WCCO’s Roger Erickson dead at 89

Good morning!

There aren’t many radio pioneers left and few people fit the characterization like Roger Erickson, who has died at 89.

Generations are growing up now, having no idea of the glue that people like Erickson and his long-time radio partner Charlie Boone, provided to make a community a community. But generations of people, also declining in number, did. At one point, half of all radios in Minnesota were tuned to WCCO.

Their signature “good morning” song was the official start of a Minnesota day.

Erickson grew up a “farm kid” in Winthrop, Minn., and, like a lot of radio pioneers of the day, wanted a career in theater. He joined WCCO in 1959 and, also like a lot of radio pioneers, played Bozo the Clown on TV.

But that voice — the deepest baritone in the Midwest — was all radio.

After joining WCCO from a Stillwater radio station, he was given an afternoon show at the conclusion of the daily radio soap operas.

But it was his eventual morning teaming with Charlie Boone — when Maynard Speece retired — that created legendary radio in the Midwest.

“He was a Minnesotan through and through, and loved to laugh at life in Minnesota, especially in winter,” former WCCO managing editor Steve Murphy told Morning Edition host Cathy Wurzer this morning. “He’d go on the air in the morning, and give us the windshield index, not the wind chill index — telling us whether or not we could get the ice off the windshield with a credit card.”

“What’s the secret to lasting 50 years together?” Cathy Wurzer asked him once on TPT’s Almanac.

“Wake up before you go on the air,” he said.

They held a record for the longest-running radio program by a duo.

Their signature skit on their show was “Minnesota Hospital,” which was originally conceived when WCCO listeners were outraged that CBS canceled the top soap radio soap opera of the day, “The Romance of Helen Trent”.

“We decided we would start a radio drama featuring Helen and Gil Whitney, only it would be a hospital setting. And people quieted down,” he said.

Boone died in 2015.

He made school closing announcements an “art form”, the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame said on its website. Erickson was a charter entrant into the Hall of Fame in 2001.

He reportedly joked that his headstone would read, “Roger Erickson, two hours delayed, now closed.”

  • ec99

    Growing up, WCCO was on all day on my mom’s kitchen radio. From Bob DeHaven and Joyce Lamont, through Jurgen Nash, all the way to Hobbes’ House. Boone and Erickson were an integral part of that programming.

  • I remember them well, from a time when “The Good Neighbor”, WCCO, was the go-to station for so many households. The plastic Arvin All-American 5 (tubes) table radio on the kitchen counter seldom strayed from 830. Most cars only had AM radios, and if you were traveling, WCCO would stay with you for many miles since it had a clear channel and 50 kilowatts. Boone & Erickson made for the quintessential Minnesota experience, the perfect mix of chit-chat, humor, and information. One felt good listening. Of course in 1967 we got something even better…

    • Gary F

      830 was the first button on most car radios.

  • Gary F

    As Joe Soucheray once said, “half the radios in every kitchen had the dial stuck to 830 with kitchen grease” . My parents did. I had to toss the radio that I kept from my parents house, the tuner did move, but it only picked up the good neighbor.

  • Barb Gehlen

    Roger was a first class guy. Always a kind word for everyone–regardless of who you were and what you did. I grew up with WCCO as much a stable of our family breakfast table as toast. When I worked in the WCCO building–Roger would laugh and talk to everyone–regardless of where you worked and what your role you played. He lived the words “good neighbor”.

  • Barton

    I loved listening to these guys when I was a kid. They were like my crazy uncles (if I’d had crazy uncles), everyone’s best friend.

    And I swear on a clear night, you could pick up ‘CCO’s signal as far away as Missouri….

    • RBHolb

      “And I swear on a clear night, you could pick up ‘CCO’s signal as far away as Missouri….”

      That’s no exaggeration. The Good Neighbor is a clear channel, with a 50,000 watt non-directional signal. It can be picked up in most of the middle part of the country.

      • Jack

        We picked it up in Little Rock, Arkansas one night when we were on vacation.

        I’m just another kid that waited for my district to cancel classes.

  • ec99

    “played Bozo the Clown on TV.”

    Those were the days of local children’s programming: Axel Torgerson, Clancy the Cop, Casey Jones, Dave Lee, Captain (Later Grampa) Ken. All gone.

    • JimmytheVike

      Mister Green Jeans………..

  • BJ

    Near my childhood home in Brooklyn Park they had Boone Ave and sometime in the later 80’s a little cut of a road they named Erickson, so they had Boone and Erickson. It’s off of 694 and Boone where the home depot is now, not sure if that ‘street’ it is still called Erickson.

  • Dennis Brown

    Has there been any announcement of funeral arrangements?

    • From AP:

      Services have been set for longtime WCCO Radio personality Roger Erickson, who died at age 89.

      His daughter, Tracy Anderson, says his memorial service will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 10, at the Lafayette Club in Orono. She expects people who worked with him will be speaking. It will be open to the public.

      Erickson died of natural causes at his home in Plymouth on Monday after fighting dementia for around 10 years. He ruled Minnesota’s morning airwaves along with on-air WCCO partner Charlie Boone for 38 years before he retired in 1998.

      The Erickson family requests that instead of flowers, memorials go to the theater or agricultural departments at the University of Minnesota, or a department of the donor’s choice.

      • Dennis Brown

        Thanks for the information, Bob. I’m sure all of us appreciate it.

  • dukepowell

    I moved to Minnesota in my teens. Didn’t appreciate Boone & Erickson until my mid thirties…..

    Two great guys.

    Radio has never been the same…. to our collective…… discredit?