Spotlight On … David Herald
Story Sharon Jordan
Photos by Luke Hollister
If anyone can claim to have a finger on the pulse of the Wenatchee Valley, it's longtime local DJ David Herald.
The host of "Dave in the Morning" on Sunny FM (KCSY), Herald has had an eclectic career in radio, with duties that include sales, management and market expansion.
Through it all — for 45 years — he's also been on air, cueing up hit music and engaging in friendly banter with members of the community. You've likely listened to his rock, pop, or oldies sets while you grocery shopped, made your coffee or rushed your kids off to school.
Herald, 69, is married to Wenatchee City Councilwoman Linda Herald. He started Sunny FM in 2007, with partners David Bauer and Kent Phillips.
After DJing two years at a station in the Tri-Cities just out of college, he moved to Wenatchee in 1976 to work for local businessman Jim Corcoran. Herald was hired as sales manager at KWWW-AM, and also hosted a show called "On Air” as Dave Conrad, a stage name.
Herald is quick to mention late Wenatchee radio personality Don Bernier, who he deems "the grandfather of rock ‘n’ roll in the Wenatchee Valley in the late ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s.”
Bernier spent more than 35 years on air, including at least a decade and a half at stations with Herald. These days, it’s hard to find someone who has Herald beat in terms of studio time.
"David is a great guy and I have known him for over 40 years," says Phillips, who also serves as program manager at Seattle-area station Star 101.5 FM (KPLZ), and has been an on-air personality for 41 years in Washington.
"He may be one of the longest running radio talents in a market in the state, certainly in Wenatchee," Phillips notes of Herald, adding: "No one keeps these records, so this is just a guess."
In a socially distanced phone interview, Herald answered a slew of light-hearted questions and also shared some deeper thoughts on being the voice that's kept people company in their homes, cars and cubicles all these years.
What does it take to make a truly great DJ? Is it a voice? A personality? And are DJs made or born?
I think DJs are made. I think they need to make sure they have the pulse on their community, so they can relate to the people that live in the community and sort of become their friend. Having a great voice is not No. 1. It's how real you are, how real you sound, and how you relate to your listener and to the community, and how you help them get through their day. A lot of people wake up to "Dave in the Morning” … We're their normal reality, and if we're not there, there's something wrong in their lives.
What are the ingredients of the perfect set?
You want to play a format — in our case the greatest hits — where people will stay with you; we call it 'time spent listening.' The key is to have people listen as long as they can to create good ratings. I have probably 3,000 songs I can choose from, including what we call core songs, rotations — also tempo groups versus single voices. … Our demographic is supposed to be 35 to 64, but we have younger listeners, too. Everything old is new.
What career accomplishment makes you most proud?
Back in the ‘80s when Kent Phillips was our news director, I told him: ‘You know, we're gonna own a radio station when I'm 40.’ He laughed. In 1990, he and I bought the radio station from Jim Corcoran. So I guess that was kind of a fun point.
You've featured a lot of community perspectives on your show, from the Wenatchee Valley Humane Society to the Performing Arts Center to police agencies and everyone in between. In all of your time doing interviews, what moment or moments stand out to you?
… Probably the most significant person we had on the air was the mayor of Twisp (Soo Ing-Moody,) while it was about to burn down (in August 2015). We wanted her to come on to tell the community what was happening, what the escape routes were. We totally broke format. I remember the electricity went out. Dave Bauer, my partner, and I were up there sleeping in cots in the broadcast center in Twisp, operating the radio station via a generator, using propane tanks. And we set up a hot spot through Verizon, which enabled us to connect to our studio to play songs and commercials, to access our programming.
What advice would 2021 Dave Herald give to 1976 Dave Herald?
I would say probably to kick back a little more and enjoy a little more social life than I did, and probably to spend a little more time with my family.
Take me back briefly to a morning when you woke up and the world seemed changed? How did you feel being the person everyone was listening to?
In 1980 when Mount Saint Helens blew up, no one really knew what was going on. It was a Sunday and I was down at the radio station. The news radio station was on autopilot. So, even though we were a Top 40 station, we were instantly connected to the PUDs, the police department, all the agencies. And we became sort of the conduit as to what was going on. It was an ‘aha’ moment: we've got a lot of people listening to this 1,000 watt radio station. Even today, if there's a fire, it's common knowledge that we will man the radio station.
You've spent the bulk of your career expanding radio in North Central Washington, including a deal last year to take over programming and marketing for a 100,000 watt Grand Coulee station. What makes this area of the state so special?
I think being in a somewhat small area, versus Spokane or Seattle, the people are very connected and real. People from all over are moving to this pristine area, and it's not the weather; it's the people — they open their doors to you. North Central Washington is known for if someone’s in need — whether from a wildfire or a storm or a plane crash or whatever it may be — we're here to help out. We're dedicated and we’re wired to give back. I grew up in the Bellevue - Seattle area, and I have no desire to go back.
Dutch Bros or Aut-To Mocha?
Aut-To Mocha. If Dutch Bros gets on the air, maybe it'll be a tie. (laughs)
Dusty's In-N-Out or EZ's Burger Deluxe?
EZ's Burger Deluxe. The genuine deluxe Tillamook cheeseburger, to be specific.
Smitty's Pancake House or Country Inn Family Restaurant?
Probably Country Inn. I like both, but I like Country Inn since they've been around as long as I have.
The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
Bob Dylan or Bob Marley?
Favorite local cover band?
What's something that might surprise your listeners to learn about you?
I have a twin brother in Seattle.
Favorite downtime activity?
I enjoy running, working out.
Name a song that you’ve heard so frequently, you can no longer listen to it.
“Don't Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin.