Sunday, October 26, 2014

R.I.P. Dale Dorman

So sorry to hear of the passing of Dale Dorman. Most people don’t know him. But those that do – and I’d bet it’s about a million – loved him. Dale was a longtime disc jockey in Boston. So many listeners felt a closeness to him that he was not just a friend; he was almost a family member. He was known affectionately as Uncle Dale, a nickname he received when he was 21. He was 71 when he died, after battling a long illness (which he always downplayed). 

We were close friends for over 40 years.

I first heard Dale on the radio in 1966 at KFRC, San Francisco. They were the powerhouse Top 40 station back then, one of the pillars of the Drake format that dominated radio in the late ‘60s. But he was very different. Most Drake jocks had rich deep voices. Dale had a high squeaky voice. He was the last person you could imagine would ever get an on-air gig on a major market station.

But Dale compensated by his personality. He was warm, engaging, and wickedly funny. He did the kind of content I appreciated (and adopted although not as well) – all off-the-cuff. In short, he was a revelation.

In 1968 he was transferred to WRKO in Boston where he became the morning man. Almost instantly he was a sensation. For all the announcers with deep authoritative pipes, the guy who sounded like Mickey Mouse kicked their butts. (It’s a lesson that radio still hasn’t learned.)

After 10 years at WRKO he moved on to KISS-FM where he ruled the ratings for another 20 years, then ending his career at WODS.

Getting together with Dale meant either steaks (LA), lobster (Boston), and enough laughs to fill the space in between. As funny as he was on the air, he was twice as funny off. Irreverent, satiric, and sooooo damn fast. If he had gone into comedy writing instead of radio he’d be a legend in that field. He’d be a premiere comedian if he had chosen stand-up as his career. Or he would’ve out Dave Barry’d Dave Barry if prose was his dish. He was just that good, just that hysterical.

My trips to Boston would always include a day just watching him do his show. I was a middle-aged geeky fanboy.

Dale Dorman is proof that one can beat the odds with talent, heart, and dedication. He had a high voice but a deep mind. And he leaves behind a million nephews and nieces who will forever love and miss their Uncle Dave.

25 comments:

Steve said...

Thanks for this tribute, Ken. I grew up in Massachusetts, and Dale was on the air for my entire lifetime, until he retired. He was a huge Boston celebrity and a great talent.

Ruth said...

A very warm tribute to a Boston icon. In addition to his radio career, Dale Dorman will forever be remembered by a generation of kids for hosting the after school lineup on Channel 56. I can never hear "Wishing on a Star" without thinking of Dale Dorman, or thinking it's noon on Saturday. Deepest sympathies to his family, and to you, Ken, on his loss.

charlottesometimesnot said...

I only remember "Uncle Dale"s voice during the end credits of all the kids' shows on WLVI channel 56 (television). I never knew anything else about him, never even knew he did radio! Thank you for catching me up on his life. He sure sounded like a *genuinely* warm and witty person to this kid's ears. Glad to find out he really was all that and more in real life. My sincere condolences, Ken, on the loss of your friend.

Erin said...

Hey Ken This is so spot on!! Dale was ALL THAT! I worked with Dale at Kiss and produced his morning show at Oldies. He would always talk to me about you. He so enjoyed being friends with you and thought the world of you. I'm sure you already know that but when I saw this blog my immediate reaction was oh Ken (we never met but I felt like I knew you) just remembering how much your friendship meant to him. I just saw him two weeks ago and his sense of humor was still very much there. :-) All my best Erin Knyff

Paula Jackson said...

What a beautiful tribute to a great man! I felt honored to have known him. Deepest condolences to you, his family & friends...

Brendan said...

Thanks Ken... never knew your connection to this Boston icon. As a kid in the 60's, listening to him on WRKO was *the* thing to do.

Mike Barer said...

There must be some killer radio station in heaven.

normadesmond said...

what brendan said.

Howard Hoffman said...

Dale was a jewel. His show was all about his city, his audience, the music and the people around him (including at one time a drunk newsman) - and hardly EVER about himself. He tapped into the zeitgeist and turned it all into a truly fun ride. You completely captured how wonderful and joyous Dale was, Ken. An entire industry will never see his kind again - unless someone suddenly has a miraculous epiphany.

John said...

Also MASH-related, but before Ken's tenure with the show -- RIP to Marsha Strassman, dead of breast cancer at 66.

Anonymous said...

I grew up with Dale. Loved his stuff...he always said "Hi Mom!" during one of his first spots. His voice was part of Boston radio!

Teri King said...

