This wasn’t the post I intended to put up here today, although it’s one I knew I’d have to write eventually.
It was the fall of 1986. I’d been in Macomb, Illinois, for three years, the last year on the morning show. Now I wanted out, to get to a bigger city, to climb another rung on the ladder, back when I still thought I was a major-market air talent on the rise. Sometime in November I saw an ad in Radio and Records from KRVR in Davenport, Iowa, a “soft AC” looking for an afternoon guy. Davenport was part of the Quad Cities, a market of about 300,000. That’s what I’m talking about, I thought, so I cobbled together my package and sent it off.
It wasn’t long before I got invited up for an interview. It was at that point that I learned “soft AC” meant “elevator music” and “afternoons” meant 2 to 9PM (!), voicetracked. But an interview was an interview, and so I hopped in the car and drove two hours up the road to Davenport to meet with the program director, Dave Whiskeyman. In a job interview, I can usually tell within a few minutes whether I’ve got a legitimate shot at the gig, or if it’s just a courtesy. Dave and I hit it off so well, bantering easily with one another right from the start, that I felt very good about my chances to get the job, and I didn’t worry about the elevator-music part. So it wasn’t a great surprise when they made me an offer. A couple of weeks before Christmas–December 9, 1986, if I’m recalling correctly—I gave my notice to the folks at WKAI.
My first day at KRVR was January 5, 1987. Dave and I worked closely together for the next two-plus years. For a period of months, we did a promotion for a local realtor that required us to broadcast short reports from two or three open houses over a weekday noon hour. We both lived on the Iowa side of the Quad Cities, but most of the remotes were on the Illinois side, so we frequently found ourselves hopelessly lost, wandering like Flying Dutchmen through the wilds of East Moline or some damn place, in those days before cell phones, trying to figure out how the hell to get where we were supposed to be. But we weren’t just boss and employee, we were friends, too. We drank beer together and shared scandalous tales of people each of us had known. One day, for reasons lost to history, we started fooling around with accents while working in the production room, and forever after I referred to him as “Dev” and he referred to me as “Jeem.” His was the first CD player I ever heard, and I can still see us standing there in his music room listening to it, and my being astounded at the clarity of the sound. Working together wasn’t without its frictions—he was the still the boss, and I think I made his job harder sometimes simply as a function of being the person I was then.
Dave left the station at the end of 1989; I followed not long afterward. He went into the video-production business, although in recent years he was drawn back into radio, working part-time at a couple of stations and happy to be there, just as I am. We had lost touch by the turn of the millennium, although we regained it over the last couple of years thanks to Facebook. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the spring; I wanted to get back down to the Quad Cities to see him one more time, and almost made it last month before circumstances intervened. I thought about going down yesterday, my last day off for a while, and I should have. Dave passed this early this morning. If I’m doing the arithmetic correctly, he was 57. He leaves behind a family, and I know that of the things that mattered to him the most in life, they were first.
This post would probably be more interesting to you if I could remember better stories about Dave. Perhaps in the days to come, I’ll be reminded of a few by some of our mutual friends and colleagues. But a central fact about this blog is one I warned you about in the very first post six years ago: Sometimes it will be so personal that I’m the only one who’ll get it. If this is one of those times, so be it: So long, Dev. Everybody get out of here—there’s a lobster loose.