• Radio legend Dick Delgado back on the air.
• Wolfman Jack dubbed radio host ‘The Lion.’
• Age is no factor when it comes to passion for radio.
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Retirement didn’t suit longtime local radio personality and music composer Richard “The Lion” Delgado, who after 43 years working in local radio stations — both English and Spanish language — retired eight years ago. His last on-air day was as the weekend show “Rhythm Roundup” on KBIF (AM 900).
The Lion is roaring again. Delgado, 78, has revived the “Rhythm Roundup” show on KBIF, which spotlights the music of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s that he played for so many decades for Fresno radio listeners. The program, that launched March 7, airs at 11 p.m. Saturdays.
“I have missed radio very, very much,” Delgado says.
He remembers teasing Fresno radio and TV legend Al Radka years ago about how much he loved his career.
“He said, ‘Delgado, you wait. It’s in your blood. Someday, once you retire, you are going to want to go back. A disc jockey will always be a disc jockey.”
He had a career as an on-air personality, host of several locally produced TV dance shows, writing more than two dozen songs that were produced and as the master of ceremonies at some of the biggest traveling shows. If you ever spent a night at the Starlite Twin View Twilight Theater, it was Delgado’s voice that came through the small speakers during intermission.
Local television owner and former TV host Gary Cocola describes Delgado as one of the last “living legends” of ‘50s and ‘60s Fresno radio.
“There isn’t anyone who grew up during those days that doesn’t remember Dick ‘The Lion’ Delgado playing all the hits of the day on Fresno radio, and doing dance parties on Fresno TV,” Cocola says.
It’s no shock Delgado has returned to radio. It’s a profession the Sanger native wanted since he was a boy picking grapes under the blistering sun. The dream almost didn’t become a reality because Delgado’s father died in 1949 and he, as the oldest of seven children, was pressed into taking care of the family.
He didn’t let those demands crush his radio dreams. Delgado would use any free time between working two jobs to write music and checkout library books on radio and television. The persistence paid off and Delgado finally landed a job in the sales department at KGST (AM 1600) in 1961.
A year later he went on the air hosting mornings on KGST and starting his first television show at KAIL (Channel 53), “The Rhythm Roundup.” The TV show format mirrored “American Bandstand” with musical performances and local dancers.
That was the start of a long broadcast career that took Delgado to local radio stations KEAP (AM 980), KBIF (AM 900), KXEX (AM 1550) and KMMM (FM 107.1) and TV stations Visalia’s KICU (Channel 43) and KFRE (Channel 30) where he co-hosted “Theater 30” with Al Radka.
Delgado was given the nickname “The Lion” from radio legend Wolfman Jack.
“I told him I thought it was quite an idea of coming up with the Wolfman name and howl. He said how about you as be Richard The Lion,” Delgado says. “That really caught on. You would be surprised at the mail I would get just to Richard the Lion.”
A lot of that mail has been stored in Delgado’s west Fresno home. One room is so loaded with nostalgic items it is time capsule of his life. There are the 45s and cover-worn albums he played during his 43 years on the air. Comic books and toys reflect his interest in westerns. There’s a plate from the Hacienda where Delgado went from busboy to music host and an album that features the tribute to Elvis Delgado wrote, “The Man from Tupelo” that was recorded by George Pickard.
Large black scrapbooks document a career that brought Delgado close to celebrities and made him one. Pictures of him with the likes of Freddy Fender are only pages away from letters and citations for the work he did during his radio days.
Delgado is 78, but he says that won’t limit his energy as he will bring a Lion’s heart to his return to the airwaves.