They were part of our past and part of our culture and many people knew only their voices.
They came to us on AM and FM, usually in the morning when we were waking up for work. They played songs that made us sing along and came up with catchphrases that we wouldn’t forget.
They were radio when radio was important, before it was homogenized and standardized and before it was bounced off a satellite up in the sky.
Now, within 11 months, these familiar personalities signed off for the final time, reminding some of us of a time when we slipped a transistor radio under our pillow and listened to a medium that helped us make it through pimples, pop quizzes and puberty.
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Bill Bowick, Val McGinness and Jim Devitt were products of an era that helped a generation grow up. Before television, there was radio and radio was their identity.
Bowick came first and died first. He was a fixture on the air before there was FM. He invited Columbus to have Coffee With Bill, and it did, adding cream and sugar to taste.
McGinness was a local shock jock. He made his mark on WCLS, when Top 40 was on top of the world. He sent listeners in search of the rock — a contest that inspired people to dig up city parks in order to win a prize. Devitt became Diamond Jim when he was playing country music. A consultant came up with the idea of pairing him with Bowick and together they were magic. Diamond Jim was also a creator who promoted a TV station and helped elect a mayor.
McGinness and Devitt died 10 days apart and, like Bowick’s memorial a year ago, the broadcast community came out to mourn the loss of a colleague.
Eras are ending. Most of the voices we hear don’t live around here. The personality on the dial in Columbus may also be heard in Macon, Montgomery or Minneapolis. They don’t do remotes at a car dealer on Saturday afternoon or host talent shows at the local high school.
Radio has gotten older — and so have we —and there’s no one around to ask McGinness in the Morning’s daily question: “Are you nekkid?”
Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org