Dick Purtan sets retirement


Legendary Detroit radio personality and Hall of Fame broadcaster Dick Purtan has announced his retirement from CBS RADIO Detroit’s 104.3 WOMC. After 45 years on the air in Detroit, the last 14 hosting morning drive on WOMC, he will retire effective March 26.

Purtan tells RBR-TVBR: “It’s been great. You know, things have tightened up at the station, just like everywhere, but that’s radio and TV for you today. Things aren’t as they used to be, in terms of freedom on the air for music stations. It has to be a little tighter. You remember the Ryan Seacrest memo – it affects everybody. As I said on my statement at 7:30 AM this morning on air when I announced my retirement, I’ve loved what I’ve done and I still do…except quite honestly, lately I’ve been loving it a little less.”

After March 26, Purtan tells us he and his wife Gail, who has been battling ovarian cancer for 13 years, are going to have some fun – travel more and enjoy. Dick is feeling great and Gail is too. While he likely will not get back into radio he did end a good conversation by mentioning he might entertain an offer from Sirius if he could work it from home. But for the most part, “Once you wrap it up, you wrap it up.”

He did mention the entire city has been having a ball with the Toyota recall problems of late: “Let’s face it – they’ve destroyed this town, so payback is kind of funny.”

Daughter Jennifer Purtan tells RBR-TVBR: “I think the magic of the radio man and the father is summed up with these words…talent, integrity, compassion and generosity. It’s impossible to describe the pride our family is feeling at this moment.  The indelible mark Dad has made in the lives of his listeners for the last 45 years in Detroit radio is profound.  Now it is time for the next chapter to be written.  This I know, my parents will use this time to pursue all kinds of new dreams and adventures.”

Purtan, regarded as one of the country’s most respected, revered and recognized air personalities, is an icon in radio broadcasting.  During his long career he has been installed in both National Radio Halls of Fame, as well as the Michigan Broadcasters Hall of Fame and has won the coveted “Marconi” as the nation’s top radio personality.  Along with many other honors and awards, he earned a television Emmy in 1980 for his stellar performance emceeing the Detroit Emmy TV Awards television special and was selected to run as an Olympic Torch bearer in 2002.

Purtan’s show is always topical and infused with intelligent comedy – taking listeners to the edge, but never “crossing the line”.  He is nationally recognized as the father of the original “Put-On Call” which has become a programming staple on many radio stations around the country.  Surrounding himself with a cast of characters, both real and imaginary, he excels in what radio was meant to be – “theater of the mind.”  An equal opportunity satirist, Purtan has good-heartedly skewered everyone and everything in the public eye. 

“I was trying to put off retirement until the Lions made it to the Superbowl,” said Purtan, “but frankly, I’ve got to get some sleep…It’s been my honor to have been welcomed into the homes and lives of the people of Southeast Michigan for the part 45 years.  It’s been a ball… and besides all of the fun, I hope we’ve made a difference.”

“Unfortunately, we are losing a legend,” noted Debbie Kenyon, Vice President and Market Manager CBS RADIO Detroit.  “No one has made more of an impact on Detroit radio than Dick Purtan. He is truly one-of-a-kind. Millions of people have woken up to Dick’s voice in the morning…his departure will leave a void I’m not sure anyone can fill.”

Purtan’s dedication and commitment extends beyond his morning show.  The Detroit News recognized his charitable contributions by naming him a “Michiganian of the Year” in 1993. This past September he and his wife Gail were bestowed the honor of being “Goodfellows of the Year” by the Detroit Goodfellows Organization for their on-going commitment to charitable causes. 

Throughout his career Purtan has helped many charitable organizations and countless people in need. His annual Radiothon for The Salvation Army’s Bed and Bread Program has raised more than $22 million since 1988 to feed the homeless and hungry in the Metro Detroit area.  This year’s Radiothon will be held on Friday, February 26, at Oakland Mall in Troy from 6:00am-10:00pm and broadcast on WOMC and streamed live on www.womc.com. His Radiothon is the largest single day, single radio station fundraiser in the country.

He has also been active in fund raising for Ovarian Cancer Research at the Karmanos Cancer Center through the Gail Purtan Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, and has been an avid supporter of Children’s Hospital among other charities in the Metro Detroit area. 

Purtan’s career path began in his hometown of Buffalo, N.Y. and included stays in Syracuse, N.Y.; Jacksonville, Fla. and Cincinnati, Ohio.  While at the latter destination, he personally arranged for The Beatles to perform in Cincinnati during their first tour of America in 1964.  He and Gail scraped together $2500 (their life savings) – and convinced four of his fellow jocks to do the same – to secure the Fab Four’s performance.  When they took to the stage, it was Purtan who introduced them.  In 1965, he traveled north on I-75 for his first Detroit job at the legendary WKNR – Keener 13.  In 1968, he was wooed to WBAL in Baltimore, where he did the morning show for five weeks before being fired to being “too wild for the town.”  A month later, he returned to morning radio in Detroit on WXYZ – 1270 where he stayed for 10 years.  Then in 1978, he crossed the river to CKLW AM in Windsor, Canada., Four years later, he switched to the FM band (and shortened his commute) by moving to WCZY FM in Detroit – which later became WKQI.  In 1996, he moved to WOMC, where he has been ever since. 

Purtan and his wife raised six daughters and now boast seven grandchildren.