It's the night of his 73rd birthday and Dennis “Wild Man” Walker is sitting outside the Blue Note in Harrison, Ohio about to be rocked by two acts he's yet to see, at least based on Chapter 4 of “Wild Man: The Book.”
Before Winger and later Tom Keifer (Cinderella frontman) revive 80s hair metal in all its glory, Walker is on the outdoor patio hawking the second edition of a book he first released in 2020.
Anyone of a certain age growing up in the Tri-State area and even remotely interested in Cincinnati sports and rock music will recall the Wild Man most vividly in his role as “Sports Commando” for the WEBN Dawn Patrol from 1985-2012. The outro he used for his sports highlight report became his signature – a beloved Cincy sports figure was hailed as “forever” while detested rivals (aka Steelers) were dismissed with “never.”
Walker credits the rhyming tagline for his big break at WEBN. In Chapter 3, he relates a story that led to his being added to the storied morning crew.
It was 1983 and Walker was still lamenting the loss of his favorite Red, Pete Rose, to free agency five years earlier. This along with other moves by general manager Dick Wagner, led to the decline of the franchise from its Big Red Machine days to a 101-loss season in 1982. With Rose's Phillies coming to town that July, the Wild Man hatched a plan to show everyone his distaste with the GM.
Small planes frequently flew over the old Riverfront Stadium during games, carrying advertising or various personal messages on banners. Walker asked around and found the fee for flying a message: $250. He promptly started a “Pete Rose Airplane Fund” and chose a crowded Saturday night for the stunt. On July 9, Walker and 32,510 other fans cheered as “Pete Rose Forever, Dick Wagner Never” soared over the field. Wagner was fired two days later, for which the Wild Man humbly takes full credit.
Tom Owens, program director at WEBN, took note and later when he needed to improve morning ratings, Walker was his man.
Rose (of course) has a prominent part in the book, with Chapter 8 entirely devoted to the Hit King. There's also a humorous homage to Pete's uniform number, 14. In Chapter 13, Walker addresses fatherhood: a child born March 3, 1991, and given the name of (what else?) Pete.
The book opens as you'd expect one to that shares the life of a wild man – a chapter on covering a female mud wrestling event at Bogart's night club in June 1984. (No worries, the book is PG-13 material.)
Walker gets into his early life in Norwood and Anderson Township in the second chapter titled “Born to Be Wild.” He was named for Dennis James, an early host of The Price is Right. At Cincinnati's Anderson High School, he was student manager of the baseball Redskins and wrote sports stories for the school newspaper, The Chieftain.
Walker then chronicles his retail sales experiences throughout the 70s and early 80s. While in Terre Haute in the late 70s, he was able to see the rise of Larry Bird with the Indiana State Sycamores.
The fourth chapter outlines Walker's affinity for rock music and details the hundreds of shows attended and the many back-stage interviews. Best concert: Paul McCartney and Wings at Riverfront Coliseum 5/27/76. Worst? “No contest. Van Halen with their third singer, Gary Cherone … so bad, we walked out.” There's even mention of Flatline, a cover band featuring Brookville talent.
There are comical stories of WEBN shenanigans over the years, including when Walker famously climbed a Cincinnati billboard in 1991 and dwelled there 61 days until the Bengals won their first game on Nov. 3.
Speaking of Who Dey, they get their time in Chapter 10. Favorite Bengal: Boomer Esiason. The old Cincinnati Royals of the NBA are not forgotten by Walker, and certainly hockey isn't. The Wild Man was public address announcer for the minor league Cincinnati Cyclones for more than a 20-year stretch.
Gerry Schultz assisted Walker in writing the book, what the latter calls “a grand slam.”
“Tell a buddy, call a friend, it makes a great Christmas gift or a birthday present … Hook a brother up.”
It's available on amazon.com or visit Wildman Walker The Book on Facebook.