A chapter of local radio history quietly passed on last week with the death of David Berry, who died suddenly at age 62 in his home. Berry was instrumental in launching two iconic Triangle rock stations -- album-oriented-rock pioneer WQDR in the 1970s; and WRDU, where the AOR format gravitated after WQDR changed to country in 1984.
Berry worked as general manager of both WQDR and WRDU. And while he got out of radio long ago (going into real estate in 1987), the people who worked at Berry's stations remember him fondly.
"He was a pivotal piece of making a couple of great radio stations," says Daniel Brunty, who was program director at WQDR. "He had vision and a lot of belief, and we did some fighting with some people. At QDR, we were talking about how there was all this old rock 'n' roll we ought to find a place for, and [consultant] Lee Abrams thought that was the stupidest thing on the face of the earth. But it was successful. You know, you could play 'Louie Louie' once in a while."
It's almost quaint to think about now, but there was a time when local radio did its own news. In an unusual move for a rock station, Berry made news a priority on WQDR. The station even won a Peabody Award for a series about the health problems of Vietnam veterans.
"That whole idea came from David and it was an incredible series," says Gayle Rancer, who was WQDR's news director. "He was one of the finest managers ever, nothing but supportive. We were allowed to grow, learn to fly, do our thing. I just love those days. I still quote a lot of his anecdotes: 'Anything worth doing is worth doing badly at first.'"
Rancer was also part of The Last Chance Rock and Roll Band, a group of WQDR staffers who played charity shows. Through the miracle of Facebook, the band has reconnected and is reforming.
"The first comeback show will be a David Berry tribute," Rancer says. "I just love that guy. I'm sure he was catapulted straight on into heaven."