Sunday, December 13, 2009

Diane's Uncle Bobby

My wife Diane and I have known each other 34 years. Of course, I've known her family for the same amount of time. Diane's maiden name was Bastiansen, and her dad's name is Pete. Well, not really. His given name is Donald Philip Bastiansen. He's been called Pete ever since he was a little boy, something to do with an aunt calling him Pete, I guess. Anyway, there is a member of Diane's family I've never met, only heard of, and that's Uncle Bobby. In fact, Diane barely even remembers him. Bobby was a disc jockey. He started out here in Minneapolis, went on to Fargo, and off to California many, many years ago. I've heard Boone and Erickson talk about him on WCCO, and they said he was one of the most talented people they had ever known. Bobby used the radio moniker of Bobby Dale. Bobby died in 2001. I looked up his obit in the SF Chronicle. I got an inkling then that he would have been interesting to know, or, at least to have listened to. Lou Waters, a guy I remember from CNN, knew Bobby, and wrote a book about him. I have copy & pasted below an article about Uncle Bobby that was written by Ben Fong-Torres (former Rolling Stone writer), for SF Gate magazine.

Farewell: Bobby Dale was one of the most fascinating, as well as funny, offbeat and musically knowledgeable disc jockeys ever to hit the airwaves. I helped induct him into the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame in October, and although I knew him, I didn't really know him. Few people did. Dale, who died in 2001 at age 70, deserved a book, one that would delve into his past - the making of the jock - as well as his myriad mad exploits on the air, from Fargo, N.D., and Minneapolis to Hollywood and San Francisco. It was here that he gained notoriety for his free-for-all, all-night show on KSFO and, before and after that station, for his work on KEWB, KFRC, KKCY, KOFY and KTIM.

But publishers don't go for radio books unless they're by or about Howard Stern. Dale, who's one of 100 DJs recognized in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and whom Don Sherwood called "the disc jockey's disc jockey," was one of thousands of remarkable radio personalities who've deserved a book and never got one.

Until now. Lou Waters, the former CNN anchor and reporter, has published "Have I Got a Song for You! The Bobby Dale Story," subtitled, "From juvenile delinquent on the streets to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame." Waters, himself a former Top 40 DJ, worked alongside Dale at KDWB in Minneapolis in 1960 and remained friends with him.

After Dale was diagnosed in the mid-'90s with diabetes, cirrhosis and a heart problem, Waters decided to capture his story. Waters, who lives in Arizona, called Dale at his apartment in San Rafael every day for the last six months of his life, interviewing him for an hour or two. The result is an engaging, entertaining life story and a must-read for the thousands of people who marveled at Dale on the air and wondered what was going on behind the scenes.

It wasn't pretty. For one thing, Robert Dale Bastiansen wasn't pretty. He was gangly, goofy-looking, and early to baldness. Especially compared with his brother Pete, who, Bobby said, looked and dressed like Cary Grant, he knew where he stood: outside mainstream social circles.
He turned to shoplifting and other criminal activities, got busted several times, and served jail sentences. He attracted few girls and, after finding his way into radio work, drank heavily and resisted doing public appearances, which most DJs did. Waters asked him why he hated them, and Dale replied, " 'Cuz I thought I looked funny, and so did the teenagers."

What Dale had was a great radio voice, an unstoppable wit, and great ears for pop music. He was credited with turning "To Know Him Is to Love Him" by the Teddy Bears into a hit in 1958, thus helping launch the career of one of the Bears, Phil Spector.

He loved all kinds of music, and it was after his Top 40 years, when he landed at KSFO, that he flourished, playing what he wanted, bemoaning his status (he was constantly broke, and talked about getting promo copies of albums to sell at record stores), and doing outlandish, stream-of-consciousness "newscasts" every hour. Much of his work is captured on tape by his lovely former wife, Norma "Normi" Dale, known as "Carmelita" to Dale's listeners.

Waters quotes Dan Hicks calling Dale "radio's Hunter Thompson." Waters himself said that Dale was "W.C. Fields, Lord Buckley and Lenny Bruce rolled into one troublesome package," and that he was "a self-conscious and melancholy man whose great natural talents took him to the top and the bottom."Dale was brutally honest, funny and self-deprecating, to the end. Waters writes: "Ron Lyons was with Bobby the day a guy from the medical service delivered a shower chair. 'Bobby could barely sign the receipt,' Ron said, 'and as he was writing, the delivery guy looked at the wall, saw Bobby's pictures, and said, 'Hey, I know you. I've listened to you.' After he left, I turned to Bobby and said, 'You never get tired of that, do you?' And Bobby replied, 'No, man. He was just workin' me for the tip."

Waters published the book himself, and it can be ordered (at $21.95) via The site includes excerpts of Bobby Dale air checks. I checked the site out, it's pretty interesting. Read the excerpt under the "BOOK" tab. I tried to copy and paste it, but it wouldn't let me. Kenny

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