Recently Barrett won his third Edward R. Murrow Award. When he found out about his third Murrow win this summer, I was honored that as a reader of mikemcguff.com, I was one of the first he contacted with the big news!
If you are like me, and love to hear Houston broadcasting stories, then you will love this post. Barrett was nice enough to share some media tales ones with us. And make sure to scroll to the end of this post to see how his career progressed through the years.
Mike McGuff: Tell us about your latest Murrow Award which was about the 200-year anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner [LISTEN HERE].
Dave Barrett: I really enjoyed producing this piece. Lots of sound to mix, ending with Whitney Houston’s great rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at Super Bowl 25. I thought this was a really solid piece when I did it. And you submit here at CBS. And then they let you know if it’s going to be submitted for a Murrow. And then…..you just forget about it. You go on and do your day-to-day newscasts & pieces. Then all of a sudden, I get called into my boss’ office, and he tells me, “You’ve won.” I’m –so—glad to have the platform to tell a good story. And even though I was stuck in traffic heading home to Connecticut, I had a smile on my face all the way. And also: I won in 1998 for Sports, from a piece I did (while at ABC News) about Tiger Woods winning his first major, The Masters. And in 2011, I won for Best Use of Sound here at CBS…..for a report called “Kids’ Digital Day.” To win again….it NEVER gets routine. I always am surprised.
MM: What were the days of your time as a Houston broadcasting like?
DB: I went to the University of Houston, and majored in….KUHF. Was at the station ALL the time…..and thanks to Alex Cochran, the faculty advisor, I got to do sportscasts, play-by-play, do middle-of-the-road music and learn jazz. Got my first pro media credentials to see the Rockets at Hofheinz Pavilion and the Aeros at the Sam Houston Coliseum. On the night the Aeros won the AVCO Cup over the Chicago Cougars, I spent the 3rd period stringing audio cable strung to the Houston locker room. Play-by-play announcer Jerry Trupiano then got to go LIVE from there, with post-game interviews on Gulf Coast Cable. About a month later, he called me and asked if I wanted to intern at KTRH. Sure, why not. When Jerry called Dr. Bill Hawes at UH…..to inform him about this, he said, “I make the decisions on interns….and he shall not do this.” So, I showed up anyway. Kept track of my hours that summer of ’74, and that fall, KTRH hired me, part-time. And paid me for all my work that summer. I’ve been employed ever since.
Loved covering every major team in Houston. Donald Davidson hired me as one of the Astros PA announcers (with the late, great J. Fred Duckett).
At KTRH, every weekend in the fall, our sports department would have a competition, to pick the NFL winners. The guy who came in last had to buy a bucket of Church’s chicken for the sports staff. John Breen, the former Oilers GM, and fabulous talk show host…..lost one weekend. Jim Nantz and I couldn’t wait for Breen to pay off, and we could enjoy a free meal, at HIS expense. Breen refused to pay. We –never—let him forget it.
Jerry Trupiano was a great boss at KTRH. Let me do everything. I’d had an accident on a motorcycle and he got the Aeros team doctor to fix my knee. After that I needed a car. Jerry co-signed the loan. We went to the bank, filled out some papers, and he went back to the station. I strolled in an hour or so later, and said, “Jerry, I just signed a 3-year contract with KTRH!!!!” He looked at me and I told him, “If you fire me, you own my car!”
When I was the Houston Apollos pxp announcer, in ’79-’80……I lived the movie, “Slap Shot.” Roomed with goalie Hannu Kamppuri, from Finland. On our opening road trip, the bus driver was so psyched to drive a professional team that he didn’t sleep after our game with Fort Worth. Then we went to Tulsa. He stayed awake. After the game, he starts driving us back to Houston. The bus starts weaving. After a stop for coffee (the players bought beer) we continued on. Bus weaves again. That got team captain Bryan Baltimore up: He ordered Otis to get out of the driver’s seat, lie down in the aisle and go to sleep. And he asked the team, “Does anybody know how to drive a bus?” Forward Danny Newman, a one-time Canadiens’ draft choice, raised his hand and said, “I drove a dump truck last summer.” Danny drove us back to Houston, unscathed.
MM: Any Houston media stories you want to share?
DB: Barry Warner and Mark Berman and I went to Pittsburgh to cover the Oilers AFC Championship against the Steelers. Before we went to the game, I drove us to a Kmart parking lot. It was icy that day, and I was doing do-nuts in the lot. I think Berman was a bit white-knuckled, but Barry knew. He’d driven in Buffalo, as I had, during the winter.
