Dave Arthur is the morning DJ at 89.5 KTSY and half of the morning show duo known as “The Dave and Tristi Show.” (Courtesy photo)
By Steve Bertel
It’s 5 a.m.
And while many of us won’t be up for another hour or two yet, Treasure Valley radio legend Dave Arthur is already at work, comfortably settled at a console of slider controls, lighted buttons, monitors, and VU meters; his headphones on, mic boom adjusted, watching the clock.
As the seconds tick down: 4 …3 …2 … Dave keys his mic. “And a very pleasant good morning! This is 89.5 KTSY. We are Dave and Tristi! Thanks for starting your day with us!”
For the past five years, “The Dave and Tristi Show” (Dave’s co-host, Tristi, is known professionally by only her first name) has entertained countless Treasure Valley listeners with the day’s news, information, and the best in Christian music.
Of course, seated behind a microphone has always been second nature for Dave; in fact, he says, his love for radio began at a very early age. “When I was seven years old and living with my parents in Illinois, I started listening to WLS, one of the most popular radio stations in Chicago at the time, and a disc jockey named Larry Lujack – who, coincidentally, started his radio career in the late ’50s right here in Caldwell. And listening to him, man, that really lit my fire. I knew right then and there I wanted to work in radio.”
Even though he was obviously too young at the time to work professionally at a radio station, nothing could stop him from pretending. “I remember saving my money and buying one of those AM/FM/8-track stereos with a turntable, because I needed to have some kind of a radio or a stereo in my room where I could listen to music. My brother and cousin and I would be listening to the radio and goofing around, pretending we were disc jockeys or news people. My brother was ‘Walter Concrete.’ And in his deep voice would say, ‘And that’s the way it is…’ In fact, I still have tapes of myself, pretending to be a disc jockey. I’d be listening to the radio and, when a song ended and the real DJ would say something, I’d jump right in there, talking over him – speaking into my tape recorder’s little microphone – doing my own ‘announcing’.
“So I was always fascinated with ‘the radio thing’; playing records, giving the weather, reading the news, entertaining people, all the things DJs did. And over the years, I never lost that fascination, that love of being in broadcasting,” he says.
Dave also acquired another love at an early age. “Coming to know the Lord was like a natural progression for me. I grew up in a Christian home, of course, had a very stable family, a wonderful childhood. When my family moved to Boise, I remember my parents enrolled me in what is now the Cole Valley Christian School. When I was nine years old and in the fourth grade, I was sitting in one of the chapel services. The minister was talking about salvation and I remember right then asking Jesus to come live in my heart. And He has ever since. Of course, I’ve had some great years and some not-so-great years in my life, but God has always been there with me every step of the way.”
Dave has spent an astonishing 38 years behind the microphone. When he was a high school junior in 1984, “I was already working part-time for Lee Schafer, the owner of KSPD. At that time, KSPD offered its listeners Christian talk programs from Dr. James Dobson, Pastor Chuck Swindoll, John MacArthur, Dr. J. Vernon McGee – all the heavy hitters. And we’d fill the rest of the time with Christian music. Of course, this was before KTSY even existed, so KSPD was the Boise area’s only outlet back then for contemporary Christian music and Christian-based educational and talk programs.”
While a fifteen- or thirty-minute program was playing on the air, Dave would while away his time reading trade magazines, as did many in the industry. “I remember reading articles about all these big, powerful, full-time FM Christian music radio stations in major markets and I thought, ‘Man, Boise really needs something like that.’ So my life’s goal, my ultimate dream back then, was to be the morning guy at a Christian FM station in Boise, Idaho,” he says.
Little did Dave know that his dream would eventually come true.
Through the years, he worked for a number of Boise-area radio stations, usually playing secular soft rock or Top 40 rock, usually alongside such local broadcasting legends like Larry Lomax, “Big Jack” Armstrong, Mike Kasper, Ken Bass – “who was on the air with Robin Scott at the time, billing themselves as ‘Bass Man and Robin’”, Dave recalls – and even the formidable male-female duo “Tracy and Margo.” Then, in 1996, the opportunity came his way to work for a brand-new radio station in Walla Walla, Washington called “Way FM”, whose broadcast coverage area included a large part of eastern Washington and northeast Oregon. “I was so excited! It was a dream come true for me; because, not only was I now doing a morning show, ‘Way FM’ was the first full-time Christian music radio station I worked for,” Dave says. “So it checked two of the three boxes of my ‘ultimate dream’ To-Do List. Christian FM radio station. Check. Morning guy. Check. And even though the third box wasn’t checked – I wasn’t working in Boise – I really felt the Lord had led me to that station.”
Many in broadcasting, both in radio and TV, usually begin their careers in small markets, where they can get their training, their experience, their “sea legs,” then gradually move their way up the career ladder to larger stations in much larger cities. Usually for much larger salaries.
