Radio personality, who debuted in the ‘golden age of radio’ named to Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame
Don Egert was born to be behind a microphone.
After all, the Ortonville native began a career as an on-air radio personality on Sept. 20, 1948 when he was only 15 years old, and retired just four months ago at age 83.
“You can do the math,” joked the personable Egert.
Including a three-year hiatus, Egert has spent 69 years of his life in radio as a station owner, news director, engineer and announcer for several different stations — mainly at KDIO radio in Ortonville, Minn., voiceover work for Pioneer Public television in Appleton, Minn, and KXLG radio in Watertown, South Dakota.
“I failed at retirement three or four times,” he laughed.
In fact, if you put all the call letters together of the stations he’s worked for, it would rival a large bowl of alphabet soup.
Egert was recently inducted into the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame along with four others, including Randy Shaver, a former sports reporter, sports director and anchor with KARE-TV in the Twins Cities since 1983. The induction ceremony will take place on Sept. 12 at the Pavek Museum in St. Louis Park.
“I was really surprised when I found out,” he said. “I could hardly believe it.”
Also inducted with Egert in the 2020 class will be:
Allan Lotsberg, who was Willie of the “Clancy and Willie” children’s show in the 1960s and 1970s on WCCO-TV. He also hosted WCCO’s “Comedy and Classics”, broadcasting old movies and interviewing stars. Lotsberg died in November at age 87.
Pam Lundell, a current on-air personality for KTIS, a Christian radio station in the Twin Cities. Lundell received the NRB Media Personality of the Year Award in 2010 for her work on the morning show at KTIS.
Larry “Moon” Thompson, an afternoon co-host on KSTP Radio for many years before retiring in 2019 due to his battle with multiple sclerosis. He was a Marconi Award winner in 2010 as the Large Markets Personality of the Year.
Egert was born in Watertown, SD, in 1933. His introduction into the radio world began when he joined his high school radio club in Watertown.
“We aired our radio club show on KWAT in Watertown every week,” said. “We had a little studio built at school and we would tell the school news.”
Egert then went to work for KWAT when he was a freshman in high school.
“They were looking for someone to work part-time on the weekends,” he said. “So I decided to apply and I got the job. I worked there on and off all through college.”
Egert attended college at the University of South Dakota-Vermilion. His roommate was Tom Laughlin, who went on to a movie career and starred in the “Billy Jack” films.
During his college years, Egert also worked at three radio stations, KSOO in Sioux Falls, KYNT in Yankton, and KUSD, his college campus radio station.
In 1956, Egert moved to Ortonville in western Minnesota, 58 miles east of Watertown. He built KDIO radio station in Ortonville with three partners, with the station was up and running on July 23, 1956.
Egert remained at KDIO as owner, new director and morning announcer for the next 39 years.
“In a small market, you do a little bit of everything,” he said about his time at KDIO. “It didn’t make any of us rich, but I loved every minute of it. It was a good run.”
Don and his late wife, Sally (she passed away in 2013) have two sons, Steve and Jim, who both worked at KDIO with their father, but did not go into broadcasting for a profession.
After selling the station in 1995, Egert remained in Ortonville for three additional years.
“I was also a flight instructor for eight years in Ortonville,” he revealed. “I still have my pilot’s license and I still fly, but never alone anymore.”
But the radio bug bit Egert again and he moved back to Watertown and went to work for KXLG.
“I spent 10 years there was an announcer and the assistant to the news director until I finally retired four months ago,” he said. “I don’t miss the radio as much as I thought I would, but I miss the people. The station in Watertown is fairly large and they have a fantastic crew there that I really enjoyed working with.”
Over his career, Egert interviewed such personalities as Presidents Harry Truman, Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush and Harry Truman during each of their presidential campaigns around the country.
“When I was working in Ortonville, Nixon was in Watertown in 1965 campaigning for Barry Goldwater,” Egert told. “But the Secret Service people wouldn’t let us in the airport where he was so we interview him. So I flew from Ortonville to Watertown and landed at the airport and I got the interview that way.”
Egert, who still carries a smooth baritone voice, said he did not try to alter or develop his voice as some radio and television announcers have admitted to doing.
“I was born with this voice, I guess,” he said.
Even though he retired from working at a radio station after nearly seven full decades, he still continues to utilize that rich voice doing voiceovers for Pioneer Public TV out of Appleton. And he can be seen on television on Channel 10 helping out during the station’s annual fundraisers.
“I’ve been doing voiceover work for Pioneer since 1965,” he said. “They will send me a script and I will do the voiceovers for them from a little studio I have here at home. So I guess I’m really not completely retired.”
And what would Egert like to be remembered for after all these years on the air?
“Just that I enjoyed the radio and the people I worked with,” he said. “I hope I made some sort of contribution.”