May 27, 2024

This Week in Amateur Radio

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Midwest Communications Founder Duke Wright Dies at 83

Wisconsin radio pioneer Duke Wright passed away December 21, 2022, at the age of 83. Wright built one of the largest family-run radio groups in the country, Midwest Communications, with more than 80 stations operating in nine states.

Born Duey Edward Wright Jr. in 1939, Duke was fascinated with radio from the time he was a boy. His parents owned a music store and Wright felt future lay either in music or radio. He played multiple instruments and hosted a weekly music show on WSAU-TV in Wausau, Wis., at the age of 15. While still a teenager, he also ran Northland Records, the label responsible for what’s considered the first rock ’n’ roll record recorded in Wisconsin, “Rock ’n Roll Saddles” by Johnny Edwards with the White Caps. Wright even filled in on bass during the 1957 recording.

In 1958, when Wright was 18, he began working on air at WRIG(AM) in Wausau, which his parents had purchased that June at Wright’s prodding and operated from a studio above their music store. Wright hosted a rock ’n’ roll chart show, which proved to be a success for the station, as well as for the sale of 45s in the music store.

After earning a business degree from the University of Wisconsin, he became general manager of WRIG and, in 1964, he launched WRIG-FM, which was the first FM station in Central Wisconsin.

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