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Why I Have So Many Names

Posted on December 2, 2016 By In Historical Background , Nostalgia , Writing With no comments

My birth name is Richard Allen Weirich but I’m known by many other monikers.

Everybody in my family, back in the day, called me Dickie or Dick. Every now and then, I hear from somebody who knew me in my younger days and they still call me by that name. But now it sounds so strange.

Somewhere around my junior or senior year in high school, I had been scheduled as the featured soloist in a band concert. On the program, my name was misspelled. Richard Weinch. After that, many of my band buddies called me Wench.

Then came my radio career and a new name. In those days, many entertainment personalities adopted adjectives to give more color to their names. For example: Machine Gun Kelly, Fats Domino, Chubby Checker, The Big Bopper. I became, Little Dickie. Yeah. Stupid. I still regret that one.

In 1973, I was hired to work at WIST in Charlotte, NC. My first day on the job, Program Director Scott Christianson, took me out to lunch and in the presence of my new fellow DJ staff I asked, “What do you think about the name, Dick Weirich?” His response: “Well, Bob, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that.”

Prior to my coming to the station, they had purchased a pricey new jingle package. One of the personalized jingles featured the name of Bob Burton, who for whatever reason, only lasted a week. His replacement assumed the same name. He didn’t last either. But WIST had invested $300, or so they claimed, on that one jock jingle. To make good on their investment, I was given the name Bob Burton.

After that, I was known as Bob. Even my wife started calling me that because nobody knew who the heck Dick or Richard was.

By 1974, I had moved onto WJDX in Jackson, MS, and the name Bob Burton continued with me. The jingle stayed in Charlotte.

Then came a morning show partner, Kurt Kilpatrick. I decided to call our show the Burton-Kurt Show. However, it sounded to our listeners as Burt and Kurt. So staff called me Bob and listeners called me Burt.

After stops in Tampa, Houston, and ultimately Birmingham, the name Burt was firmly established.

But I wasn’t finished with the name changes. In 1989, I entered the ministry, which resulted in the name, Reverend Richard Weirich. Church members called me, Brother Richard.

By the time I started writing novels in 2012, I was in a quandary as to what I should call myself. That’s when I decided that the name my parents gave me would do just fine.

Recently, the Strasburg High School graduating class of ’66 celebrated its 50th anniversary. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend. But I have heard from some of my old classmate friends who still call me Dick. I suppose that means I’ve now gone full-circle.

I am blessed with many friends from the many chapters in my life who call me by different names. But it’s not the names that matter but the great experiences and colorful personalities I encountered along the way. That’s one of the reasons I write. There’s always someone from my past to inspire me.

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Parting Thoughts On American Idol

Posted on April 8, 2016 By In Nostalgia , Writing With no comments

Up until 2003, I thought Reuben was a sandwich with sauerkraut. And then came Ruben Studdard on American Idol. “Ruben! Ruben!” At the time, I was working two fulltime jobs and didn’t have time for television but the talk about the Alabama contestant was unavoidable.

Yes. It’s true. I missed Season #1 and a singer who is now one of my all time favorite singers. Kelly Clarkson is amazing.

In fact, my life didn’t normalize until Season #4, which was my first opportunity to tune into the biggest TV ratings hit of all time. At least I was there to see the artist who become the most successful of all the Idol contestants. Did you catch the words Carrie Underwood whispered last night at the conclusion of her solo performance? I ran the recording back a few frames just to make sure I was right. “Praise the Lord.” Thank you, Carrie. Well said.

Just as a side note and probably nothing that the critics have ever bothered or wanted to point out. (Not politically correct) How many of these talented kids learned to sing or developed their talents singing in church?

So, I was a late bloomer and didn’t get on the American Idol train until the 4th Season. Missed some amazing talent. Lets here it for reruns.

In Season #5, an Alabama singer was again making a bid for the top spot. “Soul Patrol” and Taylor Hicks.

Favorite season? Oddly enough, Season #10. That’s the year that my wife and I adopted Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina. “Baby lock the doors and turn the lights down low.” Still pulling for them to have a successful career and to stay true to themselves.

Ever since I have been a fan. There was only one time when I was ready to jump ship. Niki Manag and Mariah Carey. Need I say more?

Critics said, as recently as yesterday, that Idol died when Simon Cowell left. Well, it never died for me. In my mind, American Idol wasn’t about Simon, Randy, Paula, or Kara. I remained loyal to the show because of the amazing young talent and their heartwarming stories.

