|Bob Dearborn was WTAE's
afternoon man from 1977 - 1979.
Canadian-born, Bob was that country's youngest disk jockey when, at 15 and still in high school in 1960, he began his radio career working on the air Saturday and Sunday nights for his hometown's Top 40 station, CKOC in Hamilton, Ontario.
His move to the United States in 1963 began with a stop in Providence, Rhode Island where he was the evening then afternoon-drive host for Top 40 powerhouse WPRO. In early 1965, he accepted the challenge of putting Beautiful Music WRTH-St. Louis on the air, and by year's end was back to Top 40 as the evening host of Cleveland's new WIXY.
Uncle Sam required Bob's services for the U.S. Army during the Viet Nam conflict, interrupting his commercial radio career but not his involvement in media. He became Chief of Radio/TV for the Army's III Corps, was a writer and editor for Fort Hood's weekly newspaper, created a daily radio show for central Texas soldiers, and moonlighted as the weekend sportscaster, fill-in news anchor and fill-in weather forecaster on the local NBC-TV affiliate, KCEN. It was there in 1966 that he also created, produced and hosted a weekly "American Bandstand" type show that featured local high school students dancing to the top hits of the day plus live, local band performances.
In February of 1968 following the competition of his military duty, Bob accepted an offer to be the evening host and music director of 50,000-watt Top 40 station, WPTR in Albany, New York. It was done with all parties understanding that the stay would be short, just long enough for him to get back on his feet again after being away from commercial radio for two years.
After six months in New York's capital district, Bob moved to Top 40 WKNR-Detroit as its new evening host. He began 1969 by being promoted to the station's morning-drive slot and stayed there for more than a year, consistently top 3 or 4 in the ratings, until the station was sold and the air staff dismissed by the new owners.
In the spring of 1970, Bob took a temporary position with Adult Contemporary WIND-Chicago with their management's knowledge that he was in line to join the air staff of another radio station in the city in the near future. Seven weeks later, in July of 1970, he began a six-year run at "the Voice Of Labor," Chicago's legendary Top 40 station, WCFL.
While at "Super 'CFL," Dearborn gained global attention for his insightful analysis of Don Mc'Lean's recording of "American Pie". More than 100,000 copies of the five-page report were sent to listeners who wrote to Bob requesting it. He also syndicated a half-hour recorded special on the analysis to radio stations around the world, appeared on the "CBS Evening News" to talk about the "Pie" and analysis phenomena, and expanded on those thoughts for a U.S. Information Agency TV special that was shown in 104 countries.
A friend who'd become program director of Adult Contemporary WDAE-Tampa invited Bob to get out of "those awful northern winters" and become his station's new morning host in 1976. He did, and was quickly voted "Top DJ in Tampa Bay" in a local newspaper poll.
A year later, this time at friend Larry O'Brien's suggestion, Dearborn left the Florida Suncoast's 1250 WDAE for Pittsburgh's 1250 WTAE to host the afternoon drive-time show - bookend to the highly successful O'Brien & Garry morning show.
In early 1979, Bob was approached by the new owners of a just-launched NewsTalk outlet in Tampa-St. Petersburg, WPLP, with an offer to be the station's morning anchor for "AM NewsTalk." The chance to diversify, to learn and do something new and different in the warmth of Florida sunshine seemed awfully appealing from the vantage point of a Pittsburgh February. Dearborn stayed at WPLP for a year until the owner's financial problems caught up with them, they shed staff, cut expenses and filed for bankruptcy.
Dearborn remained in Florida for most of 1980 as General Manager of cable channel WPAT-TV in St. Petersburg and wrote a weekly, syndicated, showbiz column that appeared in a number of Florida newspapers.
In late 1980, Bob was selected by the RKO Radio Network to be the host/producer of "Night Time America," the first live, daily, satellite-delivered music show in radio history. At it's height, the five-hour program originating in New York was carried by 154 stations in markets across the country: from Bangor to Hilo, from Fairbanks to West Palm Beach. It was heard in major markets, too, including Pittsburgh (FM 97, then WTAE), Chicago, Detroit, Houston, St. Louis, Seattle, San Diego, Boston, Cincinnati, Memphis, New Orleans, Hartford and Denver. Bob remained with NTA until the end of 1984 when the punishing hours and schedule convinced him to not extend his expiring contract.
Dearborn joined three friends in radio station ownership for the remainder of the 1980s. They owned ten stations, AM-FM combos in Portland, Maine; Utica, New York; Birmingham, Alabama; Knoxville, Tennessee; and in Nashville, Tennessee where they lived and set up their national headquarters.
After the partners sold off the stations and went their separate ways, Bob returned to on-air work, first for WJJD-Chicago for five years. Then it was off to the Pacific Northwest for mornings at the Oldies station in Portland and five years at Soft Oldies KIXI in Seattle where he was the station's program director and music director as well as being on the air.
Bob's parents in Canada became quite ill in late 1999. Feeling there was no other choice, Dearborn resigned from KIXI and moved his family back to Canada to care for his mother and father during whatever time they had left. His mother passed away five weeks after their arrival, his dad lived until March, 2002.
A return to Chicago and hosting afternoons at Oldies WJMK followed. In the spring of 2003, Dearborn was offered the morning-drive host position at the Adult Standards radio station in Toronto, CHWO. Reluctant to leave Chicago but seeing the opportunity to take his life and career full circle, he accepted their offer, and stayed until the station's financial problems led them to reduce expenses "in order to survive" by dismissing several staff-members, Bob included.
The Dearborns returned to Pittsburgh in 2004 and stayed until the summer of 2007, but it had nothing to do with radio. Mary Ann, Bob's wife and a Pittsburgh native, wanted to be near her ailing sister who was battling cancer at the time. After that battle was won, Bob and Mary Ann returned to Ontario to be near their daughter and granddaughter.
Settling in the southwestern part of the province and begrudgingly accepting the idea of retirement, Bob "fell into" a morning host job at the local community radio station, Gold-based Soft AC formatted CKWR. That lasted for two years (click here) and the experience left him wanting more. But the radio landscape is as bleak as he's ever seen it and particularly hostile to listeners over the age of 40 as well as to the broadcasters who know how to serve and appeal to them. Still, he hopes one day he'll again be able to feel and be a part of "The Magic Of Radio."
As Bob used to say at the end of each of his WTAE shows, "That's all the Bob Dearborn there is until tomorrow afternoon at 2:00. Thank you ... for attending the services here this afternoon. Young Johnny Williams is next ... with more of Pittsburgh's FAYYY-vorite music! (whispered) Hey! I ... love ... you, Pittsburgh."