For 51 years Rick Shaw’s resonant and melodious voice echoed through the airwaves — from St. Louis to Omaha to Denver and finally to Miami, where he spent most of his career spinning vinyl and playing oldies, goldies and rock ‘n roll.
In 1964, while he worked for WQAM, Shaw was the first radio disc jockey in South Florida to play the Beatles. He met them later that year in Jacksonville.
During a 46-year career in Miami, Shaw finished each program with the 1959 Ray Peterson classic Goodnight My Love.
Friday, just over a decade into his retirement, Shaw died. He was 78.
“He gave me my first on-air job in radio. He had greater faith in me than I had in myself a lot of times. And he didn’t just do it for me. He did it for countless people along the way,” said former WAXY co-worker David Scott, who called Shaw his “mentor, my champion, my friend.”
Shaw began his decorated disc jockey career in 1956 in St. Louis. After gigs in Omaha and Denver, he landed a job with WCKR, which later became WIOD, in Miami in 1960. Along with his career taking off in Miami came another change: His name.
Friend and former co-worker Joe Johnson, who now works for WLRN, said when Shaw first came to Miami his name was James Hummell. But that changed quickly when Shaw’s new boss looked at him and said, “No it isn’t. From now on you’re Rick Shaw.”
It stuck. And Shaw’s career took off. By 1963 he was working at WQAM, where he recorded a record-shattering 54 share — more than all the other local stations combined.
Then in 2006 Shaw surprised listeners by announcing his retirement midway through a broadcast. When the show ended, he played the Peterson classic, Goodnight My Love.
Later that day, reached by Miami Herald reporter Howard Cohen, Shaw said he was “sick and tired” of waking up every morning at 4 a.m.
“The older I get, the harder it becomes,” he told Cohen. “The body does not want to function at 4 in the morning.”
Shaw had become a victim of the troubles inherent in mainstream radio. Formats had become fragmented. iPods and books-on-CDs were stealing the market away.
“I’ve seen it all come and go,” said Shaw. “I got into radio when I was a senior in high school. Elvis was coming on strong. Rock was getting up and learning to walk and here I was starting my career.”
Shaw spent retirement doing charity work and hosting events. He video-recorded weddings. He loved ocean cruises and cars, buying a 1957 Thunderbird convertible after he retired. For more than 30 years he lived in the same home in Cooper City.
“He was a giving, warm guy,” said Johnson, who hosts the show Morning Edition on WLRN. He worked with Shaw at the radio station Magic 102.7. “He said what he felt and he knew how to tug at your heart strings.”
Longtime Magic DJ Mindy Lang gave a heartfelt statement about Shaw on Friday on her Facebook page.
“It’s not very often you meet a legend in your lifetime,” Lang wrote. “It’s so special when that legend turns out to be one of the nicest people on the planet.”
Shaw lost cruise partner and wife Elaine in 2001. He is survived by sons Rick and Sean Hummell.