For anybody whoever doubted the level of talent exhibited on Idol, we were treated to a tasteful sampling of it last night. There were definitely some “wow” moments. Thanks for an incredible show.

In the end, Idol was a popularity contest which means that the best talent doesn’t always win. But, as we learned, you didn’t have to win the crown to have a successful career.

As an old DJ, I’m proud that one of ours was the show’s host. Great job, Ryan. I’ll reserve my thoughts on Brian Dunkleman. Even my spellchecker is struggling with that name.

And despite what the critics and Simon Cowell had to say on the matter, the best REAL judges were Harry, Keith, and Jennifer.

There you go. My two cents worth about a television program for the history books.

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The Tea Cup in the Painting – Part 1

Posted on March 19, 2016 By In Book Quotes , Nostalgia , Writing With no comments

My wife, Janet the artist, told me that some renowned oil painters use a little something more than just their signatures to label their paintings. For example, a tea cup or a vase incorporated into every work of art. Sometimes the objects are masked or hidden and near impossible to find. Thomas Kincade included the letter N in most of his paintings which was a tribute to his wife, Nanette. Kind of like Where’s Waldo for adults.

That gave me an idea. Why not use that technique in my writing? My old radio partner of 40+ years, Kurt Kilpatrick, wanted to know why I was using my real name for my pen name. Richard Weirich? Really? Why not the name by which I was more commonly known from the radio wars? Burt or Bob Burton? Too late. Already on my 4th novel.

Back in the day, for those old enough to remember Burt and Kurt, we had a cast of characters featuring Kurt’s amazing impressions. That’s when you could build an audience with G-rated and occasionally PG-rated material. I digress. Anyway, now in my novels there are vignettes featuring those old legendary characters. Red Wood makes an appearance in Farewell PFC POLK: The End of a Nightmare. A new book, Angels Diner: Alexandra’s Song, due for release in May 2016, will feature a cameo performance by the loveable Uncle Mack. (get a preview in Part 2 of this post)

Drill Sgt Red Wood

Drill Sgt Red Wood

In Farewell PFC POLK, Red Wood appears as a Marine Corps Drill Sergeant. Following is an excerpt from that scene:

At the conclusion of the ceremony, an officer entered the room and welcomed them to the Marine Corps and then he introduced yet another sergeant who was as charming as the first.

“My name is Sergeant Red Wood. I’m going to be your babysitter until we get to Parris Island. Now, some of you may have the mistaken idea that you are already a Marine. By tomorrow, you’ll have the uniform, but first you girls have to go through a little thing we call ‘boot.’ So, I would like to be the first to welcome you to hell. Not all of you will make it through hell but if you do, then you will officially be a member of the greatest fighting outfit the world has ever known. First stop, the chow hall. You will not talk or make eye contact with any of the real Marines in the room. You will not get out of your seat until I say so and then you will all go to the head together. The head is what your mommy called a bathroom. From now you will call it the head. If you are ever heard calling it a bathroom, restroom, privy, outhouse, or anything other than ‘the head’ you will be required to get on all fours with a tooth brush and clean her until she sparkles. Then you will place your behinds in a seat of my choosing on a bus that will take you to the Marine Riviera. For that lovely little 9-hour ride, you will say nothing, speak nothing, and sit in an upright position looking only at the deck. We will go over these instructions again because I know you are too stupid to remember them. Have I made myself clear?”

“Yes, sir,” yelled the men.

“Have I made myself clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

The sergeant led his charges to the chow hall and sat with his friends who pointed and laughed at the new recruits. After the meal, he directed the men to the bus that would take them to Parris Island and just as they prepared to depart he repeated his earlier directives and closed with, “I know what you’re thinkin’. You think I’m an SOB. Wait ‘til you meet your drill sergeant. Then you’re gonna believe I’m the friendliest fella you ever met.” That said, the sergeant slumped into his seat and laughed and laughed. After a moment of silence, he chuckled again.

Farewell PFC POLK deals with a sad topic, the untimely and unnecessary death of a 19-year-old Marine and how his family and friends coped with the tragedy. Plenty of tears in the story, for sure. But there are also a lot of laughs and an uplifting message of hope. Hope you get a chance to read it. (Get it here.)

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Whatever Happened to Civility

Posted on October 30, 2015 By In Encouragement With no comments

Since the concept of CIVILITY has somehow been lost, here is the definition: formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech.

