A BOOMING VOICE LARGER THAN LIFE
Friends and colleagues of a former popular voice of the airwaves remembered Ted Romero as a great storyteller and announcer who provided hours of enjoyment for his listeners.
Services were held Friday for the 90-year-old Romero, who spent more than a half century in the Lahontan Valley with 23 years of that time spinning records and telling yarns for an audience that extended well past the county line.
“He had that great voice for a small man,” said Lynn Pearce, whose family owns KVLV Radio. “Ted had a great connection with people — and a great voice.”
Pearce described Romero as a small man who could fit into youth-sized trousers but had the persona of John Wayne riding tall in the saddle. Pearce said Romero, who sounded much larger than his small size, had the best voice in the world — “nothing phony on or off the air.” Romero, who often referred to himself as the “Old Bald-Headed Chuckline Rider,” hosted his Country Caravan show Monday through Friday.
Romero died Oct. 10 in Reno of natural causes. Although Romero held numerous jobs during his lifetime, it wasn’t until the 1960s when he found his niche as a popular afternoon disc jockey. Becoming a KVLV disc jockey, though, came by accident as one of the tales unfolds.
“Mom had chickens, and if anyone wanted to help kill the older chickens, they could,” recollected Dee McGinness, whose father founded the radio station in 1957. “Well, Ted came out to kill chickens, but my mom heard his voice and asked him about doing some radio. We had an opening at the time.”
Romero’s stint as the voice of the Lahontan Valley began in the early 1960s and extended to the fall of 1986, a career that extended 23 years when Romero retired to spend more time with his wife, and family. Although he was off the airwaves, Romero was not forgotten. In 2007, the Nevada Broadcasters Association inducted Romero in its Hall of Fame.
“He was solid as a rock,” added McGinness, who told a few light stories about his longtime colleague.
McGinness revealed an incident that occurred when Romero interviewed country and western music superstar Faron Young at the Lovelock Frontier Days.
“He (Young) was rude to Ted (during the interview), and they had a break. Ted gave him a piece of his mind,” McGinness said. “After the break, Faron was a gentleman.”
McGinness also recollected how Romero came to to work with a big piece of garlic and would slice it paper thin. Romero then ate the garlic along with salami.
The story drew some laughter and heads shaking in agreement. McGinness, though, said many great stories exist on Romero, but they aren’t intended for mixed audiences or print.
Lynn Pearce, though, said people of all ages connected with Romero.
“He did well with the younger kids — talked rodeo with them and did requests for them,” Pearce said.
When Romero began his radio career in Fallon, KVLV played nothing but middle-of-the-road tunes. Romero fell into a groove with the contemporary music until the station changed formats.
“We switched formats because advertisers wanted ads with country music,” Dee McGinness said. “Ted had a fit at first but then he loved it.”
Businessman Don Bowman first listened to Romero’s afternoon show when he lived in central Nevada’s Smoky Valley. Bowman eventually moved to Fallon in 1970 and later became good friends with Romero. Bowman said it was amazing the things Romero could do and the people he knew.
Dr. Robert Quam, a Fallon chiropractor and fiddle and harmonica player with David John and the Comstock Cowboys, said the first time he heard Romero when he moved to Fallon in 1981 was Romero’s resonant voice.
“He played the stuff I like and like to play,” Quam said.
Quam called Romero a man who had many adventures in his lifetime ranging from being a deputy in Beatty, which is 90 miles north of Las Vegas, to becoming a professional impressionist.
Tony Albiston worked with Romero at KVLV and remembers his friend’s smile was as wide as a football field and looked looked great as a cowboy with his big white hat, Levis and boots. Albiston, though, remembers Romero’s radio voice the most.
“Ted had that voice as natural as breathing,” Albiston said.
Furthermore, when travelers drove through Churchill County changing radio stations, Albiston said people would find KVLV and hear Romero’s show. That, Albiston said, hooked a new following of listeners.
“Some said he had the voice of Churchill County,” Albiston added. “He was a great man.”
One of Romero’s daughters, Dawn Kerr, lived in California after her mother and Romero divorced. When she became older, Kerr said she visited Fallon and didn’t realize her father was such a celebrity.
“He had great stories, but sometimes I wondered how true some were,” she said.
Kerr said her father also loved animals and gave unusual names to the pets such as Dammit to a cat and Hey You for a dog.
Godson Jim Kelly of Fallon said Romero taught him how to do leather work; subsequently, Kelly said because of Romero’s guidance, he became a saddle maker. Kelly, though, also remembers Romero’s stories of his many jobs or working as a movie extra on a Hollywood western.
The service also provided a light moments before speakers offered remarks on the legendary Romero. The incident would have brought a smile to the cowboy announcer. When a mix-up occurred to playing one of Romero’s favorite songs, silence occurred followed by a quip from a friend:
“You’re not supposed to have dead air on a station.”
Romero would have not had it any other way.