KMUW’s Frank Dudgeon retires Friday after more than 40 years as a member of the professional radio community. Jedd Beaudoin recently sat down with Dudgeon to talk about his career. And they started at the beginning.
“I was actually born in Arkansas,” he says, “that was because my dad was a country singer and he was on the road. This is back when country music sounded like folk, it was all acoustic. And my mother was with him at the time and I always feel that if you’re born you should be near your mother."
The Dudgeons left Arkansas, and Frank was raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
"I went to college at Duquesne University there, I kind of chose the college because they had a radio station there," says Frank.
"I knew from high school, listening to radio, that that seemed like a really appealing thing for me. And my parents told me, ‘Nah, you shouldn’t do that. You’ll never make it. It’s terrible. Be an English teacher, they’ll always need teachers.’ But I, of course, didn’t listen to them. I wound up playing around a lot at the college radio station, WDUQ."
Like many young radio acolytes, Dudgeon had an early favorite radio personality, an area morning host.
“There was a guy at the local radio station, big radio station, KDKA in Pittsburgh, which might have been the first commercial station ever… there was a guy named Rege Cordic and he had this really strange morning radio show called Cordic and Company. It wasn’t like the regular zoo teams and things you hear in commercial radio now. I thought it was pretty witty. Of course, I was 16 so who knows if I was right or not," he says.
Frank says he enjoyed listening Cordic, because he had a lot of funny skits and certain phrases for every day.
"Wednesday was always the Midweek Bogdown, things like that," he says.
Frank says he also listened to various other commercial radio programs.
"You have to remember that this is back in the 1960s, in the middle, so there was no public radio to listen to. There was educational radio with classrooms of the air but that was about it," says Frank.
"There was no NPR yet, so I was always attracted to people who were doing content beyond the usual screaming and yelling of usual Top 40 radio.”
When Dudgeon entered professional radio in the late 1960s, he was first known under a name that may sound a little plain to listeners today.
“I was known as Larry Young for about five years,” he says. “Fortunately, Larry is no longer in the business and I have tapes to prove why, which no one will ever hear.”
Why Larry Young?
“I got my first job at this Top 40 station and they said, ‘You can’t call yourself Frank Dudgeon.’ You weren’t allowed to have anything that sounded like an unusual name back then. Everybody was Ricky or Jay or something," he says.
"So I said, ‘How about my first and middle name, Frank Charles?’ They said, ‘Nah, that sounds like a newsman.’ ‘Frank Charles, NBC News!’ They said, ‘We want you to take all the Ricky, Ronnie, Jay kind of names and come up with a simple last name.’"
Frank then took the jock names on one side of a piece of paper and went through the White Pages and put a bunch of one syllable names on the other.
"I matched them—I had, like, overnight to do it—so I came up with Larry Young,” he says.
A longtime hobby of Dudgeon’s has been magic. Although he no longer practices he has become a collector of artifacts and ephemera from the magic world and, more recently authored a book about magician Ray Goulet, titled Ray Goulet: Recollections of a Renaissance Man. He also frequently attends magic conventions.
As for the state in which he’ll leave radio, he has this to say:
“I think it’s fascinating to see what radio is going to be doing in the next 15-20 years, having come from the days of vinyl records and AM stations dominating to where it is now. [I think it’s fascinating how] radio is interacting with other media. I think it’s still a fascinating way to disseminate information, especially now that it’s partnering with other media.”