Chattanooga had the privilege of witnessing first-hand the prolific career of a radio icon. His legacy will be deeply rooted in Chattanooga’s history for the rest of time.
Gary Haskew, known fondly as Dr. Basketball, or Dr. B., of WGOW’s SportTalk Radio passed away on July 4th, 2016. The notion that he was one of the best to ever take to the airwaves is widely shared by industry professionals, but it is only part of the story. Beyond the mic, friends and fans will attest that Gary Haskew had an incredible connection with his listeners and an extraordinary impact on our community.
In 1989, Haskew, a car salesman at the time, met SportTalk originator J. David Miller. He told Miller boldly, “Your show needs something. You need an Ed McMahon.” It was enough for Miller to bring Haskew onto the show as a guest, and things moved quickly from there. In 1990, Gary and his brother Jerre – Dr. Basketball and Music Man – created today’s SportTalk: an original, vibrant, character-driven show that has now been a favorite for sports radio and outrageous entertainment for more than a quarter century.
From the get-go, Scott McMahen was onboard as the show’s engineer and producer. Dr. B. quickly identified McMahen’s knack for radio and invited him to be a third host along with him and Jerre. Scott “Quake” McMahen debuted in 1994.
In 2000, Quake and Dr. B. had become the primary drivers for SportTalk. Soon after, they were joined by a third host in Joe Varner. An overabundance of colorful nicknames were filtered through before Joe became “Cowboy” Joe Varner.
Building on the dynamic set forth by Dr. B. and Music Man, the trio made history together for over 15 great years. In 2015, SportTalk celebrated its 25th year on air and over 7,000 shows. Mike Keith, longtime guest and director of broadcasting for the Tennessee Titans noted, “The three of them stand alone so well individually, and yet they blend as a trio just as well. That’s very rare in broadcasting anywhere you go.”
He added, “They’ve always done their thing. If you do what you do, if you be who you are, you can be successful.” Therein lies the foundational pillar of SportTalk and Dr. B.’s greatest gift to Chattanooga: his authenticity. If you knew Dr. B or tuned into SportTalk, you appreciated his incredibly good nature and his love for people and for sport – any sport. Dr. B. was himself, he did what he did, and he had an amazing impact on more lives than we’ll ever come to know.
Few said it as well as Jerre Haskew:
“Gary was so beloved. We were more than brothers, we were very close friends and confidants.
“Gary really grew into this persona and earned it through his immense media talent. He could stir the pot, and people still loved him. He was a great citizen and leader for causes. Gary was also very concerned for underprivileged people, but most people don’t know that. He was a Chattanooga boy through and through.”
From former U.S. Representative Zach Wamp:
“It’s a privilege to be a listener and to reflect on Gary’s extraordinary life. We all hope that when we pass, there will be this same outpouring of love, respect, and appreciation. He shared other people’s stories for more than 50 years, and now the stories of his life will go on and on and on. I had the privilege of knowing him in the last 10 years, and those last 10 years were an amazing time. He was humble, but confident. He knew who he was and what needed to be done. He was fearless in a lot of ways and didn’t back down from anything. He had tremendous influence.
“Gary will live on through everyone in the city. I’m so happy that I knew Dr. B. The joy he brought us all and the lessons that we gained from him are what we can carry forward to make sure his life is totally worthwhile, because it was such a life well-lived.”
Bill B. Lockhart, interim program director at WGOW:
“Whether talking to clients, callers, or little kids out at a remote, Gary just had this quality to look you in the eye and make you feel that, for this moment and conversation, you’re the most important thing in his world.”
Christie Clark, friend and former co-worker:
“One of Gary’s greatest tricks was being able to go from Southern gentleman to pure redneck from the holler. Even on down days, he would always lift everybody up. He will always be a very large part of my life.”
Sean McDaniel, general manager of Chattanooga FC:
“Dr. B was a fan of all things Chattanooga. He may have given us grief about soccer and said it was a sissy sport, but he loved that it was about the city, community, and fellowship.”
Mike Keith, longtime SportTalk guest and director of broadcasting at the Tennessee Titans:
“Gary was literally one-of-a-kind. He meant so much to so many people, and all in different ways. The secret to his success and popularity was that people felt like they knew him. They felt that real closeness, which is the special thing about a great radio show like [SportTalk].
“He was a stir it up kind of guy. But to be that type, you have to be knowledgeable too. Gary definitely stirred it up, but he was also very knowledgeable. He also understood the radio show, which involved going to break, taking calls, and allowing other people to talk – the callers have a place, the guests have a place. The most important thing is that even though he could put the needle to you pretty good, you always felt like it was coming from a place of fun. It was always in fun, and due to that, the show was fun. That’s what really, really made him special. He still made you laugh even when he was ragging on you.
“His ability to make you smile came through the radio, and that’ll be his legacy to this program. SportTalk isn’t any one person’s – it’s Chattanooga’s, and that’ll continue on.”