Today: The Rise & Fall of Talk Radio in Kansas City

Once upon a time Talk Radio seemed to matter in Kansas City…

Notice I said, seemed to matter. By the 1990s most music listeners had migrated to FM or prerecorded music – CDs, even cassettes still. Pretty arcane sounding, huh? Let’s go back a little further.

In the late 1980s a local blowhard emeritus named Rush Limbaugh was making his mark via a nationally-syndicated, politcally-driven talk radio show. Unfortunately, Limbaugh’s success set talk radioon a course of one-dimensional, right wing rant radio that continues to this day.

  But in those early, heady days of talk radio there was a ton of variety here in the Cowtown.

There was medical advice from Dr. Dean Edell, practical advice from Bruce Williams, computer tips from Kim Komando, boring banter from President Reagan’s son Michael and syndicated sports talk galore late at night. Sally Jesse Raphael still had a bit of cred and Dr. Laura exploded on the scene.

Locally we had was shrink talk from Marshall Saper. UFO, critter catching and geezer about town talk from Mike Murphy. Right wing smack talk from Jerry Fogel & Mike Shanin. Squire publisher Tom Leathers batted to all fields about what was going on in KC replacing exiled local institution, the convivial Ray Dunaway.

A revolving door of sports talkers came and went.

But in recent years local talk radio has stagnated into the predictable.

Most of the national heavy hitters on here are right wing hit men (and women). Their few local counterparts following closely in their ultra conservative footsteps. But those right wing rants have grown both predictable and tiring.

Missing in action these days are the more convivial voices of reason that used to provide a podium for local people of note and visiting national names to kick around the news of the day.

Is there no appetite for that today or are talk radio program directiors just playing it safe with conservative talkers?

One only need look at the ratings on local talk stations KMBZ and KCMO AM to bear witness to the decline. Listeners are getting tired of the same-old, same-old. How about something a little outside of the box?

All that said, stand by for Talkers Magazine’s 2011 Heavy Hundred & Heaviest Hundred of All Time. You won’t find many locals on it.

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33 Responses to Today: The Rise & Fall of Talk Radio in Kansas City

  1. smartman says:

    I needed to kill a few brain cells last night so I listened to Fat Tony and Darla Jaye for a while. Holy Shit! They made Nick Wright seem like Bob Costas AND Frank Deford.

    Best bet for talk is Coast to Coast AM on 710 from midnight to 4:00 am and then WSJ radio after that.

    Local talkers all SUCK with maybe the exception of Toby Tobin and his crew on Saturday. Woody Cozad used to do a good show with his Radio For Grownups schtick.

  2. Hearne Christopher says:

    What do you think of the guys they’ve added to replace Stigall and midday on KMBZ?

  3. Tim says:

    Way to show your true colors Hearne
    As if there were any doubt, we all know how far left you really do swing. I guess the right wing polical discussions that matter are a bore compared the exciting lives of local socialites and where they have been spotted about town. Stick to covering the latest Gala gossip, and we’ll continue to not read it.
    By the way, you wanna know why right wng shows (radio and tv) are so successful? Because people listen/watch them. Face it, the liberal media sucks and people aren’t buying it anymore.

  4. Cliffy says:

    OK … I’ll bite.
    Since you never explain your photos, what’s with the nude gal fixing her hair. Should I know who that is? Well, I assue she’s nude since you won’t let us see the naughty bits.

  5. jjskck says:

    I always thought the right-wingiest shows were popular because the hosts are clever enough to reinforce two things: A) America is in the crapper, and B) it’s all someone else’s fault; conservative, God-fearing, American-born citizens like you good people listening right now had nothing to do with it.

    Problems are reduced to their simplest form, without nuance. Everything is cut and dried, black or white, yes or no, with us or against us. The bogeyman may vary, but none more consistently and reliably plays to those gut emotions and base instincts than that dreaded liberal America-hating MSM.

    A few are based in more civil, intelligent discourse, but the more vitriolic shows discard the thought process and just create a lowest-common-denominator angry echo chamber.

  6. smartman says:

    I’d rather take a nap then listen to Greg Knapp. He’s slightly better than Stigall but still has a pain factor.

