Tributes Pour In As Dayton Radio Legend Steve Kirk Passes At 91


Steve Kirk, a voice known and loved by many in Southwest Ohio, passed away on February 8, according to a statement from his family. Many major industry names are now paying homage to Kirk, known affectionately as Kirkie, who spent 37 years on-air.

Kirk started his radio career doing mornings in Bellaire, OH. In the early 1960s, he moved to Cincinnati’s WSAI-AM, where he and four other station personalities each fronted $5,000 to bring the Beatles to Cincinnati Gardens in 1964. When the Beatles returned to Cincinnati in 1966, the show was originally rained out, but Kirk saved the concert.

Former WSAI talent Jim LaBarbara said, “Steve Kirk said it was John Lennon who stepped up. John liked ‘Kirkie’. He had met him in ’64… and he remembered how nicely he and the group at the radio station treated the Beatles in ’64. So he said, ‘We’ll stay over and we’ll do the show on Sunday. We’ll go on at 11 or noon.’ And Kirk said, ‘Make it 1 o’clock because the kids go to church with their moms and dads.’ Thanks to Steve Kirk and John Lennon, the show went on.”

Steve Kirk with the Beatles

Later that year, Kirk moved to Dayton’s WING-AM, where he became a prominent presence. For the next 25 years, Kirk graced the airwaves of Dayton, gaining popularity not just for his humor but also for his active engagement with the community.

His career also included a stint in Columbus before he retired to Florida in 1998. Kirk’s contributions to radio were celebrated with his induction into the Ohio Radio-TV Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Dayton Area Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2003.

Nancy Cartwright, who would go on to become the voice of Bart Simpson, worked at WING from 1976 until 1978. She told Radio Ink, “He was very much a father figure to me who had an endless supply of energy and passion. When I shared with him my dream of moving to Los Angeles to study with legendary voice-artist Daws Butler (Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Elroy Jetson, to name a few), ‘Kirkie’ didn’t bat an eye — he encouraged me to make my dreams come true and let me know that practically every day!”

“I believe he was the program director of the station and I’d wave to him every morning when I got to the station. He had already been on the air since 5am and was the alarm clock for so many people in the Dayton-Kettering-Oakwood-Centerville area.  I can still hear his inimitable voice: ‘Nancy Cartwright! Nancy Cartwright is taking off and moving to HOLLYWOOD to become a big star! She does lots of funny voices and is going to make her mark in La-la-land and we all wish her the best of luck!'”

“His passion was clearly evident in his work, but even more so in the people he worked with. He not only had a kind word to say, but would also not hold back on his own opinion — an admirable quality that is rare indeed.”

Former Jacor Communications and Clear Channel executive Randy Michaels remarked, “He was part of the family for so many in Southwest Ohio on WING and before that, WSAI. It’s ‘Ah-Cha-Cha’ in heaven now.”

Radio Ink President and Publisher Deborah Parenti worked with Kirk in Dayton. She said, “When we talk about radio personalities, Steve Kirk is a name to be reckoned with. He understood the importance of connecting with the average “Joe and Jill” and more important, how to do it and make it relatable – and funny. He kept his audience laughing long after the bit was over or the joke told and the mic closed. I can imagine his first words on entering heaven were, ‘Hi gang, Kirkie here.'”

George Wymer commented, “Steve helped me step up in management in radio. What you heard on the air was him. Smiling, funny, friendly, unique and original. He could tell the best jokes, without spilling a drop of his favorite scotch! He was, ‘simply the best!'”

Longtime Dayton broadcaster Kim Faris told Radio Ink, “I grew up listening to Steve Kirk each morning on WING, never imagining that I would have the opportunity to work with him at WING from 1978 until his retirement in 1992. People would ask me all of the time what Kirkie was like in ‘real life’ and I would say, what you hear on the radio is the real Steve Kirk. He was exuberant, creative, loud, and oh-so funny! No one could tell a story or a joke like Kirkie.”

Former Chicago TV Sportscaster Mark Giangreco said, “I was a starry-eyed student at the University of Dayton, somehow got a gig at WING, and before I knew it, was doing morning drive news with the craziest, funniest, and most imposing personality I’d ever met. Not only did Kirkie show me the ropes but embraced me as his sidekick. Truly the man in every sense. In Steve’s case, RIP stands for ‘Regale In Perpetuity.'”

Plans for a celebration of life ceremony will be announced at a later date.


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