WXKE’s Doc West selling pieces of rock history
Auctioning years of memorabilia received at station
The memories are all WXKE’s Doc West wants from his memorabilia.
Following years of collecting items while working as the station’s DJ, West is letting it all go, setting up an auction to sell the items which range from autographed guitars, records, and concert posters, to vintage WXKE t-shirts.
“Just before the pandemic, I had decided, ‘Let’s empty out these storage units I’ve got,’ ” he said. “I added up that over the last 17 years, I shelled out something like $19,000 in storage. I said, ‘This is ridiculous. All this stuff is sitting in boxes, and I’ll never make my money back from the storage unit fees.’ But these things all meant something to me.
“As time has gone on, I’ve realized the most important things are memories that I’ve made,” he added.
To clear out those storage units, an online auction will begin Aug. 13, following an in-person auction Aug. 6 at Bartkus Auctioneers in LaOtto.
“We’ve tried to separate things by local and national,” Bartkus Auctioneers owner Steve Bartkus said. “People that would be more interested in local things, we’re going to let them come in on Aug. 6. We will do a live sale on those items, but they can go online right now and bid online.”
Getting his start on the radio while attending Ohio State University, West got on a Columbus, Ohio, station in 1976 before coming to WXKE in 1979. At that time, the station was in its infancy, and he remembers celebrating its second anniversary when a coworker remarked, “There won’t be a third.”
As it turns out, that person was very wrong.
Over the course of his 43 years in the city, West has built quite a collection of memorabilia with nowhere to put it, leading to renting storage space.
“I said, ‘I’m only going to do this for a couple months, maybe six months,’ ” he said about his initial thinking of renting storage space. “Here it is, 17 years later.”
After working with Bartkus on another auction, West decided to get his help in unloading his goods. When they showed up at the storage unit, Bartkus discovered a treasure trove, with tubs of goods stacked 10 feet high, according to West.
“We’ve taken several truckloads of his goods out of the storage unit, and brought them up to our gallery,” Bartkus said. “The last month-and-a-half, two months, we’ve been organizing and going through the items, and it’s been just an amazing time. It was such a blessing to be able to do this for him, with him being such a nostalgic piece of Fort Wayne.”
Bringing back memories
As national acts have come through the area, many made a stop at WXKE for interviews and signed items in the process. Record labels would also send the station framed autographed records, marking gold and platinum sales. Those unique items will now get another chance to see the light of day.
“Well, the ones that are most unique, personally, there’s a Bruce Springsteen Born in the USA autographed platinum record,” West said. “The records are made out to me and WXKE, so they have a local flavor to them. So, if you grew up on WXKE, having a record that was presented to us by the record company, acknowledging our input into that artist, is very, very cool.”
Bartkus is one of those people that grew up on the station, making this sale very special to him.
“I’ve listened to Rock 104 since I was a kid, and it just brought back so many memories,” he said. “We have a lot of local bands, as well as national acts, from AC/DC, Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, Beatles, Billy Squire, ZZ Top.
“The concert posters from back in the ’80s, where it was Mötley Crüe or Ozzy Osbourne. I remember those commercials as a kid, hearing them on the radio all the time when you’d hear, ‘Sunshine Promotions presents … Mötley Crüe’ or whomever it was. When you see the posters, and you see the dates and the pictures of the bands, it just kind of takes you back in time.”
For West, the items also take him back in time, but he’s more focused on helping others get a chance to get their hands on rare memorabilia.
“If I can share my passion with some people that weren’t able to see The Doors or meet Jim Morrison, or anything like that, that’s a good thing,” he said. “Life is about sharing passion.
“I know it’s an auction, but it brings the Santa Claus out of me a little bit, because I know these items are going to go to somebody,” he said. “These items mean something to me, but I think they will mean even more to them, getting to have a piece of WXKE history.”
As he’s aged, West says he’s seen friends pass away, and the message they’ve left him contributed in his decision to sell the items.
“I’ve known people that have had to go into hospice, and I was with them the day before, and they told me they had worried too much about money, and they should have spent more time living their lives,” he said.
West is excited to see the items find deserving homes, while creating quite an event in the process.
“I thought about it, and thought, ‘This will be the biggest rock n’ roll auction that Fort Wayne has ever seen, and I don’t think it will ever happen again,’ ” he said.
Bidding is under way at bartkusauctioneers.com. Doors open at 9 a.m. on Aug. 6.
“This isn’t something you’ll see every day,” Bartkus said. “There aren’t many people around Fort Wayne that have a collection of this magnitude.”