    Merrill on 980 is just another right wing clone. Dave Ramsey is a advertising whore. You can’t listen to 710 without him pimping for one of his “good friends” in Kansas City. Wonder what it costs to have Dave cut a spot and say you’re his friend?

    I do enjoy Michael Savage. Don’t always agree but he has intellectual bona fides that neither Limbaugh, Hannity or Beck have.

    80% of right wing radio listeners are the choir. The other 20% are bored or listen to get pissed off. No one is really being converted any more. Until the political debate and discussion become more Socratic and logical and less emotional there is not going to be a big idealogical shift.

    If you watched Rush Limbaugh on the Golf Channel’s Haney Project it’s easy to see that he has become nothing more than an arrogant pompous asshole. In his case a little humility would actually add to his credibility. At this point I think all he wants to do is bang Sarah Palin. She could be wife #4. They’d make a beautiful couple. Plus he could turn his hearing aid off and not have to listen to her whiney ass.

    Problem is, as Bill Maher said, Americans are STUPID. Hence the popularity of right wing radio since it allows listeners to feel morally superior just because they listen. That’s a lot cheaper than Zoloft, Paxil or Wellbutrin.

  7. Ted Tedderson says:

    Who is the orange girl and the naked girl and what do they have to do with anything?

    Sounds like Hearne is fishing for a local radio talk show.

  8. chuck says:

    Yeah, I saw Rush flipping channels a while back
    on some golf show. I watched him for aobut 10 minutes, he was getting some help on his swing. More specifically, he was on the tee box with his driver.

    I mention this, because over the years, I have heard him talk about his handicap being 3 or 4. So, I am watchin the guy swing, and I watch him hit a couple.

    Lemme digress, momentarily. I have played golf since I turned 45 16 years ago. Love it. Lots of fun. I hit around 90 on easy courses when I played more in my 40s I shot 86 twice at Shamrock. Easy courses. I once broke 100 at Swope Park. Lemme tell ya, Swope is tough as shit and if you ain’t lying about your score and you hit 99 at Swope, your ok. I’ll always have 2 hole I hit 9 and 8 on. Whatever…

    So, I am watchin Rush. You know, the 4 handicap, Ruch Limbaugh on tv.

    What a fucking liar!!!

    That fat fuck couldn’t hit his ass with both hands. Spraying it off the tee, worm burners, slice, hook, fuck if it went straight once I’m Ben fuckin Hogan.

    I bring this up, because the man is a fraud on the course and off of the course. The draft dodging (He had ‘anal warts, so he missed Nam.), pansy fuckin piece of shit spent 15 fuckin years, screaming (With fabulous ratings) for folks who smoked the “Hippie Lettuce” and got busted to do time. Thats right, if you got busted with pot, you should go to jail!!! Needless to say, he thought drugies with bigger problems, like cocaine, well shit string ’em up in the public square. Constant calls for draconian measures and stiff prison sentences (He fuckin loves the 3 strike rule.) for ALL offenders who cross the line.


    Then, the piece of shit gets popped for buying $250,000.00 worth of a schedule II (Like fuckin Cocaine, you know, coke heads, right?) drug and gets to go to REHAB!!

    This hypocrtical fuckin puke is an American disgrace.

    Drug addicted, draft dodging, chickeshit lying fuck is on the radio every day telling people how to act, what to believe and when to lfight.

    If I see the fuck, I will revert to my younger days, revert to type and kick his fuckin ass.

  9. chuck says:

    I know a lotta guys would probably use a 7 iron.
    Not me, I’m clockin the fat fuck with my putter.

    Its the heaviest club in the bag, and I don’t wanna take any chances.

  10. newbaum turk says:

    Don’t forget about Rush getting caught with an illegal Viagra prescription on his way to the Dominican Republic, which is the Bangkok of the Western Hemisphere. I only wish they would of acted like they didn’t find the Viagra and followed him in the Dominican. I would of have loved to have seen what he picked up. You just know he was going after young boys. People who scream the most about homosexuals always turn out to be one themselves like the Rev. Ted Haggard. You know, the guy who had a weekly phone call with George W. Bush for spiritual guidance and got caught with a male prostitute while doing meth.

