Back in 1987, recently divorced and about to turn 30, I was looking for a change of scenery and that's how I found Burlington, Vermont. Along with radio veterans Louie Manno and the late Jim Condon, I found myself working at a hole-in-the-wall AM station, WKDR.

Louie Manno and Jim Condon Facebook Photo (used with permission)

As a side note, Manno and Condon, arguably the most talented duo I would ever know in more than 40 years in the business, eventually went on to buy the station and had tremendous success as independent owners of a local AM radio station. Both are Hall of Fame broadcasters.

Big changes were going on in radio back then. Government deregulation meant single and corporate owners could swallow up multiple stations in radio markets all over the country. Many of the rules that governed the broadcast industry were being relaxed. Syndication was coming of age. Ah, technology.

All of this wonderful technology meant the beginning of the end for broadcasting as we knew it. MTV had hatched and video indeed did kill the radio star.

Satellite meant that corporate could eliminate local programming and all the costs associated with employing local people. AM radio appeared to be doomed as the new radio station owners thought the only profits in radio were to be had on FM with its larger sound and wider reach.

Then we got a call one day from the West Coast. This guy named Rush Limbaugh was putting together a nationally syndicated talk program and was looking for affiliates. He had nothing to offer and was willing to barter. In other words, we could run the show for free and sell local commercial sponsorships as long as we played his ads as well.

Rush called me and the others at home several times back then to consult about our market's needs and whether we could be counted on to commit to his program. After all, Stan Lipp had been doing his Open Line program on WBSM in New Bedford and there were other shows like his, but nothing currently on the air was quite like what Rush Limbaugh was proposing to do: a hardcore, in-your-face conservative broadcast. Talk radio as we now know it was born and AM radio was saved from obscurity.

Rush Limbaugh had a vision and a purpose for what AM radio could be and he used it to draw many millions of new listeners to a medium that most had left for dead. Without Rush Limbaugh, there would be no talk radio as we know it.

Rush also brought conservatism and traditional American values back into vogue and taught many of us that it is okay to view America and Americans as exceptional. That honoring God, country, and freedom from government oppression never goes out of style. His contributions to our nation have been immeasurable.

Rush Limbaugh informed us on Monday that he has advanced lung cancer. Beating this will not be easy but if ever there was someone who could, it would be Rush.

Thank you for all you have done for America, Rush. We are praying for you and your family.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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