And Dave was no exception. Some four years later, he and his wife moved to Portland, where he began working for “Air 1,” the national Christian radio network, then later was hired as both program director and afternoon announcer for another brand-new Christian station, 104.1 “The Fish.”
And that’s when KTSY came calling.
“In 2001, Program Director Ty McFarland called and wanted to know if I could start voice-tracking for them. So I did,” Dave says. Voice-tracking dates back to the ’70s, when DJs would pre-record their show’s “talk” segments to be played later. That freed them to do other duties at the station (if the DJ was local) and not be literally tethered to a four-hour control room shift; it also gave small-market stations the ability to have major-market talent on the air, since the small stations could now “hire” popular DJs from some of the country’s much larger radio stations.
“KTSY would send me the programming logs and the order of the songs they were going to play, and I would pre-record – voice-track – all the intros and outros, then send them back what I had recorded,” Dave explains. “To the average listener, it sounded like I was live in the KTSY studios; when, in fact, I was actually in my home studio more than 400 miles away, in Portland.”
Dave would even come to Boise on occasion and personally appear at KTSY fundraisers and other events, underscoring the “live” illusion.
Then, one day, KTSY General Manager Brian Yeager asked him, “What would it take to get you to come back to Boise … and stay?”
Dave points out that “One of my favorite Bible verses is Proverbs 16:9 that says, We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. There have been a number of times in my life where I thought, ‘Yep, I’ve got my plan.’ And the Lord says, ‘Uh, no, Dave. You’re coming with me this way.’”
So, even though he loved his job at “The Fish,” in 2012 – much like the opening theme of that ’70s sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati” where a DJ laments that he “got kind of tired packing and unpacking, town to town, up and down the dial” – Dave took KTSY up on its offer, and returned to his roots.
And he has been there ever since.
“I love it!” he exclaims. “As KTSY’s music director, I get to choose what songs we’re playing, I get to talk with music company reps in Nashville every week, I get to do interviews with the world’s top Christian recording artists and, what’s more,” he adds with a flippant smile, “I’m playing uplifting music on a morning show on an FM Christian station in the Boise market with a great and talented co-host. So, yeah, all my boxes are now checked.”
But his most memorable interview is not with any of the chart-topping music stars.
As Dave tells it, “Back in 2002 when I was working in Oregon, I interviewed a young lady – a high school senior named Cassie Owens – who had cancer. She had had one of her legs amputated and was confined to a wheelchair. She was given the honor of participating in the Winter Olympics torch relay, and actually got to ‘carry’ the Flame when it came through Portland. I remember interviewing her in our studio, and she had this very powerful message: she was witnessing to her high school friends, where they were going to go to college, what they were going to do with their lives, and the like. Of course, given her life-threatening health issues, she didn’t have the same plans they did; but she told them how she was able to put 100% of her hope in Jesus and what He promised, knowing she probably would not live as long as they would.
“And she didn’t. Unfortunately, the young lady passed away before she was able to graduate. “Sometime later, when there was a local charity run held in her honor, I replayed portions of my interview with her on my radio show, because her message had spoken to me – and our listeners – in such an amazing way.
“Now, as Paul Harvey used to say, here’s ‘The Rest of the Story’: When I re-aired that interview, I had no idea her mother was in a super, super, super dark place in her life at that time – and just happened to be listening to my show that day! And so, here she was, suddenly hearing her daughter’s voice again, literally speaking life back into her.
“Not long after that, my wife, Shauna, went on a tour of Israel. And one of the people on that tour – in fact, the woman right next to my wife as they waited to board the flight – was the girl’s mother! As strangers sometimes do, they struck up a casual conversation. And when Shauna told the woman who she was, the woman said, ‘Wait. You’re Dave Arthur’s wife?! The same Dave Arthur who interviewed my daughter?! You’ve got to be kidding! Let me tell you a story …’
“So yes, that was definitely the Lord at work that day, helping the mother get through probably one of the darkest times in her life – through me, through the interview, and through her daughter.”
As far as his broadcasting career, Dave shows no signs of stopping. “It’s a real blessing, on a personal level, that I’m able to have a really good work/life balance. I feel truly blessed that I get to do what I love and still be able to spend quality time with my family,” he says.
“My dad once told me, ‘If you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ And he’s right. I love making a living from what I know brings glory to God every day. I know lots of people listen to us. And I find myself truly blessed to be working for a company I love, with people I love, and be able to be that voice of Hope for our listeners as they start their day.”
Steve Bertel is a multi-award-winning professional radio, television, print media, and social media journalist, who recently retired after a 30-year broadcasting career. Now a busy freelance writer, he recently released his debut suspense novel, “Dolphins of an Unjust Sea,” available on both Amazon and Kindle. Steve and his wife of 40 years live in Meridian, Idaho. He can be reached at [email protected].