In my ten years of working in radio, I had many conversations with people who were unceremoniously let go. Formats flip, contracts aren't renewed, or a big company gobbles up a small company and puts the long-timers out to pasture. Not really any different from layoffs in most fields, but in radio, it's like the cops showing up and shutting down a party.
From a lot of those long-timers, I heard plenty of "I don't know what to do! This is the only thing I know how to do!" But when I got a call from Bobby Patterson this afternoon, I didn't hear any of that sky-is-falling lingo. Sure, he sounded sad, but there was a sense of relief in his voice in being let go from Soul 73 KKDA-AM today.
Patterson has seen plenty in his time in the music industry, cutting singles in the '60s, working for Jack Ruby, producing artists, being a "record man" for major record labels, as well as being a DJ and a regular performer around Dallas. He's not just a survivor in the industry; he's a survivor of life.
Sure, today wasn't the best day of Bobby's life, as he told me, as well as Robert Wilonsky at the Dallas Morning News. But he's been through enough in his life to see that this is a pit stop instead of a drive off of a cliff. The same thing can be said about others let go today at Soul 73, including Cindy B. and Roger B. Brown, people I had the pleasure of working with during my time as a traffic reporter.
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Replacing live DJs with automated music is nothing new in radio, especially in DFW, but Soul 73 was one of the last stations around that did things live and fresh, focusing on their core Dallas audience. Where else were you going to hear Lou Rawls' "Groovy People" and Z.Z. Hill's "Love Is So Good When You're Stealing It" mixed in with wild tales by Bobby or Cindy B.? Hell, where else were you going to hear songs like that on terrestrial radio?
For the last year of my time as a traffic reporter, I was given a great opportunity to do traffic for Bobby. Since there was no way I could top the craziness he had on the air, I was given free range to do things I could have never done on other stations. Do an entire traffic report in Michael McDonald's singing voice? Say the Serenity Prayer before my outro? Say, "And now back to Bobby Patterson, yes-indeedy-weedy, especially the weedy part"? Absolutely not.
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Of course I'll miss hearing these people on the station, people who were as genuine and sincere off the air as they were on. You can't replace real live people and personality by playing automated music, but if that's where radio wants to go to keep going, then so be it.
For me, I'll be still singing the praises of Archie Bell and the Drells and Chairmen of the Board for as long as I live. And I'll try to see Bobby play live, whether it's his blues act or his '60s R&B pop, as often as I can. Because soul music, R&B and the blues come from the heart, there will never be a shortage of people longing to hear this kind of music.