The voice that brought music, news, comfort and laughter to Crawford County for more than 50 years has gone silent.
"Roger Dee" Reynolds died at 9:28 a.m. EST Tuesday at Regional Hospital in Terre Haute.
Reynolds suffered a stroke Feb. 28. He had spent the day working at the radio station and had just arrived home. He suffered a second stroke March 12. On Tuesday, Reynolds was undergoing a procedure called a cystoscopy. During the cystoscopy his heart slowed and eventually stopped. They were not able to revive him, according to Facebook posts by family.
On Oct. 2, 1967, Reynolds signed on to WTYE and WTAY radio as a full-time disk jockey. He spent the next 51 years spinning tunes and entertaining Crawford County.
He started in the afternoon time slot, playing records, reading commercials and making announcements.
Catherine Duncan was the station owner at the time and she was very particular about what type of music could be played. "Mostly Lawrence Welk, easy listening stuff," Dee recalled at the time of his 50th anniversary with the station.
When Duncan died in 1975, the station was taken over by Duncan's sister, Mary, and her husband Ernie Patton. "Ernie ran the station," said Dee. "That's when the music got cooler."
Dee said he was a big fan of pop music and wanted so badly to start playing it on the air. He got started with a one-hour program called Music Shop. "Kids would call in making request and dedications," said Dee. "They really liked getting their name on the air."
In 1975, Dee filled in for the morning D.J. for vacations. After a few conversations with management, Dee took over the morning permanently.
One of the first things he changed on the morning show was how the birthday announcements were read and the playing of "You're too Old to Cut the Mustard." "I called Monical's and asked if they would like to sponsor the Birthday Club and they said yes, and have been the sole sponsor since 1975," Dee said. "We have solicited over 5,000 names."
Another change was how the school lunch menus were read. "They were boring," said Dee. "So I created a superhero [named Lunch Man] to fight the evil wiener."
Over the years Dee created more food characters like Tato Tot and Lunch Mother. He also so added sound effects. He would ask himself, "what else could I add?" Another D.J. added a character "Hamburger Man" which the kids could imitate.
His influence was so great that kids actually started to not eat hot dogs because they were the mortal enemy of Lunch Man. "A school cafeteria person called me once to 'complain' about the number of hot dogs that were being thrown away," Dee said.
In 1978, the Robinson High School home economics class made him a Lunch Man cape, with noodles and tater tots. "I was asked to walk in the March of Dimes that year as Lunch Man wearing the cape," Dee said. "Jerry Tye broadcast I was walking and people called in and pledged money. We raised around $1,500. I felt validated."
In the old days if a musician wanted a song on the radio they had to promote it, even in small markets like Crawford County. Dee has met several stars over the years, but those who stand out were David Allen Coe, Gary Lewis of Gary Lewis and Playboys and Marie Osmond.
It was a phone call from local businessman Rick Kelsheimer that really star-struck the veteran D.J. Kelshimer had been promoting concerts at the Robinson Bowling Center. He had booked a Beatles tribute band Liverpool Legends and as they were a success he planned to book them a second time. It was learned that their manager was Louise Harrison, sister to George Harrison, of the Beatles.
Kelshimer had invited her to speak before the next concert, and he asked Dee to do a question and answer program with her and show her around town.
"I went to her room at the country club and when she opened the door and shook my hand all I could say was 'I touched a Harrison,'" Dee said.
It turned out Harrison's car had broken down and Dee had to chauffeur her around. Being a huge Beatles fan, he had even been to Louise's former home in Benton for a visit just the month before. "It was cool driving her around in a vehicle with BEATLES on the license plate," said Dee. "I heard personal stories about George and she event went to a sock hop dance in Oblong with me. For some reason there were protesters there and she went over and talked with them."As the voice of morning radio he was also asked to emcee a number of events, programs and parades. "I was asked by then LTC student body Clark Pulliam to introduce a band they were sponsoring in the RHS auditorium called REO Speedwagon." said Dee. "The one thing I was asked to announce was that the audience had to remain in their seats or the concert was over. Well, as they played the Rolling Stones hit 'Sympathy for the Devil,' the crowd rushed the stage and went wild. That was rock and roll."
Over the years, Dee tried to stay relevant and play the music people wanted to hear. He also talked to them in voice that sounded personal.
"Some days you leave work and wonder if anybody is even listening and then when so many people mention things like Lunch Man, it tells you, that yes they were listening," Dee said.
Funeral arrangements are pending with the Pulliam Funeral Home in Oblong.