The Bob Barker of Dayton radio
By Jim Bucher
Photo: Rick LaBeau handling the hosting duties for the weekly broadcast of Mix 107.7’s Saturday Night Mix; photo credit: Rick LaBeau
If Rick LaBeau were on a baseball team, he’d be called a utility player. You know, a guy that can pinch hit, run bases and play almost any position without a hitch. Well, down at the Clear Channel studios, Rick does the same – but without the baseball and bat.
He’s been on and off air there for over twenty years, but it all started way before that.
“I got interested in radio in college and after that began my career at a good station in Flint, Michigan. My first job was producing a talk show, then I got my own radio show but I didn’t care about DJ-ing as much as writing and performing comedy bits on-air,” LaBeau said. (This is why Rick and I hit it off; it’s all about the comedy!)
He makes an impression and does comedy bits, too, for co-workers at the station. Doreen – who is a radio personality for Mix 107.7 and Lite 94.5 – described him this way, “He is a medium-sized guy with a big heart and an even bigger sense of humor! Not only is he a good friend and co-worker, but he’s the second funniest man on the planet; second only to Conan O’Brian.” (Hey Doreen, what about me?)
Many know Rick from the popular Saturday Night Mix, live from Julia’s Night Club behind the Dayton Mall. He’s been at that gig for 22 years.
“Oh my gosh, I just calculated that I’ve done over one thousand shows that Mix 107.7 has broadcast and over thirteen hundred total since 1988,” LaBeau said.
Now, if the math doesn’t add up that’s because the first couple of years someone else handled the broadcast chores. Rick’s been hosting since 1991.
“When I came to town back then, the former host was tiring of it, so they asked me to ‘fill in’ for the next 22 years. I’m kidding there, but I never looked back,” Rick continued.
Eventually Rick was joined by a friend he knew, DJ Tim Dylan. Saturday Night Mix had many incarnations and numerous locations until Rick had a bright idea, like a light bulb turning on – think reflective mirror ball.
“We tried to convince the program director that it was time to bring back disco, but he didn’t like the idea until he went to a radio conference and was told that disco was the perfect thing for a retro show. When he returned, he ordered us to play disco and then it was the greatest idea ever,” LaBeau said.
The show became a hit and was like radio of old where most programming was live, broadcasting from theatres and dance halls.
“It’s a great time. It’s live and we make it fun. DJ Tim spins the tunes and we have contests like our ‘grab for cash money pit.’ We hand out prizes but now we play just a little disco and more ‘80s, ‘90s and new millennium music,” LaBeau said.
Technically, though, it’s not all the way live for good reason.
“We pretty much watch the crowd, but a few years ago we had our share of people cursing into the mic, that’s why we’re on a 14-second delay,” LaBeau said with a chuckle.
But even with a delay, something is bound to happen in live radio. Rick has plenty of stories in his 22 years.
“You mean like the girl who fell backwards into the DJ booth last month? Also, there was the January snowstorm in 1999 when police closed the roads, but we still had to do the show so something would be on the air.”
But, the show must go on and even a regular wouldn’t let a silly snowstorm get in the way of her fun.
“Our friend Karen braved the weather, so we did the show for her and the listeners at home.”
So, what is the crowd like on a typical Saturday night? Rick says it’s a nice Mix!
“We get people of all ages and types. Some are regulars, some hit different clubs and, of course, we have people that listen to the radio station that feel it’s a safe place to have a good time. Some of these folks might never go to a club otherwise,” Labeau said. “Currently there’s a guy we call the ‘Spin Doctor’ – a middle-aged man who does a great Michael Jackson spin. He puts on a show,” he added. (Thanks, Rick, for the nice compliment.)
After 22 years at the helm, Rick says he’s happy spending every Saturday night with friends and will keep doing it as long as listeners tune in and people show up.
“I get asked all the time if I ever get tired of it and my answer is ‘no,’” LaBeau said. “When the place is packed, like now, there’s energy in the joint; the enthusiasm comes back and I feed off that. As far as I know, it’s the only show like it in the country. Everything but the commercials originates from the club, and I don’t think it would still be going strong if it didn’t have the nurturing that Tim and I put in it. I’ll be doing this in my walker.”
He’s even been compared to the former long-time host of a popular daytime game show.
“Yep, I had someone come in and say, ‘You’re the Bob Barker of Dayton.’”
Just remember Rick, have your pet spayed or neutered.
Saturday Night Mix can be heard every Saturday evening on Mix 107.7 beginning at 9 p.m. or show up in person at Julia’s Night Club at 8939 Kingsridge Dr. behind the Dayton Mall. Tell ‘em Buch sent you.
For more than 25 years, “Buch” has been a local television icon. Known and loved by thousands in the Miami Valley, his followers describe him as trust-worthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and a role model. When it comes to promoting your business, Buch has the ability to grab your customer’s attention. Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.