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Remembering Eric "Bubbo Bo" Boulanger, radio host and truckers' companion

Eric "Bubba Bo" Boulanger retired last year after 40 years on WSCH-FM, WLW-AM, WUBE-FM and WCKY-AM.
Courtesy WSCH-FM
Eric "Bubba Bo" Boulanger, who died Feb. 3, retired last year after 40 years on WSCH-FM, WLW-AM, WUBE-FM and WCKY-AM.

Eric "Bubba Bo" Boulanger, the 40-year Greater Cincinnati radio veteran who died Friday of brain cancer, will be remembered as a "giant elf" with a quick wit, generous soul, appreciation for listeners and dedication to informing America's late-night truck drivers. He was 66.

"I'm pleased to be … the weekend overnight companion of truck drivers who are an overworked, underpaid and overlooked yet vital link in our economy," Boulanger told me in 2007 when he returned to host WLW-AM's weekend America's Trucking Network overnight show.

At the time, he was working five days a week hosting mornings on Lawrenceburg's WSCH-FM "Eagle Country 93.3." He retired from WSCH-FM in 2021 on his 65th birthday, and from his one-hour ATNmidnight show on WLW-AM last year. He was diagnosed with cancer in July, and went into hospice before Christmas.

The Massachusetts native came to Cincinnati's old news-talk WCKY-AM in 1982 as sports reporter Eric Boulanger. But he was best known as country music radio personality "Bubba Bo" on WUBE-FM, WYGY-FM and WSCH-FM, where he donated countless hours to local charities.

Courtesy WSCH-FM
Bubba Bo promoting a give-away on Lawrenceburg's WSCH-FM.

In 1986, he joined country music station WUBE-FM, and worked mornings as "Bubba Bo" in the 1990s with former Q102 DJ Jim Fox. He was part of B105's four nominations for the County Music Association's large market "Personality of the Year" radio team. Read more about his career in my Jan. 24 story about his cancer diagnosis.

Here's how his friends and former coworkers remember him:

BILL WHYTE, former WUBE-FM morning DJ now working as a singer-songwriter in Nashville: "He was part of a big 'zoo' that the late Mike Chapman put together on WUBE that included me, Jackie White, Mark John Holliday, Steve Horstmeyer, comedian Roger Naylor and Eric, who did sports for us. It didn't take long to find out how good he was on air. He was very quick on his feet, had a great laugh and did his homework.

"He was a great guy. We hung together quite a bit off the air as well … Listeners fell in love with him I think because he was himself on air. He wasn't afraid to take a stance or offer his opinion, and it was never staged for a radio show. He was always saying what he thought and that resonated with the audience. Plus, he was always nice to the folks he met who loved listening to him. The long on-air success he's enjoyed is no accident. He earned it."

TIM CLOSSON, former WUBE-FM program director:  "When I arrived in 1990, he was doing news with Bill Whyte as Eric Boulanger on the air. He was such a Bubba that everyone started using the nickname off the air. When I paired him with Jim Fox, Bill Clinton was in office … and we thought Bubba would be a great nickname and to present the morning show as 'Fox & Bubba.' Man, did that ever take off! He was a great ad-libber, and had great awareness of important news of the day. He was a great broadcaster and valuable member of that terrific CMA award-winning staff.

CHIP "TATER" PRATT, Pratt, Bubba Bo's America's Trucking Network producer from 2008-21: "Bubba was a true radio professional as well as a good comedian, very quick witted. He was great to work with. A good man, hard worker and loyal to the 700 WLW/ATN listeners and the American truck driver.

"He truly made every driver out there driving late at night know that the ATN was their show and not his. He always let the callers talk as long as they wanted (unlike other shows that would let callers talk only for two minutes) … If anyone walked in the shoes of the late great Dale 'Truckin' Bozo' Sommers, it was not just his son Steve Sommers but also Bubba Bo."

ALLIEA PHIPPS, former Cincinnati public relations company owner now living in Lacey, Wash.: "Eric did so much for the nonprofits in Greater Cincinnati. He had a giant heart behind that giant smile! I can't remember asking for help and not getting a positive reaction. And he always made it fun!

"His humor was essential in making events sound like fun on air — and on occasion he would ask a question that would be slightly inappropriate which just made me laugh! Like asking one of the nuns what was the largest size bead necklace she had ever received. Poor Sister Tricia. She was promoting Northern Kentucky's Mardi Gras for Women & Children's Charities and did not understand what he meant. On the way back to work, I had to explain it to her. Later, I had friends send her huge beads which she wore to the fundraiser. When Eric saw her he said something like. 'Now that's more like it!' That completely made her night!

"I worked with him with a variety of clients with my PR company, 3C Media. I will also be forever grateful to him for working so many hours after Hurricane Katrina when all broadcasting talent came together to raise money for the Red Cross. He was a powerful force who used his voice for good and Greater Cincinnati is better for it.

BILL LAWRENCE, his long-time friend and retired banker: "Bubba Bo was like a giant elf. Bubba always had a big smile on his face and a kind word on his lips.

"I first met Bubba when he took over WCKY’s Sports Talk when Bob Trumpy moved to WLW. He came across as a nice guy, and he was. Most of the callers had followed Bob, so it was easy to get through and voice my opinions …

"I also enjoyed listening to him on the overnight trucker show on WLW on weekends. Motorkote (lubricants) liked him so much that they pulled their commercials when some number-cruncher let Eric go. He was back pretty quick, and so was Motorkote.

"When his son Jake passed from the bee sting (in 2009) it hit him hard. He was off the air for a few weeks. I got word that he would be back that weekend, so I bought some donuts and stayed in studio with him to give him some moral support. Plenty of tears were shed that night as his trucker friends called in to chat.

"Bubba relished going to Louisville to the trucking show. He would set up a grill and serve anyone that stopped by. He would interview vendors, truckers or their spouses. He would also go by a bakery and get several dozen donuts to take to truck stops, and sit and chat with the drivers as the donuts disappeared. If a charity asked him to come to an event, he was there … I feel that I am a better person for knowing Eric."

BRIAN KAUFFMANN, local sales manager for WMOH-AM in Hamilton: "Eric was doing the Bubbo Bo & Blackjack In The Morning Show gig on WYGY when I worked there (2001-2003). He was a 'team player' in every way. As 'YGY was intent on competing against his former station WUBE/B-105, he would do almost anything in his power to help us win.

"Case in point: The former Walt's Bar-B-Que location on Colerain Avenue was my advertising account back then and Walt was a big fan of Bubba Bo. So I asked Eric if he could meet me at Walt's and I'd buy him lunch so Walt could meet him … Eric was so impressed that he offered to be Walt's official station spokesperson in all of his commercials we aired from that point on.

"Walt was amazed and asked Eric, 'How much will you charge me to do this?' Eric, knowing he could sort of name his price, said 'No charge. I just love your food and I want to tell everyone about it for you' … Walt replied, 'Then here's what I'll do: Anytime you and your family come in to eat, it's on me. No charge for anything you want and how much you want. And I'm concocting a new burger combination. I'm gonna name it the Bubba Bo Burger.' Even after Eric left WYGY and went to WSCH and WLW, Walt left the Bubba Bo Burger on his menu until he closed the business and moved to Texas about 10 years.

"That's just the kind of guy Eric Boulanger is. He actually cared about the advertisers and the listeners/fans of the stations where he worked. He was always friendly; always a 'hello' and smile on his face. He loved his NASCAR, his family and his listeners."

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.