  11. Mark x says:

    RE: Hearne’s nude girlfriend …
    … what? You morons don’t recognize Doctor Laura?

  12. Hearne Christopher says:

    Hey, I worked at the Nixon for president HQ in high school, Know it All.

    I don’t like right or left wing demagoguery – it’s boring. And if you’ve noticed, the ratings for local talk radio are way down. Hello!

    I went to see Al Franken at the Uptown a few years back. The left wing nuts loved it. Howled at every boring joke/Republican putdown. Ditto for the dittoheads.

    But that’s just me…

  13. Hearne Christopher says:

    I didn’t edit it. That’s one of the photos that dude released a few years back that dated and had nude pictures of Dr. Laura. Remember that? Time flies.

    FYI she’s now exclusively on satellite.

  14. Hearne Christopher says:

    Agree. Pretty much totally.

  15. Hearne Christopher says:

    Boy am I easily entertained – agree again.

  16. Hearne Christopher says:

    I already turned down at least two (maybe three). But I would consider it. Tony and I talked about doing one.

    Now, as for the orange girl, that’s Dr. Janelle Carroll, the sexologist who got hounded off KCMO AM by a single Christian dude that thought sex was evil and campaigned against all of her advertisers.

    The station held strong until its cellphone company threatened to bail. Remember, all of KCMO’s talk shows could be called into then by dialing something like *810.

  17. Hearne Christopher says:

    Again, naked grrrl is Dr. Laura

  18. Hearne Christopher says:

    Thank you, Mark x. Go to the head of the class.

  19. The Independent Rage says:

    Rush Slimebaugh
    Slimebaugh’s success is “unfortunate”? Why? Apart from not happening to like his politics, what do you have against him going out there, building a huge audience, and then reaping the financial awards thereof? I’d say the same thing if he was a leftist 20 percenter instead of being the deranged right-winger that he is. I don’t have any place in my life for either ilk, but I damn sure won’t begrudge any of them who go out and express themselves and succeed in the process (even if I may disagree). Why is success “unfortunate”? You very much disappoint me, Christopher. We do still live in the United States, no?

  20. Hearne says:

    Hey, no grudges here
    Just bored by the limited abundance of conservative talk. Especially on the local level. Not that I’m longing for lefties either. Just some personality and/ or substance that transcends cookie cutter, hardball politics

  21. bschloz says:

    Use to love Saper…”LETS TAKE A BREAK” ” YOU’RE DRUNK AREN’T YOU?” that dude was a baller.
    Its all been done….ROME, STERN, RUSH, SAVAGE—Give me Walt Bodine any day…I don’t give a shit about DSK or Debt Ceiling ..I want to know where to find the best Cinnamon Roll in KC.
    Have a great Holiday!

  22. xxMillerTimexx says:

    “Just bored by the limited abundance of conservative talk. Especially on the local level. Not that I’m longing for lefties either. Just some personality and/ or substance that transcends cookie cutter, hardball politics”

    Left wing radio fails. If it would make money it would be as abundant as Right. I guess that they figured out that the right wing demographic listens to talk radio and the left demographic listens to their I Pod banging on a bongo drum smoking reefer. I get tired of it all, I am more Conservative in my views but see a lot of topics from both sides. Both sides need some humanity and both sides needs a overhaul.

  23. bschloz says:

    Use to love Saper…”LETS TAKE A BREAK” ” YOU’RE DRUNK AREN’T YOU?” that dude was a baller.
    Its all been done….ROME, STERN, RUSH, SAVAGE—Give me Walt Bodine any day…I don’t give a shit about DSK or Debt Ceiling ..I want to know where to find the best Cinnamon Roll in KC.
    Have a great Holiday!

