After 48 years on air, Frank Beckmann leaving WJR on Friday
'It's really been a marvelous life,' says the broadcasting Hall of Famer, who started on air in 1972
Frank Beckmann is ready to say goodbye.
He thinks so, at least.
"I’m coming to grips with reality," says Beckmann, who will air his final show on Friday after 48 years at WJR-AM (760). "You’ve been doing this for so long, you start thinking about, you know, you’re not going to do this anymore. It weighs on you a little bit. You begin to have second thoughts."
Second thoughts or not, Beckmann is hanging up his microphone. Friday's show will air 9 a.m.-noon from the Country Club of Boyne at Boyne Highlands Resort in Harbor Springs, tying together Beckmann's love of golf, Michigan tourism and broadcasting, the third of which he's been doing since he was hired at WJR on Sept. 11, 1972.
Back then he was a 22-year-old newsman, one of the youngest the station had ever hired, pulling in $12,500 a year. "I thought I was rich," says Beckmann, who grew up on Detroit's east side.
He remembers covering the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa for the station and sitting with Hoffa's family "in their absolute sadness" in the living room of their home. "It was a really odd feeling," Beckmann says.
He was a sports reporter for the station for years and launched "Sportswrap," Detroit’s first sports talk show, in 1981. He would go on to cover championship seasons for the Tigers, Pistons and Red Wings, and Pistons Bob Lanier and Vinnie Johnson became off-air friends.
Beckmann called football games for the University of Michigan for 33 years and spent several seasons as an announcer for both the Tigers and the Lions. He was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 2008 and has been inducted into the Michigan Associations of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
His conservative talker "The Frank Beckmann Show" launched in 2004 and has since aired on the station in the 9 a.m.-noon time slot, expanding slightly when Paul Harvey's radio commentaries went off the air in 2008.
Beckmann's contract is up at the end of March, and over the holidays he began considering calling it a career rather than entering into renewal talks.
"I started thinking, you know, it may be time to start relaxing a little bit," says the 71-year-old, who has a son, Jon, and a daughter, Tori, with his wife Karen. Since the pandemic, he's been broadcasting from home, making for a rather strange final year, but that didn't play into his decision, he says.
Beckmann announced his retirement in mid-January, and ever since, the outpouring of from friends, fans and sponsors has been both gratifying and humbling, he says.
"It was like, wait a minute, this is me, I don't deserve all this," says Beckmann, who wrote a a guest column for The Detroit News from 2005-2015. "I have a listener who had a hand-made pipe made for me in Poland and he's giving it to me. I'm like come on, are you kidding me?
"It's really been a marvelous life," Beckmann says. "That's what it is, it's a life. It's not just a career to me. It's what I've become, it's what I am."
He's not quite sure what to expect from Friday's final broadcast. "It's going to be a bit surreal," he says.
In place of "The Frank Beckmann Show," WJR will begin airing a series of fill-in hosts until programming plans are finalized. Fill-in hosts will air weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon, and Paul W. Smith’s Show will cover the 9-10 a.m. hour for the time being, according to station management.
Beckmann's not sure what he'll be doing come Monday, and he acknowledges it's going to be strange not waking up and going on the air.
As for what he'll be doing instead? "I hope I'll be golfing somewhere," he says.