On the Radio: He may be gone, but the signal and his memory will last forever

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By: Art Vuolo, Jr.

On The RadioIt is with great sadness that I report the passing of Ed, Buterbaugh (pronounced Boo-ter-baw), one of the greatest and most respected chief engineers in the radio industry. Ed, who we reported on in this column several weeks ago, was suffering from bladder cancer that was diagnosed right around the time that he retired from a twenty year stint as the chief of engineering at WJR. While at CKLW, Ed was the mastermind behind the big booming sound of the station in its hey-day as "The Big 8." The signal that he fine-tuned from a cluster of five towers in rural Harrow, Ontario, was legendary. He lived only a few miles from that transmitter site. In 1984 he remodeled all of the studios at CKLW at a time when AM 800 had a morning show hosted by Erin Davis and Paul W. Smith, prior to Paul joining WJR on a full-time basis, which happened a decade later.

In 1987, Ed oversaw the renovation of WJR, located on the upper floors of the Fisher Building, to new state-of-the-art studios. It was the first such up-grade at "The Great Voice of the Great Lakes" since the 1940's. Then around the turn of the century Buterbaugh helped with a major make-over at WJR as the station, along with their two FM stations (WDRQ 93.1) and (WDVD 96.3), moved from their lofty perch down to the seventh and eighth floors where they are to this day. Ed was also a genius behind the antenna running through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel so you could heard CKLW underwater! Later, when at WJR, he changed it to that station, which still exists today. Ed won the coveted Carl E. Lewis Award for radio engineers from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters (MAB), and Billboard Magazine Engineer of the Year Award. He was, in the words of Tina Turner, "Simply the Best!"

University of Michigan football fans will recall hearing Ed's name as he was credited by Frank Beckmann for engineering hundreds of games in the, soon to be replaced press box, at the stadium in Ann Arbor. Those duties are now the responsibility of WJR engineer Tony Butler, even though the games shifted three years ago from WJR over to WOMC-FM (104.3) and oddly enough CKLW-AM (800).

Family and friends can attend a visitation at the Gerald A. Smith Funeral Home at 197 King Street West, in Harrow, Ontario, Thursday afternoon 3-5 pm and evening 7-9 pm September 4th, with the funeral service scheduled for 10 a.m. on Friday the 5th at the Harrow United Church, 45 Munger Street in Harrow, Ontario, Canada. Cards can be sent to his wife Pam at PO Box 1107, Harrow, Ontario Canada N0R 1G0...or you can e-mail: buter@xplornet.com.

Interestingly, Ed did get to see the Michigan vs. Utah game in its entirety last Saturday. I mentioned to his wife that both Ed and the late longtime voice of the Wolverines, Bob Ufer, had to witness a loss as their last game. Ironically BOTH games were losses by just two points. Ufer's last game was a loss against Iowa 9 to 7 and Saturday's loss was to Utah 25 to 23. Fortunately, I along with his engineering friend from L.A.,Greg Oganowski, visited Ed at his home a little over a month ago. Close friend Jo-Jo Shutty-MacGregor, wife of the late CKLW news icon Byron MacGregor also saw Ed at a Windsor hospital just a few weeks ago. Ed, will be missed dearly but, his memory and the signal will go on forever.

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Speaking of Michigan Football did anyone hear the outrageously funny line uttered by Frank Beckmann when a questionable call failed to be overturned even after a video review. A stunned Beckmann said...."that was a terrible call...you would have to be blind or Brigham Young not to see that the ball popped out after he was down." Watching the games on TV, while listening to the radio broadcast, is still a far better experience than listening to the "supposedly" non-partisan national announcers. Beckmann and (Jim) Brandstatter, along with Doug Karsch on the field, do a superb job. Sadly synchronization between the picture and sound can be annoying. HD telecasts are delayed even more causing most people to hear the radio call 5 to 10 seconds prior to seeing the action on the screen.

