Thursday, April 22, 2004

Truckin' Bozo's buggin' out for good



By John Johnston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo]
Dale Sommers
Dale Sommers, host of the popular Truckin' Bozo overnight program on WLW-AM, has retired for health reasons.

His last full day on the air was last Thursday, but Sommers, 60, returned to the air Wednesday to say goodbye to listeners.

"It came to the point where I'm in so much pain, I can't do (the show) anymore," Sommers said from his home in Crystal River, Fla. He suffers from several maladies, including insulin-dependent diabetes and Addison's disease.

His 39-year-old son, Steve Sommers, who has worked with his father the past eight years, now takes over the Truckin' Bozo microphone Monday through Friday.

The retirement closes a 45-year career in radio. For the past 20 years, Sommers, who was born in Tennessee and moved to Cincinnati at age 13, has entertained truckers nightly from midnight to 5 a.m. on WLW. The station's strong signal, a network of about a dozen stations established through Clear Channel radio, and satellite radio allowed him to build a national fan base.

Long-haulers loved listening to Sommers in the wee hours. Before the days of cell phones, they would call him from rest areas and truck stops. Sometimes, just to offer a hello, sometimes, in need of help.

Sommers has helped solve several crimes. In 1986, he was chatting off-air with a regular caller known as "Mississippi Lady," who was at a 24-hour convenience store near Camilla, Ga. Sommers heard her tell someone, "You can't come back here." The woman then hung up.

Sommers called Camilla police, who knew a store clerk with that nickname. Within minutes, the robber was caught.

Before becoming the Truckin' Bozo, Sommers worked for several local radio stations, and elsewhere nationally, including Kansas City, Evansville, Ind., and Indianapolis.

Sommers' nickname reportedly came from his former boss at WLW, Randy Michaels. During a station remodeling, Michael saw Sommers kick a wall whose supports had been removed. The panel crashed across a desk.

"God, you're a bozo," Michaels said.

The name stuck.

E-mail jjohnston@enquirer.com




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