When did you first hear Rush? We took callers for two hours

Jay Weber Show transcript 2-18-21 6am-8am

Midday yesterday- the expected, but terrible, news came that Rush Limbaugh had died.

He had been fighting end-stage lung cancer, and hadn’t been on the air in weeks, and so we all knew what was coming, eventually and yet- on the day the news comes, it is always jarring.

This news was broken-by rush’s wife-at the start of his normally scheduled show yesterday, and so I knew it would be something like 20 hours before I was back on the air, to talk about it-and i knew that virtually every other conservative show host and fox news program before me would be doing nearly endless coverage on it.

And so, in prepping for the show this morning, I wasn’t sure how much to talk about ‘rush’ today. And I decided-given what an American titan he was, it would be difficult to ‘over-do’ the rush topics.

I have two segments I’ve decided to dedicate to it, and later, I’ll talk about how rush is responsible for not just my career, but Belling’s and Hannity’s and virtually everyone’s on fox news...

You -cannot- over-estimate or over-emphasize what a cultural and political force rush Limbaugh was.

We, in America, have started to call everyone a ‘goat’ or an ‘icon’ or a ‘legend’, these days...when very few people given that label, anymore, deserve it.

You are not an ‘icon’ if you had a low-rated reality show for three years and 98 percent of Americans don’t even know who you are.

We are-way- way-too generous with these labels.

Therefore- none of them can adequately capture what rush Limbaugh was, to American politics and culture.

His radio program, which first went national in 1988-changed.everything.

And the road that rush took to find his calling. To find his life’s work. Was remarkable in-and-of-itself and it’s a journey that should be used by young Americans who are trying to find their calling, and have not yet discovered the greatness of America, and all that this nation offers and promises-if you just go out and get it.

Limbaugh’s early life lessons are also great lessons in learning from defeats. Never giving up. Using setbacks and losses to make yourself better.

Rush often talked about being a college dropout. He was obviously a smart guy...but he found no appeal to it. And was restless to do something else.

In 1983, for five years, Rush was just a local Sacramento talk show host...until someone at ABC recognized his talent, and heard what a unique and compelling show he was doing-mixing in humor and parodies with serious commentary...and ...holy cow...making dry, boring topical talk- fun!.

Folks-before rush- topical radio talk shows were dry. Boring. Difficult to listen to. And there weren’t many laughs. It was hard to call it ‘entertaining’.

Rush made topical talk radio- news and issues- fun and interesting. We heard a lot of tales over the years from fans who said-‘ I remember exactly where i was when I heard rush for the first time’.

In the mid-80s and early 90s, ‘discovering’ rush was a seminal moment in people’s lives, and those moments continued for younger and newer listeners for 35 years.

But- in the early days- to hear someone saying on the radio, what it is you believed as a conservative, low tax, small government, church going, America loving American...was life-changing.

Most listeners can tell you-where they were-the first time they heard rush.

But-Rush was finally having some local success as a talk show host in Sacramento, when ABC syndicated him and took him national in 1988. ABC was, by coincidence, the year that i graduated college, and at the time, had no idea who rush Limbaugh was.

I would find out- a few weeks later, when mark belling hired me for my first full-time radio job in Madison, at WTDY. Mark was the program and news director there. It was a tiny radio station. And because it was so small, Mark also was conscripted to do an afternoon how- between something like 2- and -6.... After rush...because WTDY was one of the earliest radio stations in the Midwest to put Limbaugh on stations -literally-had nothing to put on around him, in the programming day.

Would they keep playing Helen Ready and Mac Davis records for the 21 hours ‘around rush’ in the programming day?

Would they develop other talk shows around him? Many stations didn’t know. And Mark Belling’s show, if I’m remembering my history correctly, grew out of a need to fill time around rush, and obviously developed into the huge regional hit that it is today And as talented as mark is-it was rush’s show that drew listeners in the biggest numbers. He was the ‘new phenomenon’...and the hosts around him benefitted Am radio was literally reborn-

And I’ll talk more about that later.

But- rush went national in 1988...and changed history. Changed the culture. And certainly changed politics.

The reason that most people who call themselves republicans are as conservative as they are today- is thanks to rush.

He’s the one who took the older, more limited appeal of Bill Buckley conservatism and made it a cultural and political movement.

There is-no doubt-in my mind-that southeast Wisconsin -and much of this state-is as conservative as it is today-due to rush, and mark, and the talk radio movement that came in and changed the game.

Young conservatives serving in Madison and Washington DC right now- might not even realize how much influence Rush Limbaugh has had on their upbringing and their current ideology and political success.

