In the summers of my fledgling teens, I relished staying up late -- just because I could. I finally had my own room, after bunking with my six-and-seven-years younger brother and sister for two interminable years. I now had a bed I didn't have to share and a transistor radio that I tucked under my pillow. I'd fully committed to country music at the behest of my newish best friend who was the girl singer in her brother's country band, and unlike me, she didn't try to hide her affinity for country music. Kids, especially when you're the new geek in school, frown on any deviation from the established norm. I'd already managed to fade into the stucco walls of my classroom; being ignored was better than ridicule and finger-pointing. So during the school year I pretended to still listen to The Ohio Express and Steppenwolf, but summers, ahhh. I could play my paltry collection of country albums without fear of embarrassment by day, take a long teen nap, then stay awake late enough to twirl my transistor dial to root out a clear channel country station that wasn't fading melodies shrouded in static, forcing me to wave my radio about like a madwoman, searching for a prime position. My local country station signed off at sundown each day, which was obviously at odds with my new July listening schedule.
Every once in a while I managed to tune in a country station out of Chicago that featured a female disc jockey, which was completely foreign to me, but the reception was erratic, so I kept looking. Then one night sometime after midnight, I found a station that came in clear as a cut diamond, and a man who announced, "From coast to coast, border to border, and then some". The guy wasn't flashy. He introduced the songs, shared a few personal tidbits about the artists, and shined the spotlight on them and them alone.
He didn't possess a laconic drawl like Bill Mack or the polished patter of Ralph Emery. He simply liked music and wanted you to like it, too.
From the time I discovered WHO in Des Moines, it was my go-to late night station and Mike Hoyer was my go-to guy. Many nights Mike did something unusual. Around two a.m. he pulled out a newly released album and played it all the way through, uninterrupted. It was something unheard of! What, no commercial breaks? "Truckers, stop by Jimmy Bob's Truck Stop for the best chicken fried steak this side of the 'ssippi! Don't ferget to punch yer Super-Savin' card for an extry two cents off per gallon!" It was a revelation hearing an album from start to finish. With my newly purchased LP's, I was an impatient listener. If a song didn't hit me after the first couple of lines, UP came the stylus, dropped onto the next track. But somehow hearing a complete album in the nighttide was soothing.
I stuck with Mike Hoyer as long as my summer nights kept me glued to that radio. He left WHO in 1971 and moved around a bit before ending his career at KFGO in Fargo, another AM station my dad tuned the car radio to whenever we drove through that part of the state.
He was a radio master and music was his muse. He even co-penned a hit country song with Jerry Chesnut, "Lookin' At The World Through A Windshield", which, by the by, is not an uncomplicated lyric by any measure. I bet it made ol' Jimmy Bob proud to hear it.
Mike Hoyer was inducted into the Country Music DJ Hall of Fame in 1995, years past his due.
The voices in the night were my music balm, and none of them more so than Mike Hoyer.