MARK: You know, before Rush, things were grim. You could be a right-wing guy, you could be modestly center right, but you lived in a center-left or far-left world. Basically when you switched on the TV, when you switched on the radio, it was Dan Rather, it was Peter Jennings, it was Oprah, it was Phil Donahue, and there wasn’t a lot of talk stations because of the Fairness Doctrine.
It wasn’t just that you had to balance out the left-wing talk with the right-wing talk so you could find a really great left-wing guy to give a two-hour show to but then you had to find a right-wing guy to give a two-hour show to. That was all incredibly difficult for most radio station owners. So it was easier just to program soft-and-easy favorites 24 hours a day, or Top 40, or country, or whatever, than actually trying to run a talk station because of the Fairness Doctrine.
So the Fairness Doctrine didn’t mean there was left-wing talk or right-wing talk. It actually meant there was hardly any talk at all. I think when Rush started there were only 200 talk stations in the United States of America. Now it is the dominant form of AM radio and there are thousands and thousands and thousands. And, as you know, this show is carried on over 600 of them. So, it was completely new.
And as you heard people say over the last few days, he took advantage of that change in the law that had made it just too difficult for program directors at little stations here and there to program talk radio, having to do all this balancing. So it meant that you didn’t just have to find a talented guy, you had to find another talented guy who had the completely opposite point of view.
It was a ludicrous system, and so because of that, millions and millions of people — including millions of people listening right — now remember the very first time they heard the Rush Limbaugh Show. You’ve heard a few people talking about that on TV and radio in recent days. Here come Brit Hume; Sean Hannity; Dan Bongino; the president of the District Media Group, Beverly Hallberg; and some other loser. The first time they ever heard Rush.
BRIT HUME: Along comes this guy. You know, I was a reporter working for ABC News at the time, and I remember people saying, “Have you heard about this guy, Rush Limbaugh?” And I started listening to his radio show and it was tremendously fun to listen to.
SEAN HANNITY: …1987 or ’88, and I remember, I was in a radio studio, and somebody told me, “You gotta hear this guy on the radio.”
DAN BONGINO: We accidentally flipped on the radio and heard “Talent on loan from God.” You heard that, and you said who’s this guy? That’s the first time, was sitting outside of Queens College and flipping on the dial and hearing the incredible voice of Rush Limbaugh — and it changed my life.
BEVERLY HALLBERG: My dad, who picked me up from school every day, always had Rush on the radio.
MARK STEYN: The first time I heard him we were driving through the North Maine Woods, and suddenly this voice comes in — ’cause the radio is, like, automatically scanning for stations — and we hear Rush for the first time, and we’re agog. We all stopped talking. It was amazing. There was nothing like that.
MARK: (chuckles) That was me right at the end there, and I will never forget that. We were very, very deep into the North Maine Woods where no radio station comes through and the only one that kind of really sort of does is 94.9. I think it’s off Portland, Maine. But they got a big transmitter on the top of Mount Washington and they’re playing that, you know, bland, insipid adult contemporary, which you wouldn’t really want to listen to except there is nothing else.
And then even that died, and I forgot to switch the radio off. So we’re all just talking and the radio is scanning around the dial, around the dial, around the dial. We drive for whatever it is, 45 minutes, and eventually — and suddenly, out of nowhere, as I said there — Rush’s voice comes on, and he starts talking about what happens when the Arts and Croissant Crowd descend on your small town, and he’s playing Born Free punctuated by gunfire.
And he’s referring to a recent press release by the NAGs, the National Association of Gals, which I didn’t really know at the time was his version of the National Organization for Women, and we all just stopped talking instantly. I was with two kind of, sort of liberals, but skeptical of the left side of things. And it’s not even about the politics, ’cause I was so new to America, and they were visitors from abroad.
We’re not really sure of, you know, whoever it was they were talking about back then, Phil Gramm or Dukakis or whoever it was. It was how Rush did it. We had never heard anything like it, and eventually we came to… We were up by Moosehead Lake, and we came to Kokadjo, which is a trading post, and it’s the last place you can gas up. It’s the last place you can get a sandwich in America before you dive deep through the Allagash Waterway.
