Remembering Dayton radio icon Terry Dorsey

Terry Dorsey died Saturday after a brief and sudden illness. The 66-year-old had just retired on December 17, 2014, capping a 46-year-broadcasting career. He hosted the KSCS #1 morning show for 26 years. A graduate of LaSalle High School in Cincinnati in 1966, he went to New York City and took a six-month broadcasting course. He was drafted into the Vietnam War, serving as a combat engineer clearing landmines. He moved to Dayton in 1977 and on to Dallas in 1980. He was named the Country Music Association’s Major Market Personality of the Year in 1986, and inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006. He and his wife retired to Illinois where he died.

Terry Dorsey was a Dayton D.J., that is true.

But, truth is, he was a radio icon here before he became an icon in Dallas, Texas.

Terry came to Dayton in the 1970s from WHON in Richmond, Ind. He was hired as the morning show host on WTUE, using the name Greg Mason. At the time, WTUE was a Top 40 station. A couple of years later, he became its program director. (Truth is: I interviewed for a job at WTUE with Terry back then. No, I didn’t get it, though, later I joined the staff of WONE/WTUE as a news reporter.)

When WTUE gave up Top 40 for Album Rock in the mid '70s, Terry went across the hall to sister station WONE. It was there that Terry created Hiney Wine, a fictional area winery that played off its slogan, “When life gets you down, grab a Hiney!” It became a running bit on his show. Eventually, it was syndicated nationally and Hiney Wineries sprung up in cities and towns all across the U.S. Terry used to keep a spiral-bound notebook with him at all times and would write the Hiney Wine bits in longhand in the notebook.

He always closed his show with, “In case you missed the dirty joke of the day, we only have time for the punch line, it’s (punch line)”. Funny thing is: the punch lines he used were to real dirty jokes that would have turned WONE into a parking lot had he told the whole joke. But, he just gave the punch line. He was a funny, outgoing, gregarious guy with an infectious personality. You couldn’t not like Terry Dorsey.

Terry got into a dispute with the management at WONE/WTUE, left and went to work at WING, where he and John King’s famed “King and Dorsey Report” was a must-listen daily feature. The Hiney Wine bit went with Terry to WING and he developed “Babs Kneven’s Bar and Grill,” another fictional business in New Carlisle. Of course, anyone who knows anything about our area knows there can be no bar and grill in New Carlisle. It’s a dry town! But there were people all over the area who would drive to New Carlisle to try and find the place. I know, I lived there then. The guys would talk about the fake nightly specials, and often apologize, on behalf of the fake owners, for recent false shenanigans that were hilarious.

King and Dorsey became the first morning show “team” in the initial days of Z-93 when it came on the air in 1984, though by that time, Terry had already moved to Dallas to work the morning show on KSCS-FM. They did the Z morning show by telephone, with John recording his parts on a microphone into a tape recorder in Dayton (while listening to John on the phone),  and Dorsey doing his parts in a similar manner in Dallas. Dorsey sent his tape to King who then put the two tapes together. Today, they’d do it all by computer, but of course radio didn’t have computers on air back then.

Terry Dorsey, like so many of us in the business, was what we call a “radio geek.” He was driven by the business to succeed and gave it his all. Like many of us, he never worked a strict 9-to-5 day. Radio was with him day and night.

I remember an evening when I came into WONE/WTUE to record some music on a cassette tape in the production studio (which was the “old” WTUE control room in the building on Wilkinson Street). Terry got off the air across the hall at WONE and saw me in the production room. When he came in the door, I thought I was going to get in trouble for using a production studio for my personal use. Instead, Terry came in and started looking through my records.

He said, “Hey, you’ve got some good stuff here!” And then he and I proceeded to play music trivia in that studio for the next hour and a half, picking short pieces of songs and trying to stump each other as to their titles.

It’s always been said when the radio business gets in your blood, it never lets you go. Terry surely didn’t have to hang out in production studio with me. At the time, I was just a kid, barely in my 20s, that had tried to get a job from him a couple of years earlier. But we shared something  -- our love of music for the songs we played, and a love of the business.

I was not surprised at all that Terry became as a big name in Dallas. He was that creative of a guy. When Terry went to Dallas, our loss was the Metroplex’s gain.

Now, I’d love to say we were close friends, but that wouldn’t be true. We were colleagues and co-workers. And like many in the Miami Valley of my generation, I first was introduced to Terry as you were, listening to the Greg Mason morning show on WTUE when I was in high school at Miamisburg. When I actually got to work for the station a few years later, I was in heaven to be working around Greg … er, I mean Terry, and the other talents like David G. McFarland, Lee Riley and Bobby Kraig at WONE. And Patty Spitler, Alan Sells and Dan Pugh (Dan Patrick) at WTUE. And my colleagues in the newsroom, Kent Scott (News Director), Jeanne Lockhart, my good buddy (and current coworker) Jim Barrett and the others.

I was just a kid … they were my icons, just as Steve Kirk and Gene “By Golly” Barry was. So, Terry’s death was personal in a sense for me. It reminds me of my mortality (not my favorite subject to think about for obvious reasons.) But what a great time we all had.

And what a great talent he was. He is and will be missed.