While at the "pardon our dust" Big House in Ann Arbor, I was surprised to see a sign at the concession stands indicating that they accepted "BLUE BUCKS." I learned this is a type of credit card students are issued that can be used to purchase snacks at the stadium. Did anybody think about a sign at the U of M Football Stadium that included the word "BUCKS?" Isn't the biggest rival to Michigan the Ohio State Buckeyes? Isn't their battle cry "GO BUCKS?" Why not call it "Maize Money?" Some might feel the maize reference to be corny, but I think it's creative. Is there still room for creativity? I hope so.

 • • • • • • • • 

WOMC's Dick Purtan, along with his daughter, Channel 7's Joanne Purtan, did a great job on the local segments of the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon at My 20 TV on Labor Day. Viewers in southeast Michigan helped raise an incredible 1.7 million dollars. Interestingly, Dick topped 2 million for his favorite cause, the Salvation Army Bed & Breakfast Plan. Nationally, Jerry's kids will benefit from a staggering 65 million dollars raised across the country, and that was while Hurricane Gustav was beating up on the gulf coast.

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Late Sunday night when the situation in New Orleans was becoming very serious, I tuned to WWL-AM 870 on the Internet so I could feel connected to what was going on. It is amazing how you can dial up almost any big news-talk station anywhere when a major new story is happening in their area. When I was a kid, it was cool to spin the AM dial late at night and see what distant stations I could pull in. Now, with a computer, you can hear anything from nearly anywhere with no static, no fading in and out and probably clearer than you could even in the city from where it actually broadcasts! Very neat stuff...and just wait till the wireless Internet is available in cars. Yikes.

 • • • • • • • • 

Apologies for the low volume of local news, but things have been slow on the Detroit radio dial, and your humble radio reporter has been on the road and buzzing around the country on far too many airplanes of late. I have been to five major radio conventions thus far this year and there are still two more to go, but they are done in tandem. The National Association of Broadcasters Radio Show and the Radio & Records Convention have teamed up together for the NAB/R&R Combo which, this month, will be in Austin, TX, home of the always controversial Gregg Henson, who still secretly would probably want to return to the local Detroit radio dial.

 • • • • • • • • 

I'll be listening and learning and reporting to you in this space in the very near future.

 • • • • • • • • 

Art Vuolo has published the Radio Guide for more than 30 years and runs Vuolovideo.com. Contact him at artvuolo@aol.com.



I just heard of Ed's passing about an hour ago, and as I type this, his funeral service is taking place. I am so sorry I can not be there (I live in Pittsburgh now).

Ed gave me my first job in radio -- mowing the lawn at WJR's transmitter, right out of high school. Then he trusted me to do Wolverines and Lions engineering, and remotes -- which ultimately that led me to a couple gigs at the Olympics.

He trusted a lot of people over his career - and empowered them. He helped so many people grow in their capabilities, to realize skills and abilities they didn't even know they had -- but he knew. And wow, did Ed always have sharp, quick sense of humor. Even when we're in the trenches with technical issues and live at some far-flung remote, he could still make everyone smile.

Lots of thoughts and memories going through my head now, of the years of work I did for and with Ed.

I first learned what it was like to be at the controls for millions of listeners, thanks to Ed. I first enjoyed Kahlua in coffee with Ed (and a few beers), after a Michigan game in Ann Arbor (I wasn't 21 yet). I learned about the importance of showing up on time, from Ed. And about how to enjoy long remotes... and about so many, many things -- he was an excellent teacher.

Last time I saw Ed was in September of 2001, when he gave me a tour of the new 7th floor studios. He was rightfully proud of them, and they were yet another world-class project he lead.

Art Vuolo, Jr. -- you are a lucky person for having seen him so recently. I hope he was in great spirits, as I remember him.

As I am sure we will all remember him.

Thanks Ed, for so much.






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This page contains a single entry by Mike Austerman published on September 2, 2008 7:37 AM.

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