Radio personality Steve Cannon, whose rich baritone and colorful characters were a fixture on "The Cannon Mess" on WCCO-AM for 26 years, has died. He was 81.
Cannon's family said he died Monday night at his home on Minneapolis' Lake of the Isles, WCCO reported. The station says he had been battling cancer since November.
Cannon retired from WCCO in 1997, signing off after nearly 40 years on Minnesota airwaves. He worked for 13 years as a morning show host at KSTP-AM before joining rival WCCO in 1971.
Cannon dubbed himself "king of the kilohertz, the prince of the airwaves." His weekday afternoon show - from "the basement studio" at WCCO - featured Cannon bantering with his cast of "Little Cannons," Ma Linger, Morgan Mundane and Backlash LaRue. (Cannon did all the voices, but some listeners thought the characters were real, according to the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting in St. Louis Park.)
A Michigan native, Cannon grew up in Eveleth on northeastern Minnesota's Iron Range. "I didn't want to work the mines," Cannon told the Star Tribune in 1997. "This was a great impetus for me."
He was inducted into the Minnesota Museum of Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2002 and has two plaques: one for himself and one for his made-up characters.
"It's awfully tough comparing the 125 people in our hall of fame, but in terms of sheer talent, does anyone stand out above Cannon?" said Steve Raymer, managing director of the Pavek Museum, which started the Hall of Fame in 2001.
Cannon, who came off as a curmudgeon on the air, was known for protecting his privacy. WCCO personality Dark Star recalls how Cannon once was forced to broadcast from the station's main studio because of fire damage to his small studio. Cannon would not go on the air unless staffers covered the studio windows with newspapers so no one could see him go into his characters' voices, Dark Star told the Star Tribune.
Cannon worked at stations in Mason City, Iowa, and in Stillwater, Bemidji and Duluth before landing at KSTP. Three weeks after he was fired at KSTP, WCCO snapped him up.
After retiring, Cannon continued to do sports picks on WCCO but retreated from the spotlight.
"He used to call himself Mr. Yesterday, because he was very aware that his time had come and gone," said T.D. Mischke, a former KSTP-AM show host now streaming an online show for City Pages.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)