RUSH: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the first day of the 26th year of the Excellence in Broadcasting Network, a network named after the talent and ability of the host. That comment dedicated to all 24- and 25-year-old women. The door just opened (with staff entering). I thought we’d already done everything. It’s the 25th anniversary of the Excellence in Broadcasting. August 1st of 1988 is when this program began on a national scale.
(Staff singing Happy Anniversary to Rush.)
Thank you all very much. Ah, that is a gorgeous looking “macaroni” cake. That is gorgeous. The whole staff is here. Well, the Florida contingent is here. We did the big blowout on the 20th anniversary. Five years is too soon to do another big blowout, but it’s still 25, and that’s silver, and it’s big, and it’s about 24 and a half years longer than the Drive-By Media forecast that it would last. And 25 years and nine months longer than the Democrat Party predicted or hoped that it would last. Let me hold the cake up. Somebody is gonna have to pick the thing up because I’m getting sticky fingers and the paper is gonna — I just want to show it on the Dittocam. There you go. There it is, the 25th anniversary cake, for those of you watching on the Dittocam. Take it away. I’ll start eating it, which would not be cool.
Anyway, it’s true. I’ll tell you what we’re gonna do today, by the way. We’re gonna have some sound bites from the past, some audio clips, we’re gonna go back and play. On the 20th anniversary we went back and did the humorous things. What we’ve done, what Cookie put together today is a series of sound bites from the past 25 years that illustrate how the Democrat Party hasn’t changed, how the American left has to be changed, and how their approach to me and this program and to conservatism hasn’t changed, and it’s amazing, and you’ll hear it.
Also, and this is coming up fairly soon, one of the most requested replays that I get from people who were listening to the program back in 1991, which was year four. It was my grandfather’s 100th birthday and we were in Kansas City. He was being honored by the Missouri Bar Association at their convention, and he came by the radio station. I was doing my program from there in honor of his 100th birthday and his award, and he came by and sat for an interview for an hour, and people have requested that, people that heard it. He was a 100 years old. He was born 30 years after the Civil War. He’d seen so much in his life, so many transformations and major changes in inventions, technological advancements, cultural changes. And, as an attorney, he’d been at the forefront dealing with many of them.
It was a fascinating sit-down, and people were fascinated hearing him and have requested to hear it, off and on, ever since. So we have put together three sound bites, actually four sound bites, from that interview with Pop, that’s what we all called him, he’s Rush Limbaugh Sr., and that is coming up as well. Plus we’re gonna mix it in with everything that’s current and happening today, so it’s gonna be a hodgepodge, and it’s improv. Nothing’s planned. I don’t know when I’m gonna do what so you’re gonna have to listen to the whole three hours to find out what happens and what we do here.
I don’t often look back. I don’t often spend time thinking about the past, because I’m so focused on the next day. And I’m obsessed with meeting everybody’s expectations every day, and there are many days where I think I haven’t been nearly as good as I could have been, so I look to the next day to fix that, get better. So I don’t sit back and reflect. When I was younger and climbing my own ladder, one of the great perks of my success has been to meet other successful people, people who are the best as what they do. I haven’t met everybody I would like to meet, but I’ve met a number of them, and a number of them became very good friends and I was able to get very close and learn from them.
I asked the question to each and every one of them, because when I was younger and imagining what it was like, when I was younger and imagining the kind of success I envisioned for myself, the kind of success that I wanted — and it was specific — I was aiming to be number one. I didn’t want to be top five. I wanted it to be real. I wanted to be number one because my audience was the largest, not because a bunch of PR or buzz, people saying that it was big, but not really being big. I wanted it to be substantively the biggest. And I moved to New York in 1988 with that objective. In those days, when I imagined what it would be like if I ever did succeed and get there, I had the chance to talk to people who in my view had made it to the pinnacle of what they did, and I asked each of them a question, among other things.
But I asked them if at night when the house lights were down and everybody had gone to bed, I asked them if they ever sat around and thought about their success and what they meant to people and what their success and their careers had meant to the universe of people affected by what they did. And I don’t think there was a single exception to this, to a person, they all said no. And I believed them. Some people might fudge it and make it up, try to sound good, but I think these people, they were all serious. In fact, they all kind of pooh-poohed the notion, and they all said, in their own way, what I just said to you. They did not get nostalgic, and they did not sit and reflect on anything that had happened because they were always looking forward.