You-cannot overstate- Limbaugh’s influence on America. I believe you have to look to the presidents in order to find the same level of overall cultural impact, influence over current events, forming the ideology of a political party over time...as rush has had.

And even then- most presidents have four to eight years of influence on American politics and culture. Rush Limbaugh had 35 years of it.

If Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan changed America with two terms of influence...Limbaugh had nine terms. He grew-generations- of new conservatives and libertarians.

And Limbaugh almost never had guests. To be an invited guest on rush’s show...meant you were joining a very small and elite club of people, indeed.

And as to the question of why rush was so successful. So unique. Why does he leave such a deep and indelible mark on America....

I believe the answer is simple: he combined a straight forward way of boiling down issues with a rare common sense and an even rarer ability to communicate his point to listeners-And-

As a capper- he wrapped it all in vibrant, sometimes biting, clarity and humor...that drove his opponent’s nuts.

Rush Limbaugh was simply the best-ever- at making his point. He was the best at convincing masses of people of the correctness of is argument, and doing it in a way in which it was impactful and relatable to them and would stick with them.

That was rush’s brilliance. And the rest of us can only play at it.

For 35 years-the liberals, who have no sense of humor and no ability to be self-critical-?

For 35 years-they raged at his characterizations of them, and his parody songs, which were brilliant.

I mean- all sorts of people before him would try to make clever parody songs or witty little ditty’s...but rush and Paul Shanklin were true masters at it.

and nothing sticks in your head quite like song lyrics, right?

The left-hated!-Rush’s songs about feminazis and race hustlers like Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson.

They hated how he used ‘ring of fire’ as the theme music for global warming segments, and every one of us who followed him stole that trick. Because it’s fun. And aggravating to liberal listeners. And we know it. Rush, knew it.

And along the way-the man launched 100 other conservative media empires. Nationally, he launched Hannity and Levin and Ingraham and Glen beck ...and regionally...he launched people like Belling and Sykes and myself and everyone who came later.

It was all the ‘Limbaugh springboard’.

Rush launched us all.

And despite his famous on-air puffery and swagger, rush never actually developed a massive ego or undue arrogance, and that, too, came thru on the radio.

Myriad close friends said it yesterday: what a humble and generous guy rush was. How he always felt uncomfortable with the praise that was heaped onto him by listeners who were doing far more important work: soldiers, nurses, brick layers, cops, fireman...

And having had just a hint of fame doing the same job rush did- i know exactly what rush felt, and know it was genuine in him. I get embarrassed, too, when people doing far more important work than myself think that -i-am the big deal.

But Rush -was- the big deal.It is not hyperbole or exaggeration to say that rush was one of the ‘biggest deals’ in America for nearly half a century now-and counting. Because his influence will echo forever.

Folks, I have seen all of the nastiness on social media from the left celebrating Rush Limbaugh’s death. You don’t have to send it to me.

I saw it all. And i don’t care to wallow in it today-or ever.

We lost a genuine American cultural and political giant yesterday, and one that was always unabashedly positive and optimistic, and I don’t care about the insignificant, black-hearted ants that think it’s okay to celebrate the deaths of other human beings.

Why spend time wallowing in left wing crappulence, again today, when it’s a day to celebrate the life of a guy who-honestly and without hyperbole- was one of the most influential Americans to rise out of this great country of ours.

I’d rather talk a bit about how Rush changed politics and culture in granular ways, and how the influence of his radio show that about 40-million Americans listened to at its peak...radiated out to touch the lives of every single American who has lived thru all, or part, of the last 35 years.

I did a segment earlier on rush’s greatness, and just mentioned how rush is responsible for not just my career, but Belling’s, and Hannity’s and everyone’s in the talk radio and alternative media industries.

You -cannot- over-estimate or over-emphasize what a cultural and political force Rush Limbaugh was....nor how his influence radiated out from his radio show...and will continue to echo over time now that he has passed.

Rush was syndicated nationally in 1988.

This was, by coincidence, the year that i graduated college, and went looking for my first full time radio job.I had already been working as young reporter at WIBA in Madison, but needed to make this a career, now.

And I put out resumes to a bunch of Florida, Texas, and California radio stations, thinking a big change of scenery would be fun. But i also sent resumes to the Madison and Milwaukee radio stations, figuring I’d have a better shot at getting a job here.

Interestingly- I never did think about a smaller market than Madison.

