That’s a yell that was reserved for a beloved member of the cast of “Cheers” on TV. But if you said that four-letter word among Seattle radio aficionados, there would be only one.
Norm Gregory passed away this past week. In this Amazon/Starbucks/Google version of Seattle, that may not mean much to the techies. But his presence on the Seattle airwaves will long be alive among those who were lucky enough to hear him back “in the day.”
I first became familiar with his style and voice while I was in the School of Communications at the University of Washington. While I was setting myself up for a career in this field, I was listening to Norm live my dream.
You see, Norm Gregory, as much as he would argue against it, was a legend in this market. He was a familiar voice on KJR-AM, helped launch KJR-FM, was a presence on KZOK and eventually found his way to afternoon drive on KOMO-AM. That’s where I had the fortune to meet him.
Now, I worked with a legend. I was the producer for the Larry Nelson Morning Show on KOMO, and Norm was hired when the station and their afternoon host Don Chapman parted ways. First off, I liked Don. He was on the irresponsible side and never should have used that station credit card to fill up his boat, but his gravely voice and those Husky Hooper Bus Rides are pressed in my memory forever.
When Norm arrived at KOMO, it was a major leap for that MOR (Middle of the Road) station. I mean, where was a “rock” voice smoothly talking to the conservative masses in a style unfamiliar to their current crowd, but that I was well familiar with. There were those who thought of his style as growling and arrogant, but I recognized it as the sound of the cool, hip and all-knowing voice of the next generation. My generation.
I worked mornings as Larry’s producer, Norm was afternoons. You’ve gotta understand that, at a radio station, those people are worlds apart. As I told his brother, Brian, I was once assigned to be Norm’s producer when KOMO (because we were the Husky station) was lucky enough to be the local radio station for the final four when it visited Seattle in 1984. I showed up to help Norm; he didn’t need it. He was a self-contained jock, with sheets of show-prep he had written so that he was prepared his way for the broadcast. I handed him my stuff and just watched.
In radio, there are three types of broadcasters–the Self-Absorbed Super Jocks, the middle-of-the-road nice guys (and gals) and the quiet, inward types who turned it on with the mike switch. While Norm may have come off as the Super Jock, he was very quiet and inward. He was all about doing radio the way he felt it should be done and was a presence on the Seattle airwaves we won’t see again. Guarantee it.