WCCO’s Roger Erickson dead at 89

Good morning!

There aren’t many radio pioneers left and few people fit the characterization like Roger Erickson, who has died at 89.

Generations are growing up now, having no idea of the glue that people like Erickson and his long-time radio partner Charlie Boone, provided to make a community a community. But generations of people, also declining in number, did. At one point, half of all radios in Minnesota were tuned to WCCO.

Their signature “good morning” song was the official start of a Minnesota day.

Erickson grew up a “farm kid” in Winthrop, Minn., and, like a lot of radio pioneers of the day, wanted a career in theater. He joined WCCO in 1959 and, also like a lot of radio pioneers, played Bozo the Clown on TV.

But that voice — the deepest baritone in the Midwest — was all radio.

After joining WCCO from a Stillwater radio station, he was given an afternoon show at the conclusion of the daily radio soap operas.

But it was his eventual morning teaming with Charlie Boone — when Maynard Speece retired — that created legendary radio in the Midwest.

“He was a Minnesotan through and through, and loved to laugh at life in Minnesota, especially in winter,” former WCCO managing editor Steve Murphy told Morning Edition host Cathy Wurzer this morning. “He’d go on the air in the morning, and give us the windshield index, not the wind chill index — telling us whether or not we could get the ice off the windshield with a credit card.”

“What’s the secret to lasting 50 years together?” Cathy Wurzer asked him once on TPT’s Almanac.

“Wake up before you go on the air,” he said.

They held a record for the longest-running radio program by a duo.

Their signature skit on their show was “Minnesota Hospital,” which was originally conceived when WCCO listeners were outraged that CBS canceled the top soap radio soap opera of the day, “The Romance of Helen Trent”.

“We decided we would start a radio drama featuring Helen and Gil Whitney, only it would be a hospital setting. And people quieted down,” he said.

Boone died in 2015.

He made school closing announcements an “art form”, the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame said on its website. Erickson was a charter entrant into the Hall of Fame in 2001.

He reportedly joked that his headstone would read, “Roger Erickson, two hours delayed, now closed.”