On Friday March 27 Johnny Simmons will host his final broadcast of Morning Edition on KUSP, ending a 20-year run as the voice our listeners wake up to on weekday mornings. Johnny retires after 35 years on KUSP’s professional staff, longer than any employee in our history, and a record unlikely to be broken.
Johnny’s history with KUSP reaches back even further, to our public radio infancy in the 1970′s; he volunteered at this station in that era, when he also worked at some of the best-remembered radio stations in this part of California. Wallace Baine wrote a little bit about Johnny’s grand radio odyssey when he introduced the 2015 Gail Rich Award winners in the pages of the Santa Cruz Sentinel here. And J.D. Hillard’s interview with Johnny for kusp.org is here.
Not many of us at KUSP are “radio lifers” — the population of the station has always consisted primarily of volunteers, meaning that as much as they love radio, most of the folks at the station have (or had, before retiring) real jobs concurrently with the time they spend with us. And for the most part, the people in our paid workforce came to public radio after establishing a career in another field; print journalism, museums, technology, construction and real estate… just for openers.
In contrast, radio broadcasting and Johnny are inseparable. And looking back at the 38 years I’ve been hanging around one radio station or another, I’ve known no one I’d rather wake up to on the clock radio, or say hello to after coming through the studio door to start my work day, than Johnny.
Though the regular morning shift draws to a close tomorrow, I really hope our airwaves haven’t seen the last of Johnny Simmons.
Next Monday, Alex Burke moves in to the Morning Edition host chair, and I hope you’ll join me in wishing her a long and productive tenure in the role!