Monday, October 12, 2009


"Legendary Radio Personality Visits Bexley Public Radio, WCRX-LP, 102.1 FM" by Dianne Garrett.

Gary Burbank spent 25 years entertaining audiences all over the country on 700 WLW, Cincinnati. John Matuszak and myself conducted a special edition of "Eastside News Round Up." Burbank entertained WCRX listeners and hosts during a phone interview October 22. We continued the fun in the evening at Barnes and Noble in the Lennox Town Center with Gary and Greg Hoard, who penned the Gary's biography, "Voices in My Head".

I met Gary a little over a year ago when he performed his original music and comedy with a friend of mine at a concert in Fairfield. It was an unbelievable night. Being a southwest Ohio native, I'm no stranger to his show and humor. Talking with him after the performance was a treat. Gary is a laid back, friendly guy who grew up a dreamer, which he attributes to his ability to perceive things differently from the general population.

Left to right: Greg Hoard, Dianne Garrett, Gary Burbank and John Matuszak

He was in town promoting his biography, "Voices in My Head", written by Greg Hoard. Besides our show, he signed his book at Barnes and Noble, Lennox Center, 1739 Olentangy River Road at 7 p.m.

Gary is described on the book jacket as the most fortunate man alive. Born Billy Purser in Memphis, this most fortunate man had only one job his entire life--entertaining. He began with the small audience of his perplexed family, expanded through his schoolyard, the army and then torched a round of undermanned radio outposts in the Deep South.

He was called "The Mouth That Ate America, "The town cowlick"...the guy from college who ate bugs for money. He was begat by Ernie Kovacs and Jonathan Winters, a kind of juiced-up, down-home Garrison Keillor, if the place had been called Swamp Woebegon.

Greg Hoard lays out Gary's beginnings in the blues and honky-tonk culture of mid-century Memphis, moving on to a rousing cast of characters including (but not limited to) Elvis Presley, Luis Aparicio, Whispering Bill Anderson, a monkey named Phyllis Chapman, various musicians and gospel singer J. R. Ewing, and a crowd of most happily deranged DJs in radio history.

What emerges is a hilarious, fantastical behind-the-scenes picture of a world that has all but disappeared--an airwave universe in which Gary created a cast of characters so vivid and gleefully real, they populated their own deranged country.

For nearly a quarter of a century, these charactres spilled out of Gary's imagination (and that of his zany stable of writers) until they became household words all over the powerful WLW bandwidth: perpetually befuddled Gilbert Gnarley, bombastic Reverend Deuteronomy Skaggs, irascible Earl Pitts, tranvestite anchorman Dan Buckles, Ranger Bob, and all their unholy offspring.

What emerges most plainly from Hoard's colorful story is the piece of remarkable craft that is Gary's creation--himself. At once talebearer, skit-maker, provocateur, and social critic, Burbank was doing schtick before anybody around him--including himself--knew what he was doing. Then he kept on doing it, gaining over more originality and control.

Possessed by the voices in his head, Burbank blew himself--and them--across the bandwidth, a nova of original comedy and comment. Hoard's careful recording of Burbank and his voices, imbedded in Hoard's own cinematic narrative, is one interconnected bit of exhilirating schtick. All of it bears joyful testimony to Burbank's talents as an American original.

Read about how Gary avoided doing any duties in the army by carrying around a paint brush. Learn how Gary's character, Earl Pitts, saved a Cincinnati celebrity from getting beaten up by a gang of angry bikers. Get to know Gary's pet monkey, Phyllis Chapman. Find out who dumped a truckload of manure in Gary's driveway and why.

"Voices in My Head" is the funny and sometimes heartbreaking story of a man who just wanted to be himself.

The hardcover 350 page book is published by Orange Frazer Press, Wilmington, Ohio, and sells for $27.95. You can order it online by logging on to, and it is available at Barnes and Noble.

About The Author:
Greg Hoard started writing for the "Cincinnati Post" sports department in 1979 as a feature writer and columnist. He joined "Cincinnati Enquirer" in 1984 as the Reds beat writer. He received numerous writing awards in Ohio and Indiana. Hoard exited the world of journalism for television in 1990 to work for WLWT until 1993. He then joined Fox19 as sports director. Hoard has since left television, and is also the author of "JOE: Rounding Third and Heading For Home".

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