Sommers’ radio career began in 1959 at Cincinnati’s WAEF-FM where he aired music of the big bands nightly from 7 till Midnight. He then jumped over to Country when Ray Pennington hired him as the afternoon drive time host at WCNW in suburban Cincinnati. Sommers used the name, Jim Young at the stint due largely to Pennington’s insistence that the name “just sounded country.”
He left WCNW after a year and then pulled stints at WJPS-Evansville, Ind, WCKY and WUBE in Cincinnati, WLAC in Nashville and according to Sommers own comments,”I worked at a total of 48 radio stations between 1959 and 1984. “I was known as a journeyman broadcaster and as a hard act to work with.”
In 2004, after celebrating 20 years at WLW, Sommers stepped down from the show due to health concerns, handing the microphone over to his son Steve, who had been doing the weekend version of the show for some time. The elder Sommers’ retirement was short-lived, though. After a five month break to recuperate, he signed on with XM Satellite Radio, broadcasting a three-hour daily show on SiriusXM’s Road Dog channel 106 from a studio in his Citrus Hills, Florida home.
Sommers was always adamant when asked if XM would be last job and he always answered that question by asking in return,
“who the hell is going to hire a 64 year old man who is in poor health and misses a few days off from time to time. I have converted over to a talk show host and don’t play music any longer but I still sound like I am only in my 30’s, so thank God my voice hasn’t been affected, but it I have any say in the matter….This is my last stop in a long career.
Sommers suffered from severe Addisons Disease, for which there is no cure and was being treated by ever increasing doses of steroids that help to keep the disease under control. In his later years Sommers was considered by those who were close to him to be a virtual recluse and was rarely seen out of his Florida or Cincinnati homes.
Cause of death has not been disclosed but it can be assumed it was from complications of the Addison’s Disease.
Whether you loved him as thousands of his fans over the years did, or hated him, he died a legend in his own mind, never attaining a coveted nomination to the Broadcasters Hall of Fame. But 52 years on the radio is an accomplishment few others can claim.
He was an irascible old bastard on the air. Opinionated, sarcastic, often wrong in his opinion of world and national politics but that was part of his appeal, to a mostly conservative audience and he had little tolerance for those who disagreed with his opinion of the air. But, over the years, he kept many of us awake on the long overnight hauls and for that we’re thankful for his life and his contribution to the trucking industry.
Services for Bruce Dale Sommers in addition to a memorial service for his friends and fans will be announced later.