For the past 27 years, listeners have been more than just entertained by Mike “Roberts” Medenwald's broadcast on KBEC 1390 — they've become a friend.
Before his final broadcast Thursday, Medenwald said he worked every day to brighten the day of listeners by creating one-on-one conversations, sharing personal stories or fulfilling a song request.
“The first thing that I learned in broadcasting school is that this microphone is your friend and it is the only one that you have. You are talking to your friend, so you better have a smile on your face when you hit that switch,” Medenwald said. “So I thought that it was the best thing you could do. So I did.”
At an early age, Medenwald knew that he wanted to work in radio. This interest led him to enter broadcasting school in 1970, but he was forced to drop out after contracting tonsillitis. Medenwald returned to school in 1988 after serving in the U.S. Navy and working for defense contractor LTV. He came to Ellis County after working for KCLE in Cleburne.
Medenwald shared when he first started working at KBEC his time slot caused him to become creative to draw listeners to his evening show.
“I thought about quitting. So what I did I went into the production room, I was the only guy here, and I was kind of like the Lone Ranger. So I picked up the Lone Ranger theme and recorded that and played it,” Medenwald said. “This guy calls up and says, ‘Can you play that Lone Ranger theme again?’ I said, ‘I tell you what, you listen next Saturday and I will do it again at 6’o clock.’ Sure enough, he called back up. So I kept it. I have been using that for 27 years and end my show with 'Happy Trails.'"
Medenwald stated the community has grown on him over the years and considers them to be extended family members. He worked daily to form a relationship with his listeners, building it on a foundation of honesty.
“You build that trust and people know when you are not telling the truth. They can hear it in your voice. You always have to have a smile in your voice,” Medenwald said. “I have been here in Texas for 42 years. These people in Ellis County have taken me in and said, ‘you have a funny accent, but we love you anyways. It has been the most fabulous ride I’ve ever had.”
Medenwald stated listeners have shown him their support and kindness over the years. One moment that sticks out for him came in 2005 when he had tongue and throat cancer.
“I was not sure that I was going to be able to make it, but the people here are fabulous in helping,” Medenwald said. “They raised money to help me pay the bills. They have done a lot for me over the years. I started off with zero, and I think yesterday there were 3,100 likes. [on Facebook]”
Ken Roberts, KBEC programming director, shared the personality Medenwald projects on the air is the same one anywhere he goes.
“He has a really kind heart and has empathy with the listeners. He has always had the ability to connect with the listeners in a real personal way,” Roberts said. “Let me tell you there are a lot of people that work in radio for a long time that can’t do that.”
Roberts stated when people call into the station making a song request is secondary they want to talk to Mike because he is patient with them and has time for them.
“If they have problems they will call him and tell him what is going on,” Roberts said. “They really feel like they can confide in him.”
Jim Phillips, the station owner, stated Ken was the voice of the station, but Mike was its heart because of his strong connection with listeners.
“A DJ is there to entertain, but it is almost like you become a part-time therapist in some ways,” Phillips said. “He has kind of flipped the role and became the listener. He will be sorely missed, but the door will always be open.”
Listener Bob Miller stated Medenwald is a great friend to the community.
“Mike is one of the best there are and has always been there. He has been through some hardships, and we went through all of that with him and came back. He is just a super nice guy,” Miller said. “I don’t think that they will ever replace him. They can get people to fill in for him, but they will not replace him.”
Fellow listener Charlotte Minter stated Medenwald values people and cares for them deeply.
“He makes you feel like you’re somebody and your something special especially when you are out on the air because others are hearing you. It is like a pat on the back. It lifts your spirits,” Minter said. “What you see with Mike Roberts is exactly what you get on his voice and the way he handles thing is great. He is definitely going to be missed.”