The final Walt Bodine Show was heard Friday, April 27th, celebrating 72 years of originality and honesty across print, TV and radio platforms, as pioneering journalist Walt Bodine retires from KCUR.
The first time Walt Bodine sat in front of a microphone in a radio studio, there was plenty of news to report. The world was aflame, and the United States was a little more than a year away from entering World War II.Over the next 72 years and countless broadcasts, the world went from propeller-driven airplanes to space shuttles, from hand-cranked adding machines to iPads. Empires rose and fell across the globe, and America went from Jim Crow to President Barack Obama. Through it all, there was one constant for the people of Kansas City: Walt Bodine at the microphone, bringing the world to their living rooms, cars and ear buds.
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That comfortable constant comes to an end on Friday, April 27, with the final broadcast of “The Walt Bodine Show” on KCUR-FM, a service of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
In honor of Walt’s retirement, KCUR will celebrate the Dean of Kansas City Broadcasting with a look back at his career. On April 27th at 10 a.m., Walt will be joined by many of his friends and past guests for the final broadcast. In the week leading up to that show, KCUR will direct listeners to an online vault of archived recordings on KCUR.org, and two on-air specials. Tune into Central Standard at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, April 24th, and Thursday, April 26th, for a look back at Walt’s contributions to journalism through archived recordings, with familiar voices as your guides.
Over the past 29 years as a fixture on KCUR, Bodine built an intimate relationship with Kansas Citians who came to know him well -- his love of malts, disdain for chicken, and deft ability to interview subjects ranging from Robert Kennedy Jr. to Ira Glass.
Bodine was a multi-platform content creator long before the term was invented. He penned columns for The Squire; appeared on camera for television stations WDAF Channel 4, KCIT Channel 50, KBMA Channel 41 and KMBC Channel 9; and is the author of several books, including “What Do You Say to That?” and “My Times, My Town.” He hosted “Nitebeat,” a late-night talk show on WHB from 1965 until 1974, when talk was more of an experiment than a radio format. He followed that with “The Walt Bodine Show” from 1978-1982 on KMBZ. In 1983, he brought the show over to KCUR, where he has worked in recent years with a variety of co-hosts including Kelley Weiss and Gina Kauffman.
Bodine staked out restaurants in pursuit of stories from the underbelly of organized crime, nervously shared a radio studio with a lion, and filed numerous reports on President Harry Truman. He was on the scene live when Kansas City flooded in 1951, reported from the rubble after a tornado ripped through Ruskin Heights in 1957, and hosted conversations about the Kansas City riots of 1968 and the Reagan assassination attempt of 1981.
In the early years of Bodine’s career, if a broadcast was recorded at all, it was recorded on tape that cost-conscious station management was likely to record over again and again. But thanks to a number of helpful recording engineers at KCUR and other stations — and to the Marr Sound Archives at UMKC, where the rescued tape resides — some of this historic material has survived. KCUR will offer highlights from these archives online on KCUR.org.
One longtime colleague, KCUR news anchor Steve Bell, said of Walt, “There’s never been anybody like him in the history of KC broadcasting. People talk about being a broadcasting legend – he is one.”
Another colleague and friend, former KMBC-TV reporter Bev Chapman, adds “I had the pleasure of spending time with Walt not as a co-worker or employee, but as a colleague and friend. We co-hosted a few of his shows together and routinely tried to break the fun meter. We usually succeeded. Listeners have a kind of loyalty to Walt that is usually reserved for favorite uncles. Yes, they’re interested in world affairs, films, government, history and so much more. But how many times have you heard someone call in and say, ‘Long time listener, Thanks, Walt.’ I’ve heard it for decades.”
Starting May 4th, KCUR will launch a new program Fridays at 10 a.m. called Central Standard Fridays. Walt’s old friends Monroe Dodd, Charles Ferruzza and Russ Simmons host the program in a rotation, offering programming on some of Walt’s favorite things – history, food and films.