  24. xxMillerTimexx says:

    So…………Hearne. No Bot defense on here? I now know where to get cheap Viagra

  25. HARLEY says:

    why would i waste 3 hours listening to fat man limbaugh when i can listen
    to his show in 2 mintues on the internet…when i can read his views on the
    internet…when i can get enough right wing propoganda on the internet thats
    more informative and accurate then the shit rush and savage spew out.
    The internet made talk radio obsolete…i can get all the news i need within minutes
    of it happening….and video…and the views of every nutjob out there with a keyboard.
    Talk radio will be dead…but it will be the last surviving format on the radio…
    and because why go into a dying radio business making peanuts when you can
    get your own site and spew the bullshit from the right.
    Maybe its just too onesided….only 35% of the people share the views of
    rush…the rest including left wingers and independents don’t want to listen to
    his shit.
    Darla Jaye…i ‘d debate this red head pig any day….she knows nothing and i could
    kick her ass on any subject any day.
    And stations only want right wingers…no centrists…no left wingers because
    liberls got better things to do than spend hours listening to lies and shit.
    thats it….but maybe if glaze and dare and hearne start a talk show it might work..
    no politics just the same b.s. they talk about on here….hey …great idea.

  26. Mike says:

    Here’s one you left out.
    You know the one I’ve missed in the age of the oversaturation of right-wing talkers?

    Russ Johnson.

    I forget the demons he faced which led to his early demise, but on the air, he was one of the better young guns this city has had.
    I remember his presence in the programming pit at Entercom in the late 90s. He was hard to miss, with a very convivial way about him. He was hard not to like.

    And then he went off to the blowtorch in Denver…which was great, because I then got to listen to him fairly regularly when I was travelling out to games on weeknights. His last hour on Friday nights, where people had 10-15 seconds to say whatever they wanted to say, was just pure fun.

    Talk radio could use a few more Russ Johnsons around now. Hell, even the blowtorch in Denver is all right-wing, all the time. In other words, boring. Which is why I haven’t listened to them (on a car radio 500 miles away) in years.

  27. Hearne Christopher says:

    The right wing extremists are fired up and they like being catered to. They don’t like the social changes, the cultural changes. The new, more diverse population mix. So it’s pretty easy for broadcasters to target and play to their fear and anger.

    Not so sure the lefties really are that interested. Oh they have their opinions, but they don’t seem to sit around and stew about them nearly as much.

  28. Hearne Christopher says:

    Pass it along to Harley then, wild man

  29. Hearne Christopher says:

    Agree with some of your points, but one reason for talk radio to exist is that people are stuck in their cars and other places and enjoy the diversion of listening to an entertaining personality. Not just skimming past what they may have said.

    Kinda like music. You could save a lotta time, just looking up and reading the lyrics to the new Lady Gaga single but what about the presentation?

  30. Hearne Christopher says:

    Agreed. Russ had that certain something.

    And he almost made it. Almost.

  31. wanda the fish says:

    Hearne doesn’t even know the name of his Congressman
    I’ve asked him 3 times. He has no clue. I doubt he even voted. We could look that up at, they report if you voted in any particular election.

    PS, the answer is Kevin Yoder.

  32. BarKeeper says:

    If you don’t want a hint of conservatism, limit your radio listening to KKFI and Public Radio. They won’t allow one drop of it. If you’ve ever heard that smarmy, worthless, uninformed, Hightower assbiter puke out his drivel, you’ll immediately lean to the right just to get a breath of fresh air.
    Both of these “public” stations take mounds of donations and other funding, and are patently liberal bastions with no tolerance whatever of other views.
    Twice a year, they spend weeks raising money and I laugh my butt off during the entire debacle. If they want my money, they better do a little scale balancing.

  33. BarKeeper says:

    A little better explanation:
    If a Republican doesn’t like guns, he doesn’t buy one.
    If a Democrat doesn’t like guns, he wants all guns outlawed.

    If a Republican is a vegetarian, he doesn’t eat meat.
    If a Democrat is a vegetarian, he wants all meat products banned for everyone.

    If a Republican is homosexual, he quietly leads his life.
    If a Democrat is homosexual, he demands legislated respect.

    If a Republican is down-and-out, he thinks about how to better his situation.
    A Democrat wonders who is going to take care of him.

    If a Republican doesn’t like a talk show host, he switches channels.
    Democrats demand that those they don’t like be shut down.

    If a Republican is a non-believer, he doesn’t go to church.
    A Democrat non-believer wants any mention of God and religion silenced.

    If a Republican decides he needs health care, he goes about shopping for it, or may choose a job that provides it.
    A Democrat demands that the rest of us pay for his.

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