I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Steve Brown Dies

A friend sent me a text message yesterday that really bummed me out. He asked me if I’d heard that Steve Brown died on Saturday. I hadn’t. I quickly opened a browser, and read about his death. Brown was just 68 years old. Turns out, he died in his home on Saturday getting ready to leave to do his new radio show. While it seems like he left us far too early, he left us doing the thing he loved the most, and that seems fitting.

Brown is a radio legend in Omaha, Nebraska and he was part of my daily routine during the late 1980s and most of the 1990s. He had a talk show called “Talk of the Town with Steve Brown” that started in 1989. It aired on KKAR in Omaha [all of the pictures you see of Brown in this post appear courtesy of KKAR station director Neil Nelkin who graciously emailed them to me at my request]. From the first time I heard Brown’s show, I was drawn to it. He had the proverbial radio voice. Not the exaggerated Top 40 radio voice, but a deep, calm, soothing voice that made you want to listen to him.

I discovered his show shortly after it started on December 1, 1989. I was 23 years old and was on the verge of huge changes. I was at the tail end of my partying days—days I look back on now with mixed emotions. I certainly had fun, but I was also incredibly immature—living for the moment without regard for the future or anything else. I made some horrible choices leading up to this point in my life, but that started to change in 1989 and on into 1990. Christian radio caught my attention for the first time and so did talk radio.

Over the next two years my views on nearly everything changed. And as they changed, Brown was my constant companion. He helped me to make sense out of the world. I listened to him at work every morning. He spoke about politics from a conservative perspective (he called himself a “concernative” because he was more concerned about truth than he was partisanship), but he was about so much more than politics. He spoke about local issues, local culture, and local happenings.

In fact, he started using a phrase that caught on: “Live and local.” That was his emphasis. He thought Omahans had a right to know what was going on in their community and he felt like the media had a responsibility to bring them in depth coverage.

One of the things I liked about him was his ability to bring context to a discussion. He had a wide variety of interests and he was around the movers and shakers of his interests. He said he just got lucky. Being in the right place at the right time never hurt anybody, but I don’t really believe in luck. If I did, I would tend to side with the Roman dramatist Seneca who said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” That seems to be what happened with Brown.

One of Brown’s claims to fame was introducing the Beach Boys to the Beatles back when he was a concert promoter. He had programs on three of the largest and most well known radio stations in Omaha over the years. He was a fisherman. He was good friends with Ted Nugent and Senator Ben Nelson. If you follow politics, then you know that Nugent is a staunch conservative while Nelson is a middle of the road Democrat.

I heard Brown tell a story once about a barbeque he had at his house in which Nugent, Nelson and his family, Congressman Lee Terry and his family, several musicians, and a number of other people sat around on his deck for five hours enjoying each other’s company. Brown had a way of moving past partisanship and really listening to people—even if he disagreed with them—maybe even especially if he disagreed with them. More than once, I heard him change his mind on the air while speaking with somebody.

I have so many other memories of Brown.

I loved the bumper music he used on his radio show. He often used Nugent or ZZ Top at the beginning of each hour or to come back from commercial break. Whenever I hear their music, I think of him.

I remember Brown doing his show from Washington D.C. after the 1994 election. He interviewed several politicians and then Sonny Bono walked by while Brown was on the air. He’d done some work with Bono during his early days of broadcasting and they had a brief, impromptu discussion live on the air.

Over the years, I wrote to Brown on a number of occasions. The first time I wrote to tell him how much I enjoyed his show—this was early on—and he read my letter on the air. I sent him a couple of emails over the years. I met him a couple of times at trade shows in town. And back in 2003, he read a post on the air that I wrote for one of my former blogs, about Christmas.

His local morning radio show was on the air for about 15 years. Sadly, radio stations became more focused on national talk radio shows and eventually the market for “Talk of the Town” dried up. But Brown didn’t complain. He recently landed another show on Saturdays on another radio station and he seemed to enjoy it. Now that his voice is silenced, talk radio in Omaha will never be the same.


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