Tuesday, April 7, 2009

We lose a giant

Late tonight comes word that Steve Cannon has passed away. The name won't mean anything to my children, or most folks under 30, but when I was growing up, Steve Cannon was one of the biggest names on radio, on one of the most important stations in the country.

He did the afternoon drive time show on "8-3-0, WCCO" for 26 years and his talent was enormous. He did the show without guests, or callers. It was just Steve, the microphone and the characters he created: Morgan Mundane, the sports know-it-all; Ma Linger, the racy (for those days) older woman, and Backlash LaRue, an effeminate character in the days before folks talked very openly about being gay. Cannon could hold four-way conversations, switching voices so quickly that you were certain there had to be other people in the room.

(L. to R. Backlash, Ma, Morgan)

Mundane, of course, was my favorite. On Fridays during football season (after the show opened with the dogs from the Eveleth Volunteer Fire Department barking out a song) Cannon and Mundane would discuss the NFL game for the weekend. Cannon would introduce Mundane as the "former sports editor of the Congressional Record." On my first day on the job in the U.S. Senate in 1987, I picked up an actual copy of the Congressional Record, and told my soon-to-be-leaving predecessor that when I was a kid, I wanted to be the Sports Editor of this publication.

Again, for a generation that knows only Rush Limbaugh as a big radio name, it's hard to describe what WCCO was like in those days. Charlie Boone, Roger Erickson, Cannon, Howard Viken, Franklin Hobbs, Joyce Lamont and other WCCO voices were some of the biggest celebrities in the state. To see them in person at the State Fair was a big thrill.

Go HERE for more about Cannon. There are audio links on the page that will let you listen to some show segments, including a Friday football pick segment with Morgan.

RIP, Steve-O. You got the money.

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