The iconic voice of Rush Limbaugh no longer graces the airwaves, but the broadcaster’s legacy lives on in a new book by his longtime sidekick.
James Golden, known on air as “Bo Snerdley,” spoke to The Daily Signal about the man he worked alongside for 30 years. Golden recently published a book about Limbaugh, “Rush on the Radio: A Tribute from His Sidekick for 30 Years.”
Golden, who served as Limbaugh’s call screener, recounted, “You had people that depended on him to help guide them through when they were feeling badly about where the country was at a particular moment. We had a regular reoccurring theme amongst some callers, ‘Rush, is it time to panic yet?’ ‘No,’ he would say, ‘No, there isn’t.’”
Listen to the full interview on “The Daily Signal Podcast” or read a lightly edited transcript below.
Rob Bluey: It was just about a year ago that The Heritage Foundation honored Rush Limbaugh with our Titan of Conservatism Award and dedicated our new state-of-the-art broadcast studios as the Rush Limbaugh Radio Studios. [The Daily Signal is Heritage’s news outlet.] It was such an honor to make that tribute. And a couple of months later, unfortunately, we lost Rush after he was suffering from cancer. And now you’re out with this book. Can you tell us why it was so important for you to tell his story?
James Golden: It is important for the people who loved Rush, and I mean loved him and took the time to really listen to him, to help shape his legacy going forward instead of the left, or instead of people who never listened to him, or who had just political motives for being detractors.
It was important for me to get on the record having known Rush for over three decades, how just what an incredible human being he was and how generous he was, what a gentleman he was.
Aside from the incredible success that he had as a broadcaster and in that success he changed the footprint of media in America. So what a life he led. And for the parts that I was able to share with listeners, Rush was a very private person, but still there was enough to share with people that I hope leaves them with the proper impression of how truly wonderful a human being Rush was.
Bluey: He certainly was. Rush started his broadcasting career as a teenager and made stops in several cities, some of which weren’t always successful before he really hit it big. What would you say was a big motivator for him to keep trying until he got it right?
Golden: Well, to me, he started his broadcast career at age 6, with an audience of one, his mother, in their house in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. It was there that Rush had a little Remco toy radio set, and really started broadcasting. He had an urge from age 6. Can you imagine to be on the radio? And when other kids were out playing, he was doing scripts for play-by-play. And he always had the passion for radio.
Once he was able to get into it as a teenager, and you’re right, he had several instances where he was fired. He talked about that numerous times, and yet he left the industry at one point to work for the Kansas City Royals, but he came back. It was still something he desired to do above all else. And when he came back after that brief stint in baseball, he flourished. His career flourished out in Sacramento and from there he moved to New York, and the rest is history with the EIB Network.
He was able to finally do the kind of radio show he wanted to do that all of his life, where it was his opinions and only his opinions that mattered. And the way that he wanted to do the show was totally up to him with the complete artistic freedom that he needed. And when that happened, oh my goodness. The rest of the country was just in for a storm because he took the country by storm.
Bluey: Oh, he certainly did. And James, why do you believe so many millions of people made Rush appointment listening every day?
Golden: Trust. Look, this is something that to me is highly unusual. Whether it be a television broadcaster or a radio broadcaster, anyone in the media, we’ve heard stories.
For instance, I remember hearing stories about how [CBS anchor] Walter Cronkite had the trust of America and [President] Lyndon Johnson knew that he was not successful the day that Walter Cronkite turned on him in the Vietnam War. So while you lost Walter, you lost the country.
Rush had that same level of trust, if not greater. This show never stopped growing, which is remarkable. For 33 years, he did a syndicated program and up until he passed away, this show kept growing.
You had people that depended on him to help guide them through when they were feeling badly about where the country was at a particular moment. We had a regular reoccurring theme amongst some callers, “Rush, is it time to panic yet?” “No,” he would say, “No, there isn’t.”
Finally, in the last year of his life, he just said it out front. There’s never a time to panic on America. America’s not a place you can give up on.
He loved this country and people knew that. He also worked very, very hard to “get it right.” He saw no value in getting anything wrong. He researched long hours his entire career to make sure that the information that he was providing was the best sourced information he could find and that it was accurate information.
If there was something that wasn’t, he didn’t wait until the end of the broadcast to try to hide it. If he found something had been erroneously reported at the top of the program, he would get it right.
He developed trust with people and he was witty. He was articulate, funny. He had an irreverent sense of humor that people loved, playful. The braggadocios tongue in cheek on air was also infectious. He just had so many skills as a broadcaster. He had honed his skills so well. His audience trusted him and they loved him. It was an uncanny relationship that most people in the media will never be able to attain with an audience the size of his.
Bluey: That is for sure. You talked about Rush and the research that went into each show, and I know how much he personally devoted his time to doing that. How did Rush come to adopt conservative beliefs?
Golden: I think he was always conservative. Rush talked about, as being a child, about how conservative his dad was and coming from a family that was steeped in the law. His grandfather was a practicing lawyer, past 100 years old he was still practicing law. The family in Cape Girardeau, such wonderful people. They have the family law firm and it is a big deal in Cape Girardeau, very well known.
His dad was also a World War II veteran, flew P-51s in World War II and was conservative by nature. So Rush grew up in a conservative household.
He used to remark about how he and his friends would gather around the house and listen to his father, and listen to his father just wax eloquently about the evils of communism and how it was going to be a threat to the country. And they used to love how his dad would get so passionate and worked up talking about this. So I think a lot of it came from the family that he came from.
Bluey: James, I want to ask about your story. How did you first get connected with Rush?
