Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Purtan, Dick

Detroit radio’s “King of Comedy,” Dick Purtan, made morning-drive audiences laugh daily and brought local stations success for more than four decades. A 2004 inductee into the Radio Hall of Fame, Purtan worked from 1996-2010 as the showcase personality for Detroit oldies station, WOMC-FM, where his “Purtan’s People” consistently ranked among the city’s top-rated morning programs.

Born July 11, 1936 in Buffalo, New York, Paul Richard Purtan began his radio career on stations in Syracuse and Cincinnati before being offered a job on WKNR-AM, or “Keener 13,” Detroit’s Top 40 station in 1965. It was there he changed his on-air name from Paul to Dick to avoid confusion with another disc jockey. After two months in a late-night slot he moved into the station’s morning drive time and became a local sensation.

Mixing popular music with his dry, playful sense of humor, pre-recorded skits and silly telephone calls, Purtan took his winning formula to WXYZ-AM, CKLW-AM in Windsor, Ontario, and WCZY-FM (now WKQI-FM), before landing at WOMC, enhancing his reputation and market popularity at every stop. A radio talent so ingrained in Detroit culture that at the top of his career, Detroiters could identify him by nothing more than a caricature of oversized glasses and a moustache. Purtan also played a role in the movie Beverly Hills Cop III with Eddie Murphy.

Surrounded each morning by a cast of on-air characters that comprise “Purtan’s People,” he was twice named Billboard magazine’s “Major Market Air Personality of the Year” and won the National Association of Broadcasters prestigious Marconi Award. Known for his many charitable activities, Purtan  hosted his annual “Dick Purtan Radiothon” for 23 years, an on-air event that has raised close to $24 million for The Salvation Army of Eastern Michigan’s “Bed and Bread” Program. When his wife Gail was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2005, the couple added fundraising for that cause to their philanthropic agenda.

Dick Purtan retired from broadcasting on March 26, 2010. His wife, Gail, to whom he was married for 60 years, died on October 31, 2018. They had six daughters, one of whom, Joanne, is also in the broadcast business.



Portrait photo of Dick Purtan, c.1992 – 2012.032.296

Commemorative Dick Purtan license plate, c.1980 – 2016.037.001

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