Terry Dorsey signs off after 46 years in radio

Dallas country music radio legend Terry Dorsey during his final broadcast at KSCS/96.3 FM. Dorsey is retiring after 26 years at KSCS and 33 in DFW radio.
Dallas country music radio legend Terry Dorsey during his final broadcast at KSCS/96.3 FM. Dorsey is retiring after 26 years at KSCS and 33 in DFW radio. DFW.com

For most of the final hours of his 46-year broadcasting career, Terry Dorsey held it together. No choking up, no misty eyes, just a lot of reliving old times and old bits from his 26 years at KSCS/96.3 FM.

“I can get emotional,” a calm Dorsey said off the air. “[But] nobody wants to hear somebody blubber.”

Then it came time for Dorsey to say his goodbyes to longtime co-host Mark “Hawkeye” Louis and producer “Trapper” John Morris. And while he didn’t quite blubber, Dorsey struggled to get through them.

“Let me get it together here if I can,” Dorsey said on-air, his voice starting to crack. “First of all, let me thank Trapper for four years of producing this show. It was great not to have to worry about certain things. …” And then, for a second, Dorsey was too overcome to talk, before managing to say to Louis, “I haven’t even gotten to you yet.”

Dorsey had to call for a break. He and Louis had worked together for all of Dorsey’s 26 years at KSCS, a partnership — the longest continuously running one in current DFW radio — that came to an end with Dorsey’s retirement and final broadcast on Wednesday.

“The only reason I’m not crying right now,” Louis said, “is last night, I forced myself to cry for like 35 minutes. Terry, I love you, and I’m going to miss you every single day.”

“I wish I’d have watched Brian’s Song last night so I could’ve gotten some of this out,” Dorsey replied.

The exchange was the poignant peak of a broadcast that honored Dorsey’s 46-year radio career — 33 of those years in DFW — with visits from old friends and former Dorsey Gang cast members, many of whom crowded into the small KSCS control room in Victory Park.

Dorsey’s retirement came with less than two weeks’ notice — he told a handful of station personnel on Dec. 5 before making the on-air announcement Dec. 9 that he was retiring and moving to Illinois, where he and his wife have some farmland.

“We’d always expected there’d be some day when Terry would say, ‘It’s time to go,’” Morris said. “But we figured we’d have like a year. ... How do you prepare in less than two weeks for this?”

Still, Louis was able to arrange to have a large group of well-wishers, including Dorsey’s wife Claudia, daughters Libby and Tiffany, and grandson Jesse in the studio. Also along for the farewell were former Dorsey Gang cast members Rebecca Carrell; Beth Leach, known on-air as Vanna; Monty Montgomery, aka Brother Van; and entertainment reporter Candace Havens. All of them spoke of the things that Dorsey had done for their lives and careers.

“I’ve shared the birth of my kids on the air, the death of my parents,” Montgomery said, choking up. “You allowed me to go places and meet people that I never would have met.”

Norm Hitzges, longtime KTCK/1310 AM “The Ticket” sports-talk personality, dropped by, as did Alexa Conomos, co-anchor of WFAA/Channel 8’s News 8 Daybreak.

“We’re so happy for you, but really, selfishly, we’re sad for all of us,” Conomos told Dorsey. “When was the last time on a regular basis that you went to bed at even 9 o’clock at night?”

“It’s been 26 years here and seven prior to that that I’ve been getting up at a quarter till 3 in the morning,” Dorsey said. “I have no idea what it’s going to be like. I may [still] get up at a quarter till 3 for a little while.”

And former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, who was regularly featured on the show even in the Cowboys’ dark 1989 season, called in to pay his respects.

“My years in Dallas started with Dorsey and the Gang,” Aikman said. “You’ve entertained a lot of people over the years, and I wanted to call and wish you the best and let you know that the last 25 years that I’ve been in Dallas have been awesome, and you’ve been a big part of it.”

Dorsey came to DFW in 1981 to do mornings at country station KPLX/99.5 FM, where he had a successful run till he was hired away by KSCS in 1988. Louis, who had been working in San Antonio, was called up by KSCS’ then-program director Ted Stecker to work as Dorsey’s sidekick in what became the Dorsey Gang.

“That was like someone playing for the Fort Worth Cats and getting a call to play for the Yankees,” Louis said to Dorsey on-air. “I think one of the greatest compliments I’ve heard people tell you is, ‘I listened to you when I was a kid, and I’m listening now on my way to work.’ ... You’ve crossed generations and that so rarely happens today.”

That was echoed by KSCS traffic reporter Julie Mac. “I’ve only worked with him a year, but I listened to him in junior high school,” she said. “I’ve loved him forever. The first time I started here and I had to be in this room — it’s just traffic, but Terry Dorsey was in this room, and I was shaking.”

Amid all the bittersweet moments were also moments of straight humor, including many jokes about Dorsey’s past antics as well as re-airing of some classic “bits,” including a prank Louis and Morris played on Dorsey in which they gave him some fake Central Market ad copy with near-unpronounceable made-up food names to read on-air.

From the late ’80s to the mid-’90s, Dorsey’s show ruled the DFW radio ratings. He is one of the few people who has won “air personality of the year” awards from the CMA, the ACM and Billboard Magazine. He is also a member of the Country Disc Jockey Hall of Fame and the Texas Radio Hall of Fame.

Lew Dickey, CEO and president of KSCS owner Cumulus Media, came in from Atlanta to honor Dorsey with a brief on-air statement. When Louis announced Dickey’s on-air appearance, Dorsey quipped, “Am I getting fired?”

On Thursday, Dorsey says, his plan is to hitch up the U-Haul and he and his wife will drive to Illinois. Louis and Morris will continue with the show; although cast additions are possible, none has been announced yet.

“The cowboy rides away,” Louis said to close the show. “Terry Dorsey — 46 years.”

Robert Philpot, 817-390-7872

Twitter: @rphilpot