Facebook Twitter

Radio dial: Veteran Hispanic radio broadcaster leaves the airways after decades

SHARE Radio dial: Veteran Hispanic radio broadcaster leaves the airways after decades
George L. Gonzales

George L. Gonzales

Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News

Will the "Lone Ranger" ride again on Utah radio?

George L. Gonzales, 83, of Ogden — who spent more than 53 years on Utah radio doing the weekly Hispanic-oriented "El Ranch Rio Grande show" — sadly has been bumped off the air.

The demise of KSOS (AM-800), where his program aired each Sunday from 8-11 a.m., has left him silent since last November.

"I'm a Lone Ranger," Gonzales said, of his proactive and outspoken style, which made him an unusual voice on the radio dial.

G. Craig Hanson, president of Simmons Media Group, which owns KSOS, said the entire station had to be taken off the air permanently and the license returned to the Federal Communications Commission. That's because part of the agreement for KUTR, the new AM-820 station that Simmons sold to Bonneville International, was that KSOS would go dark, since it was too close in frequency.

"It was too closely spread," Hanson said. "George is a good man. It's too bad he had to be taken off the air too."

Hanson said Simmon's KXOL (AM-1660) — a sister station of the former KSOS — has an oldies music format and sadly wasn't deemed appropriate for Gonzales' radio show.

Like Tom Barberi, formerly of KALL, Gonzales simply loves doing radio and can't wait to return to the airwaves as soon as possible.

Gonzales came to Utah from Santa Fe, N.M., in 1951 and worked a month on KLO before being taken off the air. He went to KVOG the next day. He eventually worked at KBBX for another long period and most recently on AM-800, where he was for two decades.

He said he considers himself fortunate over the years, because when one station would bump him off the air, he'd find another station in a week or less — until this latest change.

Gonzales said he believes the Hispanics in Utah need him on the air. In 1951 he was headed for Florida, but feels it was divine guidance that led him to the Beehive State. For decades, his pioneering radio show was the only Hispanic-specific program on the Utah airwaves.

This "Lone Wolf" type also doesn't want to go to any of the all-Spanish radio stations in Utah, because he doesn't feel he'd fit their format or music. All he wants is two to three hours a week on the air to do a weekly radio show.

Gonzales also did a TV show on KTVX, Ch. 4, "The Other Side of the Coin," from 1972-1986. His TV show promoted five different bands for a concert at Lagoon in 1978 and ended up drawing 5,000 people to the event.

He is proud that his shows featured people from everyday life. He also worked 36 years at Hill Air Force Base, doing broadcast on the side. Other than commission he received from selling advertising time, he said he was never paid for doing his radio show, although he did receive some expense money .

Gonzales is a World War II veteran, a member of the American Legion and started a Spanish Club in Ogden.

The commercials on his radio shows were bilingual and helped students learn either language. The Ogden City School District recognized his bilingual efforts that assisted the Latino/Hispanic community. He's received letters of recognition from the Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., the pope and other VIPs over the years.

"My show was good music and commercials," he said. "It did a little of everything. . . . It was sweet music and kind words."

Gonzales said his show didn't just serve the Hispanic community, and he believes there's nothing else like it on the air. He's especially sad the show was taken off the air without warning. "I never had a chance to say farewell."

He spends a lot of time at home these days, caring for his wife, who recently suffered a stroke.

Gonzales has also authored three books, including the religious book "Take Care of Your Body, Your Soul Will Need It on Judgment Day."

E-mail: lynn@desnews.com