And at the end of it, there’s the little border post at the New Brunswick frontier, and you’re in Canada. So it’s the last place you can get gas, the last place you can get a meatball sub in America. And so we get gas, and we come out. We go in and get some food, and we eat it outside on the porch. And we just…
We don’t talk about anything else except this incredible guy we just heard doing politics in a way that no one had ever done before and none of us had after heard before. I will never forget that. It just… Rush basically just opened up the possibilities of how you cover politics in that moment. And after I dropped my friends off back in Canada and I got back to New Hampshire, I made sure I found a local affiliate that carried that station, and I was a Rush listener from then on.
MARK: Mark Steyn for Rush. I mentioned earlier, by the way, that until Rush, basically everybody on the right lived in a left-wing world. There was just, you know, Phil Donahue and Dan Rather and all the rest of the gang. And it’s different. I think to a certain extent that is still the same. Our culture is left wing and we stand in opposition to that, if you find us, and it’s different for lefties and liberals.
They just think the world… All they hear all day long is their own views reflected back at them. And it was always funny to me (chuckles), the one time they didn’t was when they had to take their car in to be inspected or to be repaired or whatever. And it was always fantastic, because in my town, all the guys in the body shop listened to Rush while they were working on the car.
So they’d get in the car, retune the radio from NPR to Rush, and they’d forget to tune in back to NPR when they gave the car back to the liberal. So the liberal would, like, drive out of the body shop onto the road and suddenly the radio would come back on and they’d all be saying, “What the hell is this? How is this…?” And they’ll be frantically trying to listen to NPR, get back to NPR. But sometimes they didn’t, and Rush converted them.
MARK: Don’t miss Monday’s very special edition of the Rush Limbaugh Show. Rush’s beloved Kathryn will be here to take your calls. You can ask… I’m sure she’s not gonna tell you everything, but you can ask Kathryn questions about Rush when he was off the air, the man behind the microphone. Kathryn Limbaugh will be here for Monday’s very special show. Let us go to J.R. in Columbus, Ohio. J.R., it’s great to have you on this special edition of the Rush Limbaugh Show.
CALLER: Mega Rush dittos, Mark.
MARK: And the same to you. Mega dittos into eternity.
CALLER: Agreed. Totally agreed. The last two days have been hell. I can tell you that from my personal life and my friends. But I want to focus on the good things, and the best thing that Rush ever did for me — even though I’ve been listening for 30 years, so God only knows the impact he had on my life — was the last two years of my father’s life he was in poor health, very fragile. His faculties were totally intact.
You know, he was still Dad. But every day that I could, which was about six out of seven days a week, I would bring lunch, and I always timed it for Rush because him and I both love Rush. And we would eat our lunch listening to Rush, and that was the only time in those two years where he would buckle over belly laughing — I mean, a laugh that I haven’t heard in my life.
I’m his son and I never heard this laugh before, and he listened to Rush literally ’til the day he passed away. It meant so much to him and so much to me. When Rush passed away, all a sudden, it hit me. I was like, boy, I was blessed to have those moments. Blessed. And Rush made it possible, and that’s something I was remember for the rest of my life, Mark.
MARK: Thank you for that story, J.R. It’s just a wonderful thing. That is actually the sound… You don’t hear it on the air if you’re driving along in the car, but that is actually the sound of the Rush Limbaugh audience having the best time of their lives, listening to the man they have listened to for all those years.
And your father is very typical of Rush’s beloved audience. I’m particularly glad, and I know Rush would have loved to have heard that story that your father, in the last years of his life, Rush brought you together and you had the best time every lunchtime. We will have more calls like that. You can go to RushLimbaugh.com.
There’s a tab above the banner for the show, the Rush Limbaugh Show. There’s a tab above that that says Condolences, and if you have a story like that, the first time you heard the show, what it meant to friends and relatives who aren’t around, go and leave it there. RushLimbaugh.com, and click the Condolences tab.
MARK: I asked for stories of when you first heard Rush, and Marie Bowers tweets that she first heard him when she was a child. She grew up on a farm, and as soon as she started driving the tractor at the age of 12, Rush was tuned in. Marie says, “And for the longest time I thought he broadcasted from the middle of our field.”
You know, he loved being on the radio, and he would have broadcast from the middle of your field and just put a little transmitter on the back of your tractor. But that’s Marie Bowers who has been listening to Rush as soon as she started driving the tractor on the family farm at the age of 12, and Rush was tuned in every day.