Dennis Walker has spent decades behind the microphone and has been in the middle of a lot of industry changes
For a man who spent decades telling other people’s stories, Dennis Walker finally tells his own.
The much-loved announcer from Giant FM in Penticton and So Country internet radio has penned an autobiography, “The Little Red Radio.”
The self-published book is memories of his years working in Osoyoos, Penticton, Vernon, Creston and, since 2015, Cranbrook.
“When I’m out on my bike rides, it’s time to myself and I think of a lot of things,” said Walker. “It was New Year’s Eve and I jotted things down, thinking of the year that had gone by. I just kept writing and writing. They say when you write a book, don’t stop or else you won’t finish it.”
In no time, he had enough content for 214 pages of material.
The book will appeal to the South Okanagan market with dozens of familiar names. He often mentions his admiration for former medical foundation director Janice Perrino and present Penticton city councillor Judy Sentes.
Ivan McLelland and Kevin Conway from the 1955 world champion Vees show up. So do former coworkers (Scott Robinson), local musicians (Nikita Afonso is one of his favourites) and members of the soccer community (the Borba family), who helped him get his own internet radio station going after getting the golden handshake from Giant.
Uncharacteristi-cally, Walker is at times critical. He mentions how the Ironman forgot its supporters from the early years. He also dedicates part of a chapter to his abrupt layoff from Giant FM and the firestorm afterward when he and three other colleagues were let go.
“It was a hard decision,” he said, publicly talking about being let go. “I didn’t want to sound like a crybaby. I’m not the only person who has ever lost their job. But, it’s part of my story. How could I not put it in the book?”
He’s also blatantly honest, stating that his years in Vernon were unhappy.
More than just people from the South Okanagan, Walker highlights a lot of events —the Keremeos Elks Rodeo, Peachfest, Elvis festival, Peach City Beach Cruise, the hockey school — as well as landmarks such as the observatory at White Lake.
He also talks about the stars he’s interviewed or introduced over the years. Tommy Hunter appreciated being introduced by Walker because he stuck to script and knew he wasn’t the start of the show.
The common theme of the book is Walker’s love of the industry, but he misses the old days when a live body was in the studio 24 hours per day. In the 1990s, satellite radio entered the scene and there’s nobody in the building for the entire weekend.
Even today, he tries to drop in for at least one hour on the weekend to go live on the air so listeners feel there’s a presence.
One of the reasons he believes the radio industry is suffering is because they need to be “hyper-local” and push as much local content as possible. He believes stations began getting away from that and the listeners left in droves.
He was also never one to follow a format. With classic country being a genre with a lot of story songs, he would let a song run until 10:01 a.m., delaying the news by one minute.
Like many self-published books, there are style-point inconsistencies and some spelling errors. But, it’s straight from the heart.
“I’m not a writer,” Walker sighs.
He won’t profit from the book, which will sell for around $25 if bought in person. The fee will cover his production costs and if there’s anything left, he hopes to make a donation to two of his favourite charities.
Writing the book was easy, thanks to his editor Wendy Tarasoff. The production was a nightmare, a story he will save for another day.
He jokes afterward that the process of having a book self-published and the pain he went through to have the book finally arrive could be a story in itself.
“The Little Red Radio” is now on sale locally at Dragon’s Den on Front Street and Sunshine Glass at 142 Industrial Court or from Manuel Borba at the Penticton Soccer Club.