Originally published in The Hartford Courant Good Life, June/July 1994
Reprinted with permission of the author


Brad Davis: our radio friend recalls youth without father

By Sharon Lea Sperling

  Every morning for the past 16 years, WDRC-AM radio listeners have awakened to the voice of Brad Davis. Mondays through Saturdays from 5 to 10 a.m., Hartford-area fans listen to his political opinions stories of patriotism and heated discussions.bdavis.jpg (13444 bytes)
  Listeners are regaled with corny jokes, a report of the day's weather and traffic problems as well as soundings-off about political issues. Recently turning 60, he still gets up ate 3 a.m. and does a half-hour of military exercises before heading off to work at the Bloomfield radio station. After being on the air for five hours, he continues his day with unflagging energy, with personal appearances, meetings and charitable work for many non-profit groups.
  Born and bred in Hazardville, a section of Enfield, Mr. Davis grew up on his grandparents' farm. "While growing up, I had problems reading. My mother, Kay Bennet, now 87, was a school teacher for 25 years. She realized I had reading problems and spent a great deal of time teaching me how to read when I was 6 years old. I owe here a lot. Teaching me to read was the best gift she could have given me."
  Childhood traumas also played a role in developing his character. When he was 5, his father left home. He believed his father had abandoned him, his sister and the family.
  He remembers, "This has been inside me for many years … As a child, I kept my feelings about my father not being around to myself. I didn't want to talk to anyone about it"
  As an adult, he finally got to meet his father. It was then he learned his father had not abandoned him. His father left because of a pending divorce. For many years, his dad sent him presents for holidays and birthdays, but the red-haired boy was never told the presents were from his father.
  Eventually, he got his father's phone number and they had a tearful reunion at his dad's home.
  "My dad was a well-respected high school principal. I still meet people who knew him when they were students and they speak so highly of him," says Mr. Davis.
  "What touches me the most was that people had sent my father newspaper clippings about me and my career. My dad kept a scrapbook of all the articles."
  "When we first were reunited, my dad and I hugged and sobbed and talked a lot. I realized you can have the greatest grandfather or nicest stepfather in the world, but there's still a desire to know your own father. That realization has driven me to want to help children who don't know their dads or don't have fathers around to help them."
  Not long after that emotional reunion, Mr. Davis for a phone call while he was on the air. "It was the Maine state police telling me my father had died. Without showing any emotion, I finished the show and went to my father's funeral.
  Not one to dwell on his feelings of abandonment, he happily reflects back on his high school days, saying he had fun and liked school. Yet he admits, "I felt different because my dad was not a part of my life during those teenage years."
  After high school, he really was not eager or ready to go away to college. So he decided to attend nearby Springfield College. After two years there, he enlisted in the Marine Corps.
  "I owe my life to the Marine Corps. Joining it was the best thing that ever happened to me. It gave my life purpose. I learned about discipline, and realized I could accomplish anything if I worked hard," says Mr. Davis. While in the Marines, he was stationed in California and Japan.
  After leaving the corps, he returned to his grandparents' farm in Hazardville. He liked listening to WACE radio, a small Chicopee, Mass., station. On a whim, he called Bud Wilson, one of the station's announcers.
  Thanks to Mr. Wilson's suggestion, Mr. Davis began working at WACE in 1956.
  "One afternoon in the spring of 1958, someone got sick and I was asked to substitute on the air for him. I didn't know what to talk about, so I figured why not talk about milk? I knew a lot about milk, since I had milked cows on the farm."
  He continues, "The owner of an advertising agency in Hartford Heard me advertising milk. He called me and asked me to audition for a milk show."
  "It was a show much like Dick Clark's American Bandstand. The weekly show featured local teenagers dancing, celebrities performing and me advertising milk."
  "Not thinking I stood a chance, I tried to read the TelePrompTer, which I had never done before. I couldn't do it. So I just started talking off the cuff about growing up on a dairy farm. I spoke from my own personal experience rather than reading the TelePrompTer, and I was hired."
  He adds, "I ended up hosting the show until 1969. It was a wonderful period in my life."
  Next came a stint on WTIC radio and television in Hartford. He worked and substituted for Hartford radio legend Bob Steele.
  "Bob Steele taught me how to do commercials. He showed me the importance of delivering them with sincerity, pronouncing names correctly and was adamant about my being punctual and going to work no matter how I was feeling."
  In 1977, WDRC radio station manager Dick Korsen, program director Charlie Parker and station engineer Wayne Mulligan hired him as the station's morning on-air personality, a job he has held for 17 years.
  "I was shocked when I learned my boss, Dick Korsen, and his wife, Ubie, my producer, had been killed in a plane crash three years ago. I liked him and respected him. I'll never forget, March 21, 1991, when we learned Dick and Ubie were dead," recalls Mr. Davis.
  Me Davis copes with his losses by helping the homeless and needy. Mr. Parker, who died last year, collected food for the needy. Mr. Davis carries on the tradition. Former Gov. William A.. O'Neill named him head of the Governor's Task Force on the Homeless.
  During cold winter nights, it is not uncommon to see Mr. Davis driving around Hartford taking homeless people to local shelters. He observes, "They could be any one of us, only they are down on their luck. Why should they freeze to death? I drive around and try to help them, because I care about them as people."
  Mr. Davis is married and has a grown married daughter who lives in Texas. He is private about his personal life and keeps his family out of the public eye.
  "I am really a private person," he explains. "As long as I am alive and working as a broadcaster, I will continue be involved in working and helping other people. I understand the importance of listening to them and helping them. That really what my life is all about."

Sharon Lea Sperling is a freelance writer and public relations consultant who lives in Hartford.


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