Golden: I was at WABC in New York. I had a history. WABC in New York was the station that I really flourished at. I got my start at WWRL in Woodside, Queens, doing research. Long story short, I became the last music director of WABC when it was the iconic top 40 radio station in the country and their first talk producer.
I was there when Rush came to WABC. I didn’t work with him immediately, but I did meet Rush outside of ABC as he was coming in on his first day and had a long chat with him.
I knew the former president of ABC Radio Networks, Ed McLaughlin, who was one of Rush’s business partners. He introduced me to Rush that first day, and I remember remarking to Rush after I met him and we talked a bit about what he wanted to accomplish.
I said, “Wow, it sounds like you’re going to be bigger than Paul Harvey.” And of course, Paul Harvey at the time was the biggest name in radio.
Well, little did I know that Rush would far eclipse anything that any other broadcaster had done up until that point in radio. And also, of course, I had no way of knowing how intertwined my own life would be with Rush starting very soon after that.
Bluey: Thanks for sharing that. You spent 30 years with him. Do you have a favorite memory you want to share with our listeners?
Golden: There’s no one favorite memory of it. There are just so many great memories of being with Rush, but I’ll tell you one that was really special.
The last year of Rush’s life, of course it was COVID and we could not go into his control room because of fear of infecting him with anything. But last Christmas, about this time, Rush invited the three of us that worked with him in that southern command every day, Dawn, the stenographer, Brian, our Florida engineer, and myself.
He had us come in the studio so we could exchange gifts with him, and you know what? We dropped the mask and we all gave each other hugs and that was just so special, especially now, remembering that that was the last Christmas that we had with Rush.
Bluey: I was going to ask you what Rush was like off the air. I feel like we got a little bit of a flavor of him there. What was the biggest misperception that people had about Rush Limbaugh?
Golden: I don’t know. It depends on where they got the misperceptions from.
You read all these cruel things about him being racist, which was complete nonsense or somehow bigoted. Rush loved people. He loved this country. He loved people. He was a gentleman.
I have been around Rush long enough to see how he treated people and it was consistent. No matter how big or small, whatever you did, if you brought Rush a cup of coffee, you always got a thank you, sir. Thank you, ma’am. He was exceedingly polite, exceedingly humble, and exceedingly generous.
I’d like to point out aside from his personal generosity. I mean, members of our staff will attest to that. Strangers can attest to it because some of them, in their darkest moments in life, were surprised to learn that Rush had heard about their stories and had been their benefactor in some way or another, and did it all without seeking or gaining publicity for it. He didn’t want it.
But then there’s what happened on the air with his generosity. … Everybody in this industry has participated in these charitable drives. And through that we’ve raised tens and tens of millions of dollars to fight diseases like leukemia. Leukemia doesn’t have a political ideology. It can strike anybody anywhere, anytime. And the advances that were made because of those tens of millions of dollars raised have helped humanity.
Also, you look at the fundraising that he and [his wife] Kathryn did for the families of first responders who had fallen in the line of duty. Now, if you lose your parent or your spouse, one of the things that you’re going to worry about is whether you’ll be able to keep a roof over your head. The family, how will the family survive? Well, Rush and Kathryn raised millions and millions of dollars so that the families of first responders could have their houses fully paid for. And in some cases have scholarships so that the kids could attend school without financial burden.
These are the kind of things, the generosity that defined to me Rush as a human being. Rush was a giver. He gave. His staff stayed with him for decades and decades. He was generous to a fault with his friends and they will all tell you stories about that. And yet one of the things that he did not seek was, “Oh, look at me. I want to be known because I’m such a great guy.”
He asked people to keep it private because it was a private matter. He lived it, he walked the walk, he lived it, but he wasn’t seeking the attention for all of the good that he did that still impacts people’s lives.
Bluey: Thank you for telling our listeners about Rush’s generosity. That is something that I don’t think many of us really knew about the man and that’s why we appreciate your making sure that we all know that.
One final question for you. The moment that sticks out to me, aside from all of the incredible things that Rush would say day to day is his appearance at the State of the Union address when President Trump awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. What was that like behind the scenes for Rush and for all of the preparations that went into it?
Golden: Well, Rush was due to begin his treatment that day. He had just made the announcement that he had this advanced lung cancer and off he went, he and Kathryn, to Boston to get treated.
It was there that President Trump reached him the day he was supposed to start. So it was a frenzied day. They didn’t even have the proper attire. They had to arrange all of that very quickly and get to DC. It was a surprise and it was just a delightful surprise.
I got a tip from Sean Hannity that something special was going to happen that night. And Sean had been very instrumental of making that happen. He and Matt Drudge. And of course, President Trump.
I said, and I’ll say it again, President Trump did something that I don’t think anybody else could have done. He gave Rush a well deserved, well earned honor, the highest civilian honor in the United States of America and made sure that almost every important elected Democrat in the federal government was there to watch it.
And it was just beautiful. And we are so much in gratitude for President Trump for doing that. And it was certainly a moment that we all cherished to see our beloved Rush honored the way that we felt he should have been honored for most of his career.
Bluey: It was just a fantastic moment. James, thanks so much for writing Rush on the Radio. How would you like listeners to follow your work and what you’ve been up to?
Golden: I’m back at WABC, my home station doing a show six days a week, you can go to JamesGolden.com, find out more information there. You go to WABC Radio and I’m working on a few other projects. So life has been very busy and of course, missing Rush every single day.
Bluey: We certainly do as well. James Golden, thanks so much for joining “The Daily Signal Podcast.” It’s great to talk to you.
Golden: Thank you, my friend. Awesome, Rob. Thank you so much for having me.