I stumbled on Dale “the Truckin Bozo” Sommers (below at right) quite by accident many decades ago whilst in college in the late 1980s, plying I-81 north from Blacksburg, VA, late at night back home to Arlington, VA.
Driving at night proved often the best way to avoid the inevitable traffic congestion caused when classes ended for a variety of holidays and thousands of students hit the roadways to head home or lord-knows-where.
Turning the knob (how quaint) on the old terrestrial radio in search of a station relatively free of static (hard to do in the Shenandoah Valley) I caught about an hour of “The Bozo” swapping tales with truckers and spinning a few country music classics in between.
Interesting stuff, I remember thinking at the time, before I lost him outside of Winchester and stumbled onto a DJ playing a block of music from one of my favorite bands – Rush. And I didn’t dwell much at all on my brief association with “The Bozo” until almost six years later when I started writing about the trucking industry more or less full time.
I share this admittedly forgettable little story because Dale Sommers is at this moment under hospice care, according to what I’ve gleaned via the Facebook group page that supports him. And whether you were a die-hard fan of his or not – and he held strong opinions on a variety of subjects many didn’t agree with – Sommers represents a piece of trucking history.
And unfortunately the time when he passes into history may now be at hand.
Like fellow legends Dave Nemo and Bill Mack, Sommers crafted a distinct radio personality – and the programming that went with it – designed to appeal to an often-overlooked segment of the American population: the long haul truck driver.
Indeed, when radio started down the digital path with Sirius and XM (now joined into one company), marketers initially targeted luxury automotive buyers for satellite radios – not truckers. Of course, it turned out that truckers became the big initial audience for satellite radio as they (and not BMW drivers) were the ones criss-crossing the country at all hours of the day and night and so desired a way to take their favorite channels wherever the roads led.
Trucking radio personalities of course followed the switch to satellite, with Sommers making his home on Sirius XM these last few years. Yet by all accounts he’d lost none of his “old school” radio style; a style that is unfortunately rapidly vanishing from the airwaves.
Prayers to you and your family, Dale.