And sure enough- a few weeks later-mark belling hired me for my first full-time radio job in Madison, at WTDY.I am terrible at dates, but i believe this was January of 1989.Mark was the program and news director at WTDY ...and they must have just gotten Limbaugh. So he went national thru ABC affiliates in 1988...and WTDY was one of the first stations in the Midwest to put his show on.

And one reason might have been because it was such a small station. We had very few staffers...and most of them were reporters doing news shows. We had a morning and afternoon news clock-type of show...

And this new Limbaugh guy who was becoming a national phenomenon...and many stations had no idea what sort of programming to build around him.

And Belling would have the truth on this-but my perception was that Mark was conscripted to do a topical afternoon show after rush’s show ended...because WTDY literally-had nothing to put on around rush.

Because-at that time- late 80s-am radio was dead. There was-nothing-going on on the ‘am side’ of the dial.

I had worked for a few years for WIBA-am, and they were playing John Denver and Helen ready records...with a four minute newscast at the top of each hour.

I don’t know exactly what WTDY and Belling were doing in the way of programming over at WTDY before Rush...but I believe it was mostly news shows. Am radio had dried up.

Rush- revived- the am side of the dial single handedly.

And it was rush’s show that drew listeners in the biggest numbers. So, even though people like mark belling and Sean Hannity were already talented people doing their own shows...it was the unique appeal of rush that drew listeners back to the am side of the dial in huge numbers.

And it was also rush that then-influenced all sorts of existing talkers like Belling and Hannity, and generations of new talkers like myself...and essentially ‘schooled’ us in how to do talk radio.

How to make current events more fun, and topical and compelling. Rush often called himself an entertainer, at least early in his career, and he was.

Finally-someone had broken the rules and had decided not to take ‘news and current events’ so seriously.

Finally- someone willing to crack jokes, make fun of newsmakers, create parody’s, give these newsmakers fun nicknames, that only made them all the more relatable.

And here’s the key: rush did all of that-without dumbing down the show or the content. This was smart content, approached from a different way-

Approached with a definite point of view: the world as seen thru the conservative filter.

It was brilliant.

And along the way, he spoke to a massive group of Americans who felt like they were being ignored and forgotten, and not listened to. Because they were, before rush came along.

I don’t have the talent to put it into words: Rush changed history. Changed the culture. And changed politics. Just by doing a three hour radio show every day.

Rush is the one who took the older, more limited appeal of Bill Buckley style conservatism and made it a cultural and political movement.

Wisconsin is a red state today, except for Madison and Milwaukee- due to Rush. Southeast Wisconsin -and much of this state-is as conservative as it is today-due to rush reinventing am radio, and then drawing in audiences that could be further influenced and informed by other brilliant, talented talkers like Mark Belling and Charlie Sykes. Talk radio changed the game in SE Wisconsin, and nationally.

We know have young conservatives serving in Madison and Washington who grew up on Rush and Mark...and whose parents were listening to it in their household, or their car.

You-cannot overstate-Limbaugh’s influence on America.

And just as an aside-you cannot overstate the influence of Mark Belling on Wisconsin culture and politics. He is one of the og’s of talk radio and the modern conservative movement, too.

He really is.

His influence here-is unparalleled, and he impacted SE Wisconsin and Madison in the same way rush impacted America.

But this isn’t mark’s obit-its rush’s...so...lets stick with him.

But those two men-certainly- influenced me and helped me decide what I wanted to do for a living-and how to do it.

I was always a conservative, in terms of mindset. Outlook on life, liberty, and love of country. But rush and mark defined and refined it for me.

I, in particular, loved Rush’s explanations on how the accomplice media and American left have it exactly backward: they portray conservatives as pessimistic scolds and scowlers...when in truth. That’s the left side of the aisle.

We conservatives allow ourselves to be put in the defensive position. We get caught arguing the negative, saying no, and sounding pessimistic because we are the only adults in the room ...standing in the way of the left’s bad, ignorant, often anti-American ideas.

Rush found a way to always appear to be optimistic, and inclusive, and on offense.

I said it earlier and i think it’s correct: you have to look to the presidents in order to find the same level of overall cultural impact, influence over current events, forming the ideology of a political party and a nation over time...as rush has had.

And Rush Limbaugh did it for 35 years. Presidents have that sort of sway for, at most, 8 years.

Rush he grew-generations- of new conservatives and libertarians...and if we have any chance of turning back this current horde of socialist cry bullies and woke lefties...it will be because of the legacy Rush Limbaugh leaves us...as conservatives. And as a country.

A true giant has died.

And as Mark Steyn wrote yesterday: Talent Returned To God.