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Dick Purtan to Retire; Detroit Host Started Career in CNY

DETROIT — After 45 years on the air in the Motor City, Buffalo native and SU graduate Dick Purtan is getting ready to call it a career.  Purtan — who used some other names on-air in Syracuse — announced his retirement plans on his morning radio show this week.  Updated 2/14 with comment from Jay Fishman.

According to a profile published by the Detroit Free Press, he was born Paul Richard Purtan.  But as explained in his bio for the Radio Hall of Fame (he was inducted in 2004), he changed his first name on-air when he moved to Detroit, to avoid confusion with another personality in the market.

The Buffalo native also received his bachlelor’s and master’s degrees from Syracuse University.  But the local ties don’t end there.  According to a posting on the Reelradio message board, longtime residents of Syracuse might remember Purtan as the “Buckaroo Sandman” when he worked at WOLF(AM), when it played country music.

Purtan eventually returned to Buffalo (WWOL) and made a stop in Cincinnati before spending the next 45 years in Detroit.  He’s been at his current station, WOMC, since 1996.  As reported in another article by the Detroit Free Press, Purtan’s last day will be March 26.  He reportedly joked he was waiting for the Detroit Lions to win a Super Bowl before he retired, “but frankly, I’ve got to get some sleep.”

(Incidentally, the Lions have won four NFL Championship Games (1935, 1952, 1953, 1957) but they haven’t won any championship games since then.)

Another Local Connection

Newsradio 570 WSYR anchor/reporter Jay Fishman tells Dick Purtan was an inspiration to him in choosing to get into the radio business:

I grew up listening to him, part of the reason I got into radio, and met Dick when I was in high school. He convinced me to go to SU, he told me it was a great place to start a career, can’t say he was wrong.

If you’ve got any memories of Dick Purtan to share, feel free to post a comment below, or post your thoughts on a special page set up by Purtan’s station, WOMC.  Or if you so choose, you can leave a voice recording by calling (248)246-6468.

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Our thanks to two observant readers who heard of Purtan’s retirement, remembered his time in Syracuse, and wrote in to let us know so we could share the story with you.  Send your news tips to or use the Contact Form.

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