Thanks Ken for your beautiful tribute. Dale left a strong impression on all those he met and touched over the air. He was a great mentor to me (and so many) and a dear dear friend. He always talked about you with great affection. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Victor Velasco said...

Thanks for the great tribute, Ken. KFRC was so great back then; Charlie Van Dyke, Mike Phillips, Sebastian Stone in addition to Dale. Condolences to you and his family.

Marsh said...

Good job Ken! I am 50 years old and grew up listening to Dale Doorman and JJ Wright on WRKO. Sunday nights into Monday morning RKO would have talk shows on. I have always been an early riser and I would wait in my bed with my radio on my chest for 6am because that was the time Dale Dorman would come on full of life. "68 WRKO Boston!"

Christina Dorman said...

Thank you so much for the kind tribute to my dad. He was all that you said and more. He was so proud of the friendship you shared. My world is dimmer without him. I know he will be missed by so many and I am grateful for all their support and kind words.

willieb said...

In 1978 was working nights in New Hampshire radio and had my clock radio set to Frank Kingston Smith in the morning: great pipes and a very laid-back delivery. One morning, without warning, the alarm goes off and there's high-pitched Dale Dorman coming through the speaker. What the hell? But within minutes I was laughing like crazy and, better yet, I stole like crazy for my own show that night. Which, of course, was stupid, because if I could hear Dale, everybody in New Hampshire could as well. But no one complained and Dale never sued. Thanks, Dale, for getting me through the night and the next morning.

Greg Curtis said...

Thank you for paying Uncle Dale such a poignant tribute, Ken. You nailed it. Dale inspired, mentored, and most of all, entertained. He LOVED the business...thinking, planning, building clocks, slamming into a "power" out of a hot logo. All of it. He mentioned you in a very positive light many, many times.
Those that were lucky enough to work with him only got better at our craft. We could all go on and on...he would've gotten it done over an 8-second intro.

My deepest condolences to Linda, Chris, Scott and Alyssa.

Greg

Scott Dorman said...

Thanks Ken for your wonderful tribute, it is difficult to sum up 40+ years with a few sentences, reading everyone's comments definitely takes some of the sadness away from missing my Dad. I feel incredibly luck to say he was my Dad, and glad to share him with so many others over the years. He thought the world of you Ken, and often talked about your visits. Same to you Teri and Greg

Robert DelRossi said...

An honor to post on the same board with so many friends and family members of Dale Dorman. I was just a fan but for me he embodied all the things that are so great about radio and, in fact, things I miss about radio today. I grew up in New England and went to college in Boston. I reveled in listening to Dale on KISS back then. Later, returning to New England each year for the holidays, I'd make it a point to tune into WODS. It was like checking in on a friend.

This is what makes good radio so great and what makes Dale Dorman one of its greatest practitioners. I didn't really know him, but I felt as though I did. My sincere condolences to those of you who knew him personally.

Ken Levine said...

Thanks everybody. I'm especially touched that family members of Dale commented here. My heart and love go out to you all.

Ken

Brian Davis said...

I've been in radio almost 20 years and almost quit when I was still a baby DJ because I had a high, kinda nasally voice and thought I'd never get anywhere. Then a friend I'd expressed that to slipped me a tape of Dale Dorman. I'll never in a million years be even half the talent he was, but he inspired me to keep working at my skills. We never met, I never heard him live, but he's one of my all time favorites.

Rest well, Uncle Dale.

Pamela Jaye said...

I probably have not heard Dale since he was on WRKO, but my best friend pinned his obit on my Facebook wall, cause she knew I'd want to know, and I thought of you but did not get here til now.
Rewound Radio's DJ Hall of Fame will be running some of him Saturday starting at noon ET. They are on the web and on TuneIn.

Maybe someone will see this and catch it.
There was no promo last I looked but Bob Radil mentioned it on his Friday night show.

AndrewJ said...

Dale got his professional start at WCHN in my hometown of Norwich, New York during the mid-1960s, and is still fondly remembered there.

RIP.

Unknown said...

Just catching up on my By Ken Levine and saddened to hear about this. I wasn't a radio listener, but his voiceovers on Channel 56 basically were my childhood.

Steve G. said...

Just doing some Boston catch-up & saw that Dale had passed away. I first met him by phone when I volunteered at WBRS/Brandeis radio. He helped me with programming ideas. Then on Feb.6 1971, a false EBS alert was issued & I was in the car that Saturday morning when Dale read the EBS White Card. When I got to a phone I called him and he confirmed it. We sweated it out on the phone. A few weeks later, I met in Boston and learned what a great guy he really was. Rest in peace and keep 'em spinning up There.