Richard Weirich, Fall 2015

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The synonyms that go along with CIVILITY are also a forgotten commodity:  courtesy · courteousness · politeness · good manners · graciousness · consideration · respect

I can already hear the words of response to this soapbox article. “Shut up old man. Nobody cares about what you have to say anymore.”

Recently, someone attempted to persuade me that words don’t mean the same now as they did in “my day.” Hmmm. “My day.” So, am I to understand that these days in which I live are no longer mine?

Case in point– the F word. It means something entirely different in today’s culture, or so I was told. But if the meaning has changed does that mean that it is now a word of respect, graciousness, and politeness?

Then there was that Republican debate a few nights ago. After seeing the CNBC commentators in action I expect that we can see the replay on an episode of “When Animals Attack.”

There was considerable attention given to the liberal Mainstream Media in that debate. No argument here. But let’s be honest, and I’m about to step into it here.  The Conservative Media is just as rabid in their approach.

Take it from an old radio guy- controversy drives ratings. Nice doesn’t win. Oh, my gosh. Am I about to defend those Muppets at CNBC. They were just doing their job. CIVILITY for them would mean the unemployment line.

Don’t think for a minute that I’m laying all the blame on the news/talk media. How about the entertainment that we’re bombarded with everyday? In-your-face sells. Anger, hostility, darkness, mayhem, vulgarity, and dirt keeps us on the edge of our seats.

And in sports- deflategate. Yeah, that’s the ticket. If you’re old enough to remember Howard Cosell, we hated that guy. But everybody watched. By today’s standards he would now be just one of the gang.

Then there’s social media. Uh, oh. Surely I’m not going there. Just read a story on about a former Teacher of the Year who has resigned her job. OK. Suppose it’s newsworthy. But then there are all those hate riddled comments allowed via social media and the internet. I know. I don’t have to read them.

Sorry. Just don’t think all this hate is good for any of us. Just for the record- all Christians are not bad and neither are police officers. It’s a sad day when you have been so brain-washed that you can’t tell the difference between right and wrong or good and bad.

Aretha Franklin had it right: R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

So did my grandmother: “I’ll wash your mouth out with soap if you say those words.” No, she never did but I did lick a bar of soap to see what I might be getting myself into.

And whoever said: “treat others the way you want to be treated,” was spot on.  In other words, the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

At the end of the day…I still prefer the old way. So, go on with your in-your-face hostility, anger, hate, and disrespect. This old guy thinks you’re on a slippery slope to ruin. But as for me, I’m going to treat you with CIVILITY.  That’s the way we do things IN THE VALLEY OF HOPE.

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Childhood Memories

Posted on October 19, 2015 By In Nostalgia With no comments

Frequently, when making an online purchase or filling out a web form, I am required to give my birthdate. Then there is that menacing dropdown box listing all the years. Really? Keep scrolling down…and scrolling…and scrolling. There it is, 1947, near the bottom of the chart.

Wow. The 40’s. I’ve never considered myself a child of the 1940’s. Not even a child of the 50’s. Throw out the history book. Don’t need one. I was there.

My new novel, After the Storm, is set in the first half of the 1950’s, which has required considerable era related research. The exercise has helped bring to mind some of what I was exposed to in my earliest years.

My first grade class (1954) was one of the first to be introduced to the polio vaccine. We were taken by school bus to Winchester, VA where we all were inoculated for protection from a disease that had reached epidemic proportions among children. My brother, Gary, was one of the casualties at age five.

My first recollection of anything related to politics was a President named Eisenhower.  Once, when visiting a friend in Middletown, VA…the President’s motorcade came through the town and I recall sitting on the front porch, sipping on a RC Cola, awaiting his arrival. My friend preferred warm sodas. They were more suited to loud belching, which I suppose is what we were doing as the entourage passed by. I know. Weird.  Maybe that’s why I recall so little about the 50’s.

You think that was strange? Check this out. A popular kid’s show at the time was Winky Dink and You. Aired from ’53 to ’57. What I remember most about that show was the “magic drawing screen.” It was a sheet of plastic that attached to the TV screen on which you could draw with crayons. There would be pictures that appeared in the TV show that you could trace and then you were given assignments to add other elements, like eyes, or a nose, or leaves on a tree. By today’s high tech standards Winky Dink was pretty rinky dink, but it was one of my favorite toys. To be fair, Bill Gates had high praise for the program.  It was the first ever interactive TV show.