Now, I don’t sit around and reflect. I remember things in a nostalgic way because nostalgia has the magical component of always reminding you of good times. But I do look back on it. I do occasionally think of all the things, the getting fired seven times. In Missouri, my first job when the transmitter blew a tube and the owner didn’t seem to have any urgency about getting it replaced, I drove to St. Louis at age 16, scrounged up some money to buy a tube and drove back down and had somebody put the tube — it’s a big vacuum tube — in the transmitter so that the radio station could go back on the air. I skipped the last month of my senior year in school to spend time at the radio station. I mean, you couldn’t keep me out of it when I was 16, 17, 18.
But then I left home, went to Pittsburgh. I think back on what I do consider to be hard work, and now at age 62, I look back on it, and I ask myself, “Could I do that all over again?” If something necessitated me, if this all blew up and I had to do that all over again, could I? There’s something about youth and there’s something about inexperience and the desire to acquire it that none of that — I mean some of it was tough and some of it was arduous and long hours and all that, but I do think, “Could I do that again?”
I asked Brett, my friend George Brett the other day. You know, George has gone back to a uniformed position with the Royals, hitting coach. George Brett played baseball I don’t know how many years, but he was a Hall of Fame third baseman, one of the greatest hitters of all time. He worked incredibly hard at it. I talked to him, “Do you think you could do it all over again?” He said, “Well, yeah, if you take me back, and I’m that age, yeah, I’d do it again. But starting now doing it all over again? I can’t even imagine.” I’m the same way. I can’t imagine. I can’t believe some of the things I did. I don’t mean out-of-bounds things. I don’t mean anything that was risque or inappropriate. My degree of commitment, some things that I did — and I’m not quite expressing this properly. But that’s what I reflect on.
It was a considerable amount of hard work, and at every step along the way — and this is true for everybody — at every step along the way there were people who said, “You can’t do it. You’re not good enough.” And that happened to me. I can’t tell you how many times I was told that. That’s not unique. It happens to many people. And I never listened to any of them. I continued to plod on, against all these so-called odds, against all of the experts.
I had a senior executive at ABC Radio tell me in 1972, “If you want to stay in this business, you had better go into sales, because you just don’t have the talent. You’re never gonna make it.” It turns out I had made him mad one day on the radio with something I’d done, and that was his way to get back at me. But the point is, I never listened to the naysayers.
It’s always seductive to hang around people who have failed at something and have them tell you how mean the business is — whatever your business is — and how unfair it is and how they got screwed by a bunch of people that didn’t care. It’s easy to find failures, and it’s easy to be seduced by failure. It’s much easier to think, “Well, everybody else has failed; no big deal if I do,” than to ignore that and plod on the other way.
It takes love and passion for what you do to overcome that. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was gonna be irreparably harmed if I continued to hang around failures, because they were not interested in anybody else succeeding, obviously. Psychologically. So I made beelines for people who had succeeded and tried to hang around them or get to know them and learn from them.
But I don’t sit at night and reflect on what has happened, other than when I imagine the daunting challenge of doing it all over again. And then I say to myself, “Gee, that is just…” Don’t misunderstand; I’m not talking about how unique or special I was. It was just tunnel vision. It’s all I cared about. It’s all I did. There were no distractions or diversions from it. The mental focus is what I guess I’m really talking about.
Do I have, at age 62, the ability to have that kind of mental focus? Yeah, I do because I still do now. But the idea that, “Oh, gosh, I’d have to do it for 30 more years to get back here?” Ugh! But that little recounting of history, the only reason I mention any of it is because that’s the closest I get to reflecting on anything. ‘Cause, like all these other people I’ve asked who are successful in their own way…
They, too, answered the question like I do now — legitimately, by the way, and honestly. They’re always thinking the next day. They’re always thinking the next requirement, challenge or what have you. Now, you probably have heard people say that it’s more fun getting where you’re going than it is once you’ve gotten there — and I understand that to an extent, too.
What is meant by that is that when you’re on the way, it’s perfectly fine to have a couple slips off the ladder. It’s perfectly fine to have a failure here or there. It’s perfectly fine. And when you’re on your way up, nobody’s gunning for you. But when you get to where you’re going and if others perceive where you are to be the pinnacle, then whole focus changes and everybody’s after you. And in a legitimate sense.
It’s a legitimate, competitive sense. I’m not complaining. That makes staying where you are harder than getting there ever was. But one of the things… I do tell this to people a lot. One of the things that I’m most proud of in all of this is this. The business side of this has been one of the proudest things, and it’s also one of the least reported: 1988’s when I started, and there was no alternative media. The only cable news outlet was CNN.
It wasn’t until the mid-nineties that I was joined by other people nationally doing conservatism in the media. Fox News didn’t start ’til 1996. Prior that had to the blogosphere got going but not much before that because the Internet had not yet blossomed. Talk radio was starting to build out. Many of the first guest hosts of this program ended up getting their own shows, locally and nationally.
