He once threatened to blow me up. Another time he pulled my tongue out. The last time I called him he drove a stake through my heart. So why am I sad that Gary Burbank did his final broadcast on December 21,2007?
I am sad because Gary Burbank made me chuckle at least once every weekday for the past twenty-five years. For many years I tuned in to his show at 2:00 on WLW in Cincinnati. Burbank and his associates, Doc and Andy Mac, always had fun, and they allowed the listener to join in on it. They took phone calls and read letters from their audience.
The first time I called was in 1996, ten years after I had started listening. It was with some trepidation that I phoned in to the program called “Ask Andy.” The crew took outlandish, often rhetorical, queries from listeners, providing clever and sometimes insulting answers. I don’t recall the question I asked, but I still can hear the smooth voice of Burbank on the other end, gretting me with “Hello, Doug.”
Years later Burbank’s show began airing one hour later, but it was still as entertaining as ever. Andy Mac and Doc both left, but he found acceptable replacements. He kept most of the segments, including the popular call-in show “Sports or Consequences.” Callers would ask sports-related questions to try to stump the aficianados Burbank had gathered in the booth. Sometimes they were local businessmaen, high school coaches, or even the wives of sports stars. I really enjoyed the times Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman stopped in to help answer the listeners’ trivia.
I once failed to phrase my question properly, leading Burbank to threaten to blow me up if I did not phrase it correctly. During another call I unintentionally insulted Rocco, a mainstay on the show for a few years. Gary again saved me after the others wanted to drive a stake through my heart. A few years ago I asked some question about a former Reds backup catcher, which the crew agreed was minutiae. Gary informed me that he had to punish me, like he had done so many others, so he pulled my tongue out.
In addition to the call-in shows, Burbank created an array of memorable characters. Earl Pitts, American, ranted for five minutes each day about some topic he was “Pitts’d off” about. Gilbert Gnarley was an elderly curmudgeon who called various businesses to register complaints. He once called Kellog’s because he did not receive two scoops in his box of Raisin Bran.
Pitts, Gnarley, Riley Gert and all the other characters of Gary Burbank will be missed. I remember traveling down South a few years back, struggling to locate a radio station on my car stereo. The FM choices were limited to new country and NPR formats. I pessimistically switched the dial to AM, and lo and behold, I heard the friendly, familiar baritone of Gary Burbank. I felt suddenly as relaxed had I been pulling into my own driveway. Hundreds of miles from home, I had found a friend of over thirty years. He may not have known my name, and he did threaten to blow me up and impale me, but I will miss him.