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R.I.P. Hermann Bockelmann, longtime DFW radio personality

Posted 6:14pm on Friday, Sep. 13, 2013

Hermann Bocklemann, who was the host of the Friday-night show Europe Today on KAAM/770 AM “Legends 77,” died Thursday. He was 73 and suffering from dementia, according to an obit in Radio Ink.

Not all DFW radio listeners were familiar with Bockelmann, but he developed a devoted following with Europe Today, a mix of European music – with occasional songs from the Comedian Harmonists (a late ’20s/early ’30s vocal group that was forced to disband by the Nazis because some of its members were either Jewish or of Jewish descent) and satirist Tom Lehrer – and Bockelmann’s deep knowledge and blunt opinions, delivered in his native German accent. The show was one of the most entertaining – and unusual – on the air in DFW.

The Dallas Observer named Bockelmann Best Radio DJ in its 2005 Best of Dallas issue. Excerpt: “Whether he’s softly pleading with listeners (“I lahhf you, oh, goot-ness, you are a fantahhstic ahh-dee-enz”), making fun of his own show’s advertisers or throwing loud, manic tirades about news stories, he proves himself to be a most bizarre and captivating on-air personality.”

Jack Davis, KAAM’s afternoon-drive host and programming manager, had worked with Bockelmann as his co-host and producer for the past several months.

“For the longest time, he could do it by himself, bringing his own CDs [and] recording it by himself,” Davis says. “Then it got to be where his health was deteriorating – his eyes, especially. He couldn’t read the CDs, so he had to have a co-host.”

Cruisin’ Al Taylor, who did KAAM’s Saturday Night Sock Hop, helped out for about a year, but when he moved further from Dallas, Davis took over as the co-host/producer. Bockelmann’s wife, Linda, would drop him off for recording sessions because he couldn’t drive, then Davis would drive him home.

Linda Bockelmann also helped with content, printing stories from BBC News and, in the later days, choosing the music, taking CDs from their home library and putting Post-It Notes on them so that Davis would know which songs to play. But the show was fueled by Hermann’s personality and knowledge.

Davis says that four episodes of the show, which were recorded on Wednesdays and aired on Fridays, are sin the can and there will be repeats this week and next.

“He was well-known around Kuby’s restaurant,” Davis says, referring to Kuby’s Sausage House in Dallas. “A lot of the German-American people would be hanging out there, talking shop. There was a lot of German-speaking people that he knew, and people knew him.”

Bockelmann, who was born in Bremen, Germany, moved to Texas in 1959. He spent a couple of years in the U.S. Army, then began his radio career in the ’70s as the host of a two-hour music show on KERA/90.1 FM. He was also known as “Ludwig,” the slightly hard-of-hearing sound engineer to Steve Cumming, for a brief period when Cumming was morning host at classical station WRR/101.1 FM in 1989.

He had worked with KAAM in the early 1990s, when the station was still at 1310 AM (sports station the Ticket, which took over the frequency in 1994, briefly used the KAAM call letters before becoming KTCK, according to Mike Shannon’s History of Dallas-Fort Worth Radio and Television). After KAAM came back with its nostalgia format, first on 620 AM and since 1998 on 770 AM, Bockelmann rejoined the station, and had been a fixture there for some 15 years.

“If you were hearing Hermann for the first time, you might have been surprised by his politically incorrect sense of humor and his narrative between songs,” Cumming, now station manager for North Texas Radio for the Blind, says of Bockelmann’s Europe Today work. “He was probably the first – and last – German ‘shock jock’ in the DFW market. If I had to think of two words to describe him, and I cite them with affection, [they’d be] ‘irrepressible’ and ‘irreplaceable.’ ”

According to his station bio, Bockelmann was also a member of the Dallas Rowing Club and had won medals at regattas all over the United States. Davis adds that he had been a volunteer at the American Flight Museum at Love Field.

“But it was his personality that had kept him going for so long,” Davis says. “And the knowledge of certain artists that he may have met over the years added to the show. And there were news stories about Europe and things happening in Europe, things that maybe somebody might connect to, things you probably hadn’t heard.”

Bockelmann is survived by his wife, Linda.

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