Perspectives: ‘Open Mike’ no more – a tribute to my former radio compadre

Composite stock image, St. George News

OPINION — An era of broadcasting quietly came to an end in Southern Utah radio last week when longtime local personality Mike McGary hung up his headphones after 35 years on KDXU. To understand the significance of his retirement, a bit of context is needed.

Radio is not a career that is synonymous with stability. Ownership changes. Personnel come and go. It’s the nature of the business.

For every Kasey Kasem, Paul Harvey, Howard Stern or Rush Limbaugh, there are plenty of us small-time players who never become a household name.

Even among high-profile personalities, there’s a surprising amount of turnover.

Thirty-five years at the same station is an anomaly in a field where an on-air personality may change stations every two to three years.

By the time I joined Mike doing mornings on KDXU in 1996, he was already a veteran broadcaster who had been on the air for many years. He had come to St. George from Manti long before the news/talk format would breathe life back into AM radio.

At the time we launched the McGary & Hyde morning show, KDXU was right about in the middle of the pack in terms of ratings. When I stepped off the full-time radio career path in 2005 to pursue educational opportunities, we had been on the air for together nine years.

During that time, KDXU had become a real-deal 10,000 watt flamethrower that regularly dominated the St. George market. Mike McGary was a major part of that success.

We covered world and national events as well as state and local news and had regular community leaders and business owners as our guests. We also became acquainted with regular callers including some of our token contrarians, like Frank or John the Liberal.

In addition to our morning show, McGary became the host of his own local talk hour Monday through Friday with the aptly named “Open Mike” show. He also was a top notch sportscaster and the voice of the Dixie College sports, as well as high school sports in Southern Utah.

Truth be told, I’m pretty sure that sportscasting was Mike’s first and deepest love. He was so clearly in his element when there was a game to announce.

I always respected Mike’s ability to stand for his beliefs without being confrontational or belittling those who disagreed. He was a solid example to me as I grew out of my red meat-throwing phase.

When Mike and I joked around about how the good life was catching up to our waistlines, a local personal trainer Patti Goewey stepped up and took us on as a project. Under Patti’s expert tutelage, Mike and I became undeniably more aerodynamic and active.

During those years, we had so much fun that, at times, I felt guilty accepting a paycheck for what didn’t even feel like work.

One of our most memorable – and poignant – moments was the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Mike and I had been on the air for only an hour that morning when we got word of the attacks on the World Trade Center.

We broke format, switched on the TV and watched in horror with the rest of the world as the events unfolded before our eyes. As we provided continuing coverage throughout the day, we noticed that many of the other tenants of our building quietly came to our studio and stood in solemn silence and disbelief along with us.

Both of us would recall it as one of the most challenging days of either of our careers – followed closely by our round-the clock coverage of the devastating Southern Utah floods a few years later. In both cases, we were humbled to learn that our coverage was an essential connection for those who could not access a TV for whatever reason.

In every instance, Mike was a consummate professional and could always be counted on to get the job done.

Working with Mike, I was impressed with his dedication to his family, and it was fun to watch his kids grow up, graduate, serve missions for his church and eventually marry and start families of their own. I’m sure his free time will now be occupied with enjoying his grandchildren and traveling with his wife.

At a time when terrestrial radio is slowly fading from relevance – much like print newspapers – it’s nice to be able to celebrate the career of someone who made his mark in all the right ways.

Mike McGary has been a welcome, albeit local, counterbalance to the more sensational radio personalities who excel at making big waves but still somehow fail to conduct themselves as good people.

His voice, personality and steady presence on the airwaves in St. George will be missed, but he can hold his head high for having been a positive influence in the lives of so many listeners.

Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events and liberty viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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