R.I.P. Gene Roberts: A Legend of Country Radio

Gene Roberts by Sara Finke

Sara Finke

The music community of St. Louis (and beyond) is saddened by the news of Gene Roberts’ passing on January 12, 2011. Gene was 82 years old.

Gene was the long-time host of Country Function, Bluegrass Junction on 88.1 KDHX, and an influential and beloved figure on the traditional country music scene in Missouri. His involvement with radio dates back to the 1940s. Before going on-air with KDHX in the early ’90s, Gene broadcasted with WGNU, KWRE and KCLC. His birthday parties were always well-attended, joyous celebrations of old time music and he supported local and national musicians by regularly hosting them in the KDHX studios, interviewing them on-air and playing their records. Gene also hosted the annual Hank Williams Special on 88.1 KDHX, a 2-hour radio show that brought together some of the finest musicians in St. Louis to cover songs by the legend.

His trademark exclamation, “Mighty fine!,” is just one way to describe his spirit.

88.1 KDHX programmer sub (and former host of Biddle Street Beat, among other shows), Tony C. recalls learning from Gene: “I remember him as a very warm, even-handed person. He really served as a mentor to many of the programmers back in the early years of the station. He also knew about a lot of different genres — rockabilly, blues — beyond just country.”

Larry Allen, who co-hosted Country Function, Bluegrass Junction with Gene, recalls: “He was just a very nice guy. I originally came on just as a board operator but Gene welcomed me with open arms and invited me to co-host with him. There will never be another Gene Roberts.”

Funeral arrangements: Bradford Funeral Home, 305 N. Main, Summersville, MO 65571
Visitation: Saturday, Jan. 15 5:30 p.m.-8 p.m. Funeral: Sunday, Jan. 16 2 p.m.

Listen to the first hour of Gene’s 2007 Hank Williams Special (which originally aired January 2, 2007) and enjoy the slideshow. All photos by Sara Finke.

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  • David Byers

    Over the Years past we were priveleged to do several shows and attend several events where Gene was a part. We played Live on His Radio Shows and had a ball at his orginized Jam sessions. Our last Visit was at a Fund raiser for the Gateway Country Music Association In Warrenton. He traveled many miles and devoted a lot of time at his own expence to promote Music . He will be forever Missed .David Byers

  • Dave Nelson

    Rest in peace, Mr. Roberts. Your family will be in our prayers. Listening to Mr. Roberts on KDHX was a great joy, and I am grateful for how much I learned, and how many terrific artists and songs I discovered through his guidance.

  • Steve in Omaha

    I am truly saddended to hear of the passing of Gene Roberts, definately a tremendous loss to the traditional country music scene. I could be wrong, but I remember the opening song “Four Wheel Drive” on Saturday mornings and I knew I was in for a great couple of hours of traditional country/blue grass music.

    To his family – the KDHX fan base was blessed by Gene’s knowledge and wonderful personality.

    May he rest in peace by the side of our lord Jesus Christ. John 11:25-26

  • http://durhamparkandcatering.com Kevin Durham

    Dear Gene,
    I am not a writer and I don’t play a banjo or any other Bluegrass musical instrument, but you brought Bluegrass to me and opened a whole new world of music and friends to me. You don’t have to love Bluegrass music to love the Bluegrass people and the way they care about each other and our country. I think I’ve known you for only about 10-15 years and I only wish it could have been longer. You introduced my family to the Bluegrass family about 5 years ago. You and Bluegrass have made me a better man, with stronger feelings about people and the way we treat each other every day. When I am down at the on Thursday night Bluegrass I feel like every American wishes they could. People listen to the music and talk to all their friends and it gives that good clean wholesome feeling. It’s great on Thursdays, but Bluegrass has changed my life throughout the weeks and years. I have more compassion for people and what they are going through. Bluegrass musicians and followers will drop what they are doing and help another in need. When you came into the hall, or any place for that matter, people just couldn’t wait to talk to you, get a hand shake and hear “Mighty Fine”. I could listen to your stories about where you had been and what you had one forever. You would just glow telling about a concert, festival or road trip you had just taken. I know your friends and family will keep your legacy alive forever. The Bluegrass community and the world wil miss you, but you will always be remembered in our hearts, thoughts and prayers.
    Thanks Gene!
    You are Mighty Fine!
    Kevin Durham
    P.S.When I go I hope I’m sent to your part of Heaven. I’ll bring the Orange soda.