What has happened is, in that sense, radio broadcasting’s a business. There was a pie, an economic pie that existed in 1988. And then I moved in and wanted my piece of it. And that pie ended up expanding incredibly. Entire new markets were created as a result of the success of this program. Which is good. Don’t misunderstand. The thing that I’m proud of is that while all of that happened, I didn’t lose any audience.
This program did not get cannibalized by any of the success that it spawned. So there’s a whole new market — conservative alternative media — on the Internet, on television, and on radio. It’s been a financial boon for a lot of people, and it’s been profoundly successful. And the reason that I haven’t lost any audience is all because of you, you people and your undying loyalty and your bond that you have with this program.
That’s something that can’t be said by too many people — or businesses, rather — that inspire growth in the area where they are leading the expansion. They all end up getting cannibalized. The iPad Mini cannibalized the major iPad, the big iPad. It couldn’t not do that because it’s smaller and it’s cheaper price. This program hasn’t been cannibalized. We kept growing. We did not get smaller. It’s just stunning. It’s amazing. And an entire industry was brought along with it.
That’s how thirsty and hungry the American population was for conservatism in the media.
RUSH: Now, folks, I went a little long in the opening monologue, but I don’t phone it in here like Anthony Weiner does. I just go for the whole thing, and there are just a couple of other things that I want to explain about the early days of this program and the obstacles that I had to overcome. Now, they were not unique. What I had been doing today had been tried. It was the daytime. That was the key. But it had never worked.
It had never worked. This was the first time it had. So when I tried it, industry experts wished me well, but they didn’t expect it to work because there was a guiding principle back then in radio (this is 1988) that it had to be local. You had to be talking about local issues. You had to have local guests, and you had to have a local phone number for people — and if you didn’t, in the daytime, people didn’t care outside their communities.
It wasn’t gonna work.
And yet it did.
RUSH: If you’re just joining us, we’re doing a mixture program today, and as is always the case, nothing structured here, other than formatically, but content-wise it’s all improv, and we’re gonna mix reflections from the past 25 years, audio sound bites from past 25 years, and we’ll eventually get to the important things that we want to talk about that are happening today.
So it was August 1st, 1988, but before I got there — I was in New York — before I got there, I had to get, you know, a lot of breaks. And it’s dangerous, risky, when you start mentioning people that have helped you along the way because success has many fathers. Failure is an orphan. But whenever there is success, there all kinds of people who want to touch it. In my case, there were a lot of people, and I can’t mention them all, and I don’t mean to slight anybody by leaving them out. But the first name that I would mention, Little Willie Brian, who gave me my first ever radio job at age 16, having not ever done it, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. He’s a well known raconteur in our little town. Little Willie, we called him. He was a radio personality himself, and he owned this little radio station.
Norman Woodruff was a broadcast consultant from San Francisco who I met when I was about to get fired for the fourth time in Kansas City in 1983. He was consulting a station there. And, sure enough, I got fired because of a commentary I did about Jesse Jackson and Gary Hart in the ’84 Democrat presidential primaries. And by today’s standard, it was nothing. I mean, all I did was express an opinion. Back then you did not do that. You did not. They called me on the carpet. I said, “Well, Peter Jennings does.” “No, he doesn’t.” “Yes, he does, every night. Why can’t I?” “You can’t. You’re gone.”
Two weeks out of work and I get a call from Woodruff asking me, “How would you like to be a star in California?”
“California. Wow. Ooh, I’ve never been there.”
Now, in radio when you hear California, you think San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego. So I waited. Which of those three was it gonna be? And he would not tell me what city until I had said yes, which told me immediately it wasn’t one of those three. It turned out to be Sacramento, California, and he consulted that station, KFBK. Sacramento became, as you all know by now, my adopted hometown. But that was 1984, and I started in radio 1967. In 1984, that was the first time after all those years, the first time anybody ever really let me do a radio show the way I wanted or thought it should be done, first time. From 1967 to ’84, what is that, 17 years?
And that led to meeting another consultant named Bruce Marr, who was instrumental at that stage because the radio show succeeded there, and there were pressures to change the show. “You gotta do guests. You can’t do a show without guests. Every talk show’s gotta have guests.” I said, “I don’t want guests precisely because every other show has guests.” But I said the main reason I don’t want guests is because they’re not interested in whether or not my show succeeds. So why should I turn over hours and hours and hours of my show to people that don’t care about it, other than how it might help them sell their book? They’re gonna be on every other radio station and radio show. I don’t need it. And it was Bruce Marr who ran interference for me and made sure that the local management did not force me to change the way I was doing it.