There was another time when Barry and I were at the Oilers-Raiders game in Oakland. Had flown on the team charter. Naturally, Barry’s taking FOREVER to file his pieces back to KIKK. Finally, we pile into my rental car…..and zoom off for the airport a short drive away. I leave the car DIRECTLY in front of the terminal. Barry and I grab our stuff…..run through the place, and I toss my keys at the guy at the Hertz desk. Said, “Your car’s out front. Bill me. Gotta catch this plane.” We made the charter as they were closing the doors. I’ve NEVER missed a plane flight. Ever.
Loved my time at KLOL, where I put my sports reports to rock music and in 1979, I did a piece with high school football star Eric Dickerson. He lived in Sealy, and was being heavily recruited. I called him at home, and we talked about what he was going through, before he signed with SMU. That piece won me the AP’ Best Sportscast in Texas. Pretty cool, when you figure I was up against all the big sports stations in Houston and Dallas….. When I became the morning DJ for a short stint at KLOL, I, along with the news guy, Charlie Weiss….would ask listeners for menus. Stuff they could make for us, for breakfast. We’d pick a winner, and then take the station van to their house. We’d do our show from there, stringing the mike from the kitchen….all over. They’d serve us breakfast and we’d give out KLOL t-shirts and hats and other stuff.
When Walter Cronkite was about to retire, (he had worked at KTRH)…..I called him at CBS News in NY. Said I was from “KTRH-KLOL in Houston.” Did 10 minutes with him, and we cut up the soundbites to use in our breaks on KLOL, the day he signed off from CBS. He talked about his boat, and told us that he liked rock & roll, but that “….it was too loud.” I got Mayor Jim McConn to read a proclamation that I’d written, proclaiming “Walter Cronkite Day in Houston.” We framed it and sent it to CBS. Put party sounds of horns and more….behind us, during the breaks, and ran the heck out of those soundbites. It was a good show. I used parts of it in my audition tape that got me a job at ABC News. And, on Cronkite’s final day, the guys across the hall called CBS and said they wanted to do an interview with him. They were told, “He already spoke with your station.” The KTRH people were not happy that I’d beaten them to it, but hey, if they didn’t think ahead, that’s their issue. I did agree to let them use my soundbites, though.
------------------ END OF INTERVIEW ------------------
If you want to see the evolution of a network anchor's career, see how Barrett progressed as a broadcaster through the years:
KUHF Radio……did sports and DJ work 1973-1978
KYND, Pasadena…..was a tape jockey, 1974, spring and summer
KTRH……sports reporter, talk show host, sportscaster…. 1974-1979.
KPRC……sportscaster, AM drive. Did the sports talk at 6 PM, with Anita Martini….. Split shift. Bleak. Summer of ’79.
KTRH……back to KTRH, in the fall of ’79, to do more of same. But I also did Houston Apollos play by play in the ’79-80 season. Also worked part time as a weekend DJ at KLOL.
KLOL…..Summer, 1980 until June of ’81: morning DJ. I was “Barretta” of “Barretta and Charlie.” Great fun.
Pacific News Service, Summer ’81 into December ’81. Ran a small bureau in Washington, DC. Showcased myself with young-demographic news pieces that went primarily to the West Coast. Made NO money. But did pretty much whatever I wanted to, in terms of covering things.
ABC News……December ’81 to November, 1992. Correspondent. Went to 7 Olympics while there: Sarajevo in ’84, followed by LA, Calgary, Seoul & Barcelona. Went to Persian Gulf twice….in ’88 and in ’90. Covered political conventions in ’88 and ’92. Hurricane Hugo in ’89. And much more.
ESPN Radio…..December ’92 thru Dec. ’94. On the road forever. Covered Masters, British Open, MLB, NBA playoffs, NFL, Daytona, Indy 500, NCAA hoops, Wimbledon. Did updates from Bristol, CT, when not on the road.
ABC News…..back for another 4 years, starting in Dec., ’94. Covered Olympics in Atlanta and Nagano. Won 1st Edward R. Murrow Award there for Sports piece on Tiger Woods, when he won his first major, the Masters…..in ’97. (Does that make me feel old????)
Fox News Radio…..Dec. ’98 to Feb. 2001. News director. Shoestring operation. Have no idea how many people heard us.
CBS News…..Feb. ‘2001 till now. Great place. Covered Salt Lake City and Athens Olympics. Saw last Space Shuttle launch. Won 2 more Murrow Awards…..in 2011, for Best Use of Sound….for “Kids’ Digital Day.” And yesterday: Best Network Feature for “Star Spangled Banner.”