Legendary morning radio personality Bob Sievers, known as “Mr. WOWO,” died Monday.
Sievers, 90, retired from his morning show on WOWO 1190 AM radio in 1987 after more than 50 years at the station.
During his five decades with WOWO, he earned the title of “Mr. WOWO” as host on the popular morning show “Little Red Barn Show” that aired from 5 to 7 a.m., and the Bob Sievers show that aired from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Saturdays.
“I can’t think of anyone more influential in this town, and I’ve been here 35 years,” said Ron Gregory, a close friend and former WOWO radio announcer. “I can’t think of anybody who comes close to the impact that Bob Sievers had. It’s definitely the end of an era.”
In the days when the station’s 50,000-watt signal was not competing with the number of stations it does today, Sievers’ voice – and popularity – stretched across the country and around the world.
WOWO listeners could be found in 28 states and even overseas, and Sievers would often receive letters from devoted listeners across oceans, like missionaries in Africa, Gregory said. In addition to his time on the radio, Sievers also made public appearances for organizations, churches and clubs on his personal time.
“He had dedicated listeners worldwide, he said. “His strength was the fact that he knew the common man and he spoke to him.”
Charly Butcher, who now hosts the morning show spot on WOWO Sievers dominated for so many years, said he recognizes the effect Sievers had on Fort Wayne radio by knowing him professionally and competing with him while a disc jockey at WMEE-FM – 97.3.
“When you work at WOWO, you can’t escape the years and years of work that we are still benefiting from that he did,” Butcher said. “There is an awesome sense of responsibility when you follow in the shoes of a guy like that.”
Sievers started his career at WOWO in an unpaid position as an announcer for a morning gospel show as a freshman at South Side High School in 1932. He was hired as a morning announcer in 1936, while he was still in high school, for $5 a week.
The only break Sievers took from the station was when he served in the U.S. Navy – four years during World War II and two years during the Korean War.
Bob Chase, WOWO’s “Voice of the Komets,” began working the station in 1953. Sievers was away in the Navy when Chase first started, but he said his reputation preceded him.
“Even before I met him, just by the references from other people I knew I was going to be working with a legend right off the top,” Chase said.
Sievers’ desire to help people was always evident in his radio shows. He and co-host Jay Gould started the Penny Pitch drive for the poor, and were also famous for card showers, where they would urge listeners to send get-well and birthday cards to people who needed encouragement, Chase said.
“Everything Bob did came from the heart,” he said. “He was a very Christian person. I think he put the goodness of others in everything he did. He made himself No. 2 and the needs of others No. 1.”
Art Saltsberg, who worked with Sievers at WOWO, said the man people grew to love on the radio was the same man Sievers was in life. In addition to giving people daily news, weather and agriculture information, Sievers would even make announcements on his radio shows when listeners called in about missing pets.
“He literally cared about everyone,” Saltsberg said. “That came through on the air.”
Funeral arrangements for Sievers have not been announced.