That led — you talk about a confluence of events — to Edward McLaughlin, who was the president of the ABC Radio networks. Short version of this. When Capital Cities merged with ABC, a lot of the ABC executives were given retirement packages as the Cap Cities people were installed in management positions. And one of Mr. McLaughlin’s exit package items was they gave him two hours of satellite time from noon to two. They said, “This is yours, and you can do with it whatever you want. You can put whoever you want in there, and you can sell it, monetize it, however.”
So, Ed knew these people in California. They had told him about me. Unbeknownst to me, he’s in town listening, and it led to my going to New York. This is no longer applicable in radio, but in syndication you have to be in the number one market. Your sponsor’s commercials have to run in New York or you don’t have a prayer. It’s all academic if that’s not the case. And that’s still true today. But there was nobody in New York that was gonna take a national show because back then, as I said, everything had to be local. Local numbers, local guests, local hosts, local issues, nobody was interested, particularly people in New York who had never heard of me.
So McLaughlin had to pull strings and get me a local-only show in New York on WABC, and when that show was over I went to a different studio and did the two-hour national show. This was for the first two or three years. In order to quote, go national, I had to do an exclusively local New York show for two hours, and WABC agreed to run our national commercials in my show, and that’s how we were able to tell our advertisers that their spots were gonna be heard in New York. That’s how hard it was. I mean, there was no other way.
I had to do two radio shows, four hours a day. I’m not complaining about it, but it’s not even a factor today. Today people end up — this is what I mean about the pie growing. People end up with syndicated radio shows who’ve never done it, whether they’re on in New York doesn’t matter, because the pie’s gotten big enough now that they can all make it to a certain extent, survive it. But this was not the case back then and back then nobody ever thought this would work because of this local, local, local angle. But it did. For two months I just did a New York-only show. July 4th is when I actually started. New York only on WABC. And then I did a local show for Sacramento after that, so it was four hours. I did two hours local New York, and then two hours for KFBK only, for two months.
Then on August 1st the national show started and the Sacramento station picked it up. New York didn’t, so I’m still doing two shows, and that went on for two or three years. But it worked, and why did it work when it had never worked before? You know, syndicated radio was a success only at night. And that was ’cause nobody listens at night, or did then. So that’s when syndication programs aired, was at night, because when television came on, homes using TV, HUT levels went way up, radio usage went way down so it made economic sense to syndicate some person that was not even in your radio station, take his show, run some local commercials and monetize it that way. But in daytime no way was that gonna happen. Radio stations made their nut in the daytime.
They were not gonna give up three hours of daytime for a national program. But it all ended up working, and I’ll leave it for others to explain why. I’ve always believed it’s content. When I had people telling me that it wouldn’t work, I said, “Well, how come Donahue does?” Donahue’s got a national TV show, and people don’t care where it comes from, people don’ts care where he is, whether he’s in Cincinnati or New York. What does it matter? Why does it matter in radio, it doesn’t matter in TV. “Radio’s a much more local –” and it is, by the way. A good radio program will establish a far deeper and far more personal connection with an audience than any TV show ever can. And the reason for that is there’s no pictures on radio. The host has to make the picture. The audience has to imagine the picture, paint their own picture with the help of the host. TV provides the picture. There goes half your imagination. There goes half your attention span. That’s another reason why I love radio so much more, because the connection you can have is much more intimate. It’s a much more intimate, deep connection to people than television can be. Television is like music in an elevator. It will be on in a room, everybody might be watching, some might be, others are doing other things, they’re just hearing it. A good radio show, that’s all you do is listen to it. You turn everything else down so you can hear it. The only way you can get it all is to really focus, and the content just has to be good. And if it’s good — it’s what I always believed — then people won’t care where it comes from.
I never believed that radio listeners actively said to themselves, “I’m not listening to something that doesn’t come from my town,” because they did at night and they didn’t care where it came from. So I had to shoot that formulaic belief to smithereens, and did, and the rest is history. So that’s just a brief recap of how it happened: Key people who took great risks, and it was a risk. I mean Mr. McLaughlin’s given two hours of satellite time.
And he puts a no-name on? And it was. It was fun. You know, all kinds of excrement started hitting the fan. (chuckling) Ed never planned on any of that. Ed had 200 radio stations and they were producing a little income and fine, but my ambition was not 200 radio stations, it was 600, it was 1200, whatever. But everybody involved hung in there. Everybody. My family’s always hung in there. Everybody has always hung in with me.
My gratitude goes so deep for so many, I couldn’t possibly mention them all to you.
That’s a brief recap. So we’ll take a break and we’ll come back and get started with what I call all the rest of the program, including your phone calls today. Mr. Snerdley, we’ll do a modified version of Open Line Friday, it’s only Thursday. So if you have a question or comment about anything, feel free.