Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mark Stevens Of The Legendary Steven & Pruett Radio Duo Passes Away

The world has lost a really funny guy. Stevens and Pruett were the funniest two cats to ever be on the radio airwaves.

From the Houston Chronicle:

Mark Stevens, who with on-air partner Jim Pruett created what a colleague described as "radio magic" for Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth listeners for more than a quarter-century, died Tuesday from complications of Alzheimer's disease. He was 76.

Stevens spent 40 years in radio but enjoyed his greatest success in partnership with Pruett, first as Hudson and Harrigan at KILT (610 AM) beginning in 1974 and later under their own names at KULF-AM, KEGL-FM in Dallas-Fort Worth and KLOL (101.1 FM) in Houston.

At every stop along the way, he displayed the sense of humor and razor-sharp wit that remained with him throughout his struggle with Alzheimer's, said his wife, Melissa Stevens.

"His laugh was infectious, and people responded to that," she said. "He would laugh, and then everybody would laugh. Even through his illness, he had the caregivers laughing all the time. ... He handled (Alzheimer's) with dignity and grace."

Stevens left KLOL in February 2000, but Melissa Stevens said Houston listeners never forgot his voice.

"He would be in a grocery store and would say something, and people would say, 'Wait a minute, I know your voice,'" she said. "We have such good memories."

A member of the Texas Radio Hall of Fame, Stevens' radio career began in 1961 at KFJZ in Fort Worth. He also owned a clothing store and night clubs in Dallas-Fort Worth before he came in 1974 to Houston, where he began his partnership with Pruett.

"He was the driving wheel of the Stevens and Pruett show, the forward momentum that pushed it through," said former KLOL executive Pat Fant. "They made real magic, uncommon radio magic."

Pruett, who owns a Houston gun store, said, "I miss him already. It's a great loss for me and my family. We loved him."

The family has designated Alzheimer's Association and Houston Hospice for memorial contributions. Memorial services will be private.

I first heard Stevens and Pruett back in the 1970s when I had the misfortune to be working in Waco, Texas, something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy! Anyhow the local radio was absolutely horrendous. Flipping through the dial at work one day, I landed on KEGL, The Eagle, out of Dallas. I was hooked.

These guys pioneered what we now call "the morning zoo" style of radio. They were hilarious. They did characters and had all sorts of sound effects, and would influence a generation of "shock jocks" along the way.

Their two best characters were Waaaaaalter from Waaaaaaco, a rather "slow" fellow, who always had me in stitches, and of course Uncle Waldo. Uncle Waldo had a host of friends but Steven and Pruett got the most mileage out of Uncle Waldo's girlfriend Nimphia Scooterpie (Nu,Nu,Nu, Nimphia Scooterpie, if you will)

I remember many of those routines, but sadly, can't print them, if you know what I mean!

Actually, most of their stuff was incredibly tame by today's standards and was more innuendo than anything else. (Despite the video below being evidence to the contrary!) Combine the jokes with Stevens' Uncle Waldo voice though, and it was a riot.

Thankfully, Divine Providence intervened, and I found myself leaving Waco for a better life. Steven and Pruett would leave Dallas at around the same time and go to Houston, Texas and 101 FM, KLOL, on of the hottest radio stations in the area, and one we always listened to when in town.

In Houston the team reached iconic status.

More characters, more crazy, and of course Uncle Waldo and Nimphia Scooterpie!

Interesting trivia about the Uncle Waldo bits. They were all jokes sent in by listeners, then tuned into skits for the show.

They were always up for something though, and were totally non-politically correct. Anything, everything, and everyone was fare game. They weren't mean though. Not like some of the pretenders today.

When the new Houston Raceway Park opened and KLOL was helping promote the NHRA National Events every year, the duo started a funny bit. Now this was before everyone had cell phones, so it's even funnier. (picture people dragging their phones outside) They would have folks go out and rev up their hot rods, holding the phones to the tail pipes.

I know it may not sound funny on paper, but trust me, it got hilarious before it was over with. As I remember, tickets to the events were given away as prizes.

Anyhow, some great memories from some funny guys.

Godspeed Mark, I know you are already making some folks' sides hurt from the laughter up there in heaven.

Laurie Kendrick has a wonderful website posting dedicated to the show, if you'd like to learn more about these masters of the morning drive, which you can read here.

Laurie also put together a loving, and funny, tribute page here.

Neither may be all that safe for work!

The video below most certainly isn't!

This is an older Uncle Waldo bit, before Mark really got the voice perfected. It's the only thing on tape I can find, but it's noteworthy because they are hammering long time democrat Congressman Chet Edwards from Waco, who was rumored to be on Barack Obama's short list for V.P., and is now getting whipped like a rented mule by Republican Bill Flores in the polls! (who Sarah Palin recently gave a shout out to on Facebook)

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