For nearly a decade, Tony Richards Didier shared the microphone with Charly Butcher. Today, Didier is one of many who are mourning the loss of their former colleague and friend.
Butcher died Aug. 15 of an apparent cardiac event. He was 61 years old.
“We did the morning show on WMEE together and we had so much fun,” Didier said. “We were young and did silly, stupid things on the air. Many of them took on a life of their own.”
Among Didier’s favorite memories is the creation of the Maumee River Monster.
“We got six months out of that bit,” he said. “It was so real. We just made up a sighting and talked about it and people started to believe it. We had the Fort Wayne Fire Department along the river and a scuba guy come up out of the water and people actually thought there was a monster. We were broadcasting live from a pontoon boat. It really was crazy.
“Then there was the Stump Them Guys contest that people loved,” Didier recalled with a smile. “And I’ll always remember this bit we did saying that the president of GTE was doing spring cleaning on phone lines and had to put high pressure air through phone lines. We told people to unplug their phones from the wall and put duct tape over the jack. People were doing this stuff because he worked so hard to make it believable.”
Former colleague Jim Shovlin laughed when remembering another radio bit at WMEE.
“We called it What’s in Regis’ Mouth,” Shovlin said. “And I was Regis St. Regis. I would take an inanimate object and put it in my mouth. So I’d talk with something like a pencil in my mouth and you couldn’t understand a word I said and people had to call in and guess what was in my mouth. We got a lot of mileage out of that. Like two years.”
Shovlin later worked with Butcher at WOWO, as well.
“He loved sports,” Shovlin continued. “Loved competition. But he was also so kind. We had a sizable morning show. There would be four or five people in the studio at a time. He was already so well-known, and he had the ability to make us bigger stars than we were so we would become known. He thought, ‘If they’re household names, it can only make the show better.’”
Shovlin said Butcher was larger than life in many respects.
“He was always Superman. Invincible,” Shovlin said. “He was the guy that if someone had a problem, he would help solve it. He was always dispensing advice, telling people how to make things better.
“He was possessive of his morning show, in the most positive way. He worked so hard to be number one and wanted to stay that way,” said Steve Shine, who regularly filled in when Butcher was on vacation. “I was humbled and complimented that he felt comfortable with that and he trusted me. He wanted his show to be close to perfection, so he always worked with me to make sure that was the case when he was gone.”
“He was always asking for feedback,” agreed Didier. “He cared so much about what he did, even after all this time. Some guys like him would phone it in. I’d tell him, ‘You’re Charly Butcher. You don’t need to work that hard!’ But he was always trying to improve.”
Didier is now the Executive Consultant for Federated Media, which owns WOWO, WMEE, The Bear, BIG 92.3, and K105 in Fort Wayne. He’s also the owner of Kensington Digital media with a station in Nashville, Tennessee, and another soon in Warsaw.
“A lot people don’t know he did a show for our station in Nashville for 4 or 5 years,” Didier revealed. “He just loved doing it each week. That was Charly. He loved what he did,”
Shine agreed. “People enjoyed his down-to-earth Hoosier wit and wisdom, which he always portrayed in a non-aggressive, non-intimidating type way. He always made his guests feel comfortable. It was like he was inviting them into his home. He just worked hard to make them comfortable.”
Butcher made a brief foray into television, as part of a collaboration between WOWO and local ABC affiliate WPTA. Anchor Ryan Elijah said he always looked forward to their on-air segments.
“He had such a unique way of looking at the world and a unique sense of humor when it came to tough political stories. It was easy to forget we were on the air,” said Elijah, who’s now an anchor in Orlando. “He wasn’t afraid to tell you his opinion. That’s why people tuned in to him. We weren’t sure how that would translate on TV, but Charly was such a great addition to our morning show.”
Gerson Rosenblum, VP of Strategic Management for Sweetwater, said Butcher was the consummate professional. The two worked together on a marketing campaign for SweetCars several years ago.
“He was just the very best at it,” Rosenbloom said. “I moved from Philadelphia and there was a guy there named Ken Garland who was great at the testimonial-type endorsements. I thought there was nobody in the world better than Ken. Then I met Charly. He was absurdly good at it. He learned the product and became a passionate advocate for it. He poured his heart and soul into it.”
Kayla Blakeslee, WOWO’s News and Program Director, echoed Rosenbloom’s and Didier’s comments about Butcher’s work ethic.
“Over the last presidential election, we had a really good ratings period, and while we were having our weekly meeting, I began to express my praise. I made a comment about how he had just been going 110 miles per hour. He then responds to me, rather loudly, ‘I wanna go 120 mph!’ Keep in mind, he was already hosting the number one morning show in Fort Wayne. That is just the kind of guy he was. He never took his foot off the gas and I admired him for that.”
“I am originally from Pennsylvania,” Blakeslee continued. “When I first moved here, he patted me on the back and said, ‘Welcome kid, now let me give you some advice. If you want to make it in this market, you need to become a true Hoosier.’ And that is exactly what I did. I immersed myself in this community. That’s the kind of guy Charly was. He was always willing to share his advice, wisdom, and ‘radio secrets,’ if you will, with everyone.”
Butcher is not only being remembered as the kind of guy who wanted to do everything for others, but also as a legend. An icon.
“It’s very fitting,” Shine said. “To have an occupation for 30 years in one place, and in such a public career, that’s unheard of. His personality just rose to a different level. I’ll miss bantering about the broadcasting industry and our chats on a regular basis about politics and other things.”
Congressman Jim Banks made a weekly appearance on Butcher’s morning show.
“The feedback that I got on a regular basis from people who said they heard us was overwhelming,” said Rep. Banks. “I did radio shows in South Bend and Angola and all over the country, and I can just say that he made it so easy. Not that his questions were easy. They were always to the point. But never ‘gotcha’ questions, either. It was substantive. And when I made mistakes, he always managed to make me look good. That just speaks to his heart.”
Rep. Banks said he got to spend a lot of time chatting with Butcher off the air, not just about politics, but about his family as well.
“He sure loved his wife,” Banks said. “I’ve served on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. She is a teacher, and he talked about that whenever he could. He was so proud of her being a teacher. I was always struck by that. You know, nobody was as good as Charly. He could’ve done it anywhere, but he clearly loved Fort Wayne. That’s why he stayed and why he did it. We are all so lucky to have had him here for that long, doing it so well.”
“He really was the best employee Federated Media has ever had. Gracious, helpful, kind, compassionate,” Didier said.
“In this industry that is a hard quality to find,” Blakeslee reinforced. “Most broadcasters are so fiercely competitive, they don’t share anything, but not Charly. He was a true servant. He was always asking others what he could do to help better their careers. He was also asking, ‘What can I do to help make you successful?’ I don’t know that our listeners were able to fully grasp his servant’s heart through the airwaves, and I know his family would say the same thing about him. He possessed a true servant’s heart.”
Shovlin remembered a time when a listener openly criticized Butcher.
“He said, ‘How can you work with a jerk like Charly Butcher?’ I said, ‘It depends on your definition of a jerk. If you mean a father, husband, coach, religion teacher, a guy who gets off work and goes and reads to the blind, then yeah, I want to be a jerk like Charly.’”
“The lessons that I have learned from him are invaluable and I will carry them with me throughout the rest of my broadcasting career,” Blakeslee said.
Butcher leaves behind his wife, Sarah, and their three children.