I love the research capabilities of the internet. Although I faintly remember the show, I now know that I watched it on Saturday mornings on CBS at 10:30.  And this is what it looked like:

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Davey Crockett Lunchbox

Yes, we had TV back then. Other popular kid shows included: Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, Davey CrocketLassie,  The Adventures of Rin Tin TinAnnie OakleyHowdy DoodyThe Pinky Lee Show, and Soupy Sales.

Yep, loved them all. Even had my own Davey Crocket lunch box and coon skin cap.

So, for those of you who have nothing better to do, I’m going to take you back in time, back to my earliest years (simpler times) and the TV I watched when I was 6 and 7 years old. Meanwhile, have a great day IN THE VALLEY OF HOPE.

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The Burt and Kurt Years

Posted on October 10, 2015 By In Nostalgia With no comments

Burt and Kurt

A few days ago, my old friend, Kurt Kilpatrick, called.  Before the conversation concluded he said, “We had a good run together, didn’t we?”  My response was to the affirmative. The run he referred to lasted over 40 years, a radio team partnership and friendship that began in 1974.

I still remember our first meeting. He was promoting a record featuring his comedic impressions.  I was the program director and morning DJ at WJDX in Jackson, MS.

A few minutes into our discussion he pulled out a massive stogie and lit it up which was a cue for me to get him out of my office as quickly as possible.  I took his vinyl recording out of the record sleeve and placed it on the turntable. (If you are under 40, this may sound like a foreign language.) With the ears of a seasoned skeptic who had heard hundreds of wanna-be artists I listened, at first half-heartedly, and ultimately, captivated by his talent.

Admittedly, I reasoned that his vocal impressions could not be him and even questioned him on the matter.  Chapter One ends with a job offer as a partner on my morning radio show.

Thankfully, he accepted and the Burt and Kurt Show was born.  In less than a year we had the number one radio program in Jackson and soon after job offers started coming in from around the country.  We stayed the course in Jackson for several years and then one day we received a call from a former boss of mine, George Williams, the National Program Director for Southern Broadcasting.

We signed a contract for a morning show at WLCY in Tampa, FL where we would become the highest paid morning talent in that city’s history.  Our loyal fans in Jackson were devastated, so much so that one of them offered me a sizeable plot of land to stay.  The Mississippi Legislature declared our final day as, Burt and Kurt Day in the state.

Our mission in Tampa was to save an AM radio station that was failing, primarily due to the rising popularity of FM radio.  Then, a year later, Southern Broadcasting determined that a News/Talk format was a better road to success, so they shipped us off to KULF in Houston, TX, again with the purpose of saving another dying AM radio station.  By the late 70s and early 80s, FM was the radio band of choice.

Again, Southern switched to a news format and we were dismissed.  (Nicer word than “fired.”  Still hurt like heck.)

Then we got a call from Ray Quinn in Birmingham, AL.  He was the manager of a new venture, and thankfully, it was FM.  The Program Director was an old friend, Bill Thomas.  We hammered out a deal and packed our bags for the premier of Magic 96, WMJJ-FM.

Even in Birmingham we had a rocky start.  Soon after sign on, somebody decided it would be a cute idea to cut the support wires to our tower, which resulted in a crash, and a signal that barely covered a city block in Homewood.

Eventually, the Magic 96 project became a success and we were again atop the ratings which led to a healthy new contract and all was well in Burt and Kurt land until, I decided that I had been called into the ministry.  And so, in 1988, after 14 years together, we broke up.

There were attempts over the years that followed to get us back together which eventually came to fruition when we reunited at Oldies 106.9 and once again we were riding high until September 2000 when we were again given our walking papers.  After that painful dismissal, Crawford Broadcasting  brought us on board for a talk show on 101.1 but news-talk just wasn’t our thing and the glory years were gone.  In October 2007, we signed off for the last time.

Yes, it was a “good run.”  From 1974 to 2007, with a brief 4 year interlude, we had the good fortune to work together and more importantly, build a friendship that is not subject to ratings, format changes, or questionable corporate decisions.

Somewhere along the way somebody decided that the best description of our style was “good clean fun in the morning.”  I’ll take that.  Good way to be remembered.

And so, when Kurt and I get together, which is very seldom, he still makes me laugh.  We catch up on what’s happening with our families and what we are working on.  Very little is said about “the good old days.”

Every now and then somebody will ask me, “Whatever happened to Burt and Kurt?”  Now you know.  We are best friends.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

For more on this topic, check out this article: Why I Have So Many Names
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