably true.One more thing,the guy had a Radio Talk Show, you’d think he actually did something good for mankind, or at least ran into a burning building to save a bunch of babies or something like that,he was again just a ” Radio Talk Show ” personality, there is something a little disturbing about how some folks have such reverence for people who do no more than the average ” Joe” does in their life, the guy talked for a living,really? To each his own,I definitely can’t relate to such behavior about or towards anyone in such manner, I’m betting he put his pants on just like any other man.

  18. Ron Eagleman says:

    Maybe if you or one of your loved ones, God forbid, is diagnosed with Lymphoma, Leukemia, or one of the very serious blood disorders, your jaded view of charitable donations will change. Rush raised, as well as personally contributed over $50 million to help find a cure. I do agree with you that tax incentives for charitable donations make a huge difference; however, so do home mortgage deductions incentivize home ownership. Try to remember, Rush did not become successful because he was just a “Radio Talk Show personality”; he was successful because he offered something that millions of people wanted. Granted, this concept can sometimes be very difficult to grasp, but it is the basis of our free enterprise system. I certainly respect your opinion, but the sad irony is that those heroes who go into a “burning building to save a bunch of babies”, or other self-sacrificing deeds, are now being demonized by the same folks who hated Rush.

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