Charlie Tuna cannot be dead.
The last conversation we had he was 25 – and holding.
Yet, Charlie (aka Art Ferguson) passed away at the age of 71.
This one really hits close to home because what I admired most about Charlie was how relevant he remained right up until the end.
I cannot make that statement about a lot of people no matter how much I admire them.
Let me tell you why.
In our conversations, which could go on for hours, Charlie was fascinated by our shared view that air personalities must remain relevant to succeed.
Up until last year Charlie was a fantastic weekend jock on CBS’ K-Earth 101 and he previously was the morning fill in. There was no let down in the ratings when Charlie subbed.
He worked the Internet like a Millennial looking for relevant material that would transcend the older audience that a classic hits station like K-Earth attracts.
Charlie was fascinated with my view that radio people must stay relevant and work in the present or as I used to say to him, “we can always go to a reunion if we want to live in the past”.
We traded Drake stories, Drew stories and anything that had to do with radio’s second golden age.
He tried material out over the phone with me.
And when Cumulus’ Westwood One screwed over their format subscribers, Charlie worked to provide quality replacement options – something he did primarily up until the day he died.
He was a family man.
Charlie shared a story of how he grew up in a town where the soon to become legendary Dr. Don Rose was the morning personality – an earlier, positive role model.
Charlie was so much more savvy than Bob Pittman or Lew Dickey when it came to understanding today’s audiences. I dare say that most of his listeners never knew his real age.
The family news release concerning his death described a life well lived – and it was that.
He was recognized, honored, appreciated and he lived in real time in Los Angeles, the market that was closest to his heart.
To me Charlie Tuna wins the highest praise I could give a person in the industry we love.
I can always look to someone’s achievements and that’s more than enough.
But it’s rare when I can add that I will always remember Charlie Tuna because his mission was to remain relevant – and he succeeded.
What an inspiration for me, perhaps you and hopefully the radio companies who are resting on their pasts when the future is so enticing.
Will miss you, buddy.
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