It appears no one saw this one coming. Despite that fact that he’s enjoyed a legendary 45-year career doing what he loves, nobody expected Dick Purtan to retire from the airwaves. I was at one of WOMC’s sister stations today and sentiments ranging from surprise to shock were evenly expressed. This from a man always creative but never “blue” or “shock jock-ish.”
Most of us, I think, expected Dick Purtan to carry on ala Ernie Harwell, ad infinitum. I doubt there would have been any objections. Now, March 26th will see the final chapter written on his Hall of Fame career.
As we have written about here all too often in recent years, Purtan is unfortunately joining a seemingly ever-growing list of top Detroit radio talent exiting the broadcast booth unexpectedly. The primary difference here is that he appears to be doing so on his terms.
If you’ve had the honor and good fortune of working with Dick in some capacity, you know that despite his propensity towards tomfoolery on the air, he is rather low key, even shy off of it. On both, he was/is always a gentleman. I bring this up partly as a tribute to Dick as a person but also as an insight into why we will probably never know exactly why he is opting to move on. He’s too private a person for such revelations.
Yet, in an era where content is not always considered king and personality is often eschewed for card reading, voice-tracking and carefully researched music, might Dick Purtan have recognized he no longer fits in? Sadly, his exit marks the end of an era and a time long ago when people listened to the radio as much for the air talent as anything else. You don’t get that from an iPod. Not even close.