Dale Dorman

Dale Dorman

Dale Dorman’s 45-year career in radio didn’t start in Boston, but for anyone who turned on the radio in New England during the last 30 years of the 20th century, his iconic voice and razor-sharp wit remain instantly recognizable.

Dorman was born in 1943 near Syracuse, New York, and it didn’t take long for him to figure out that he wanted to be behind the microphone on the air. At age five, he heard a radio broadcast and as soon as his mother explained how it all worked, he instantly decided that this was what he wanted to do – and he never looked back.

First audition, First radio jobs, Move to Boston

At his first audition for a professional deejay gig, Dorman had no demo tape so he went on the air for roughly 20 minutes instead – and was hired on the spot. During his four-plus-decade career, he worked at stations from San Francisco to Boston, doing overnights at first and readily admitting that he was horrible when he first started out. With his sense of humor, impeccable timing and, of course, his ever-present wit, it didn’t take him long perfect his craft.

Dorman’s first DJ jobs were at WOLF in Syracuse and KFRC in San Francisco, which lasted about two years in total doing morning shifts. In August 1968, he landed at a spot at WRKO in Boston and the legend of “Uncle Dale” was born. During his doubly impressive run on the city’s airways, he worked at a number of stations besides WRKO, WXKS and WODS among them. He was an on-air personality at ‘RKO for over 10 years and at WXKS for a whopping 23. Dorman once said that he’d ”come full circle” in his career since he spun the exact same sort of tunes at WODS (an oldies station when he was there) as he did when he started out at WRKO. In the mid-‘80s, he worked for WVJV-TV, broadcaster of V-66, Boston’s short lived music video television program, hosting the program Weekend Break.

On-air style, R&R Hall of Fame, Broadcasters Hall of Fame

Dorman had a profound impact on those who worked with him, from interns to fellow broadcast legends; Matt Siegel of WXKS said Dorman “took me under his wing” and that “he was the best there ever was.”  While he never had the booming pipes of some other on-air personalities, nobody really noticed since he could make the few seconds it took to introduce a song more entertaining than anyone else on the airwaves. He was an absolute master at cramming what felt like a full ten minutes of information into a five- or ten-second gap and amused listeners by teasing his colleagues (newsman Bill Rossi comes to mind) or by using his unique delivery style to make even school-closing listings entertaining. Recognizing his tremendous significance, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted Dorman in 1995 and the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame did the same in 2010.

Death, Legacy

Dorman died in October 2014 at his Tewksbury, Massachusetts home after a long illness. He’ll always be remembered by people of my generation as “Uncle Dale,” the voice that we heard on the way to school, the voice that introduced our favorite song and the voice that made us laugh. For all those years, Dale Dorman was much more than just a disc jockey. Dale Dorman was simply a brilliant, some would say unparalleled, on-air entertainer.

(by Mark Turner)

Published On: November 2, 2016