The Burt and Kurt Years
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.