COLUMN: A Malat Musing: Personality for Fun and Profit

Updated: 05/06/2014 1:46 PM By: Phil Malat

Personality once ruled the radio medium. It was a time when generations of Americans found their greatest information and entertainment in the creativity and imagination that could only be captured through theater of mind.

A former employer and program director once confided in a young D-J from “nordeast” Minneapolis that he would never hire a radio personality to host a daily show that wasn’t eccentric. “That would be way too risky,” he said. The consequences from the ensuing boredom would have been totally distasteful and unacceptable in his radio world.

It was an era in which a personality was hired with the clear understanding that their continued presence would be dependent upon their ability to gather and hold an audience, without jeopardizing the station’s FCC license. This reality led to the second pearl of wisdom offered to the young D-J; “you cannot be considered a bona-fide radio personality until you have been fired from a radio station at least twice in your career.”

And such was the case with one the of greatest radio personalities to ever sit behind a microphone.

Early in his career he was hired at a small radio station in Stillwater, Minn. He was hired to do a morning radio show and to sell commercial time the remainder of the day. He took the job because of the allure of the microphone but had no interest in sales. To avoid that unpleasantness he would drive to local parks after his show to catch a much needed nap in his car. This was eventually discovered and he was dismissed.

He was undaunted by these developments because he was wise enough to understand two realities. The first was that without an audience a radio station has nothing to sell and secondly that he could deliver that audience.

So he became a radio vagabond for a time, before eventually settling in at WCCO-AM in Minneapolis.

In his travels he had developed a host of radio characters. His quirky nature often possessed him to engage in conversations with any one of these charters whenever the desire so moved him. It could happen at breakfast, at the ballpark, in a public restroom. His talent was so rich that his marvelous voice characterizations were often confused with being real people.

This incredible radio talent cultivated a listening frenzy in spite of an abundance of commercial interruptions. There were so many commercials that he often referred to his show as; “The Planet of the Tapes.”  At one point in his career, nationwide rating comparisons established that his WCCO afternoon broadcast had more listeners than any other radio show in the country.

Personality is no longer a sacred qualification when choosing those who man the mics.  Yet those whose lives were blessed by all the unique talent that once filled the airwaves, still long for its return. It was not only great fun but profitable as well.  For, in the end, Steve Cannon, that fired salesman, proved to be the greatest sales magnet WCCO radio has ever known.
Cannon: “Whadda ya got Morg?

Morgan Mundane: “Well Marv Albert had a-nut-da press conference today in New York and da 
                                       reporters where all screamin’ at him, yea.”

Cannon: “So what did they ask him?”

Morgan Mundane: “Well one of dem says, ‘ahhh, whadda ya think about da pink slip?’  And
                                      Albert says, ‘I sure hope it fits’.”
Steve: “You got news Morgan?”

Morgan Mundane: “Yeh – dey found Patty Hearst.”

Steve: “Where?”

Morgan Mundane: “She’s been hidin’-out where no one ever goes anymore.”

Steve: “Where’s that?”

Morgan Mundane: “Da third deck at Metropolitan Stadium.”

We lost Steve  and all his “Lil Cannons” on April 6, 2009.  For those of us who loved radio and once listened regularly they will live on forever.

Phil Malat is a columnist for