Remembering Tucson's Bob Cooke

I grew up in Tucson, and I have fond memories of a local radio DJ that many people in town loved to listen to back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. However, to put things in perspective, radio isn't the same as it used to be; more and more of the contemporary radio programming is syndicated, playlists are dictated by countless business decisions, and - to be honest - fewer and fewer people are listening to radio as it fights to compete with satellite services, streaming apps, and digital audio. (I will admit, I personally listen to a collection of MP3s that are stored on a flash drive whenever I'm traveling in my car these days.)

But back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, radio was king. For most music fans, radio was usually the only way that you discovered new artists, and it was also how you learned that your favorite artists had released their latest albums. There was no Internet back then, and before MTV launched in 1981 there was generally no television coverage for rock music news. In short, if you liked music, there was radio - and that was it.

When I was in High School, there were two rock stations in Tucson: KWFM and KTKT-FM (which would later become KLPX). Each station had their fair share of DJs, and there was one DJ who drifted back and forth between those two stations: Bob Cooke. He was Tucson's premier funny man - he always had the best jokes, but he was never over the top. (Well, perhaps on occasion...)

I recall staying up late on far more nights than I will admit to finish homework assignments as my semesters came to an end, and Bob Cooke always played requests from students all over town who were engaged in similar last-minute pursuits. And Bob was freakin' hilarious about it. I would call and ask for something by Rush or The Doors, then someone else would call and ask for song from a different band, and so on. Bob played them all. He had a ball as he expressed his faux sympathies for all his listeners slaving away with their books and typewriters, and you knew he was glad that he wasn't working on all that homework.

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One of the particularly amusing parts of Bob's shows was when he was required to read advertising copy live while on the air, because he could never do it without messing with the scripts that he had been handed. I vividly recall one morning when he was reading the advertisements for Farmer John's Sausage Links, which Bob humorously changed to "Farmer John's Wieners." He kept saying the rest of advertising copy incorrectly, and therefore he had to keep starting over. However, restarting the script mean that he would eventually run out of the music that was supposed to play in the background, so he would have to start over - again and again. The entire episode was side-splittingly funny, and I laughed so hard I probably cried…

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People who grew up in the "Naked Pueblo" (as Cooke used to call Tucson) will remember that Bob was tragically killed by a deranged radio listener in August, 1982. (See https://bit.ly/2RswW5o.) People throughout the Tucson valley mourned his untimely death at the young age of just 28 years.

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It's hard to believe that it's already been 38 years since his murder, because I can still remember countless hours listening to Bob's priceless and bizarre sense of humor. I'm sure that he would have retired years ago if he had had the chance to live a full and happy life, which means both Bob and the classic radio format that made him famous might have been able to ride off into the Arizona sunset together.

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