US-99 Morning co-host Lisa Dent is going into the Country Radio Hall of Fame, and she’s still finding it a little hard to believe, even though she’s known about it now for a few months.
“I found out from (co-host) Ray (Stevens),” she confessed. “Ray told me before the holidays but said, ‘When they call you, you better act surprised and fake it.’ When he told me I cried. Although I wasn’t sure he was telling me the truth—so I said ‘You better be telling me the truth!’ It would have been doubly embarrassing to be crying if it wasn’t true. With Ray, you never know for sure. “
Any lingering doubts she had will be officially erased in the very near future. “Luke Bryan will be doing the introduction and acknowledgement of the Class of 2016 at Country Radio Seminar in Nashville, which takes place February 8-10,” she says. “The induction ceremony itself is in June. I get to choose who inducts me – and they told me it could be anyone, someone in my family, an artist, a radio colleague, whatever. I haven’t decided yet. I did talk to my family and they said ‘No Way’, so that’s my next big decision.”
Lisa’s journey to the Hall of Fame has been a long one with lots of stops along the way. “I was born and raised in Rockford,” she says, “and had a chance to work at WZOK in Rockford – my hometown station and that was a big thrill. I went from there to San Diego and worked with Jack Diamond, who just recently left town here in Chicago at WLS. After San Diego, I went to Minneapolis to launch the ‘Bob’ format, which I was very excited about because it got me closer to home, but when they played the jingles for me, the jingles said ‘Markie Marquette’. I said ‘Who is Markie Marquette?’ Oh, didn’t we tell you? We changed your name.”
Needless to say, this wasn’t what she wanted to hear. “I told them that I would be exercising the out-clause of my contract in a year when that came up because I hated that name. I remember when my program director introduced me to Garth Brooks backstage at a concert. He said ‘This is Markie Marquette’, and I’ll never forget Garth Brooks for what he said next. He said ‘That sure looks like Lisa Dent to me.’”
The Markie Marquette experience didn’t last too long. Lisa Dent re-emerged in Seattle. After another stop in Houston, she made her way back up to Chicago in 2002. “I did middays at first,” she recalls, “which worked out perfectly because my son Liam was young then, and when Big John Howell (now the morning man at WLS) left to do talk, I was moved into that morning slot, and it was right when Liam entered elementary school, which also worked out perfectly.”
Lisa says couldn’t have written the script any better herself. “My whole life I wanted to get back to Chicago. I never believed I would be good enough to be in Chicago, let alone do the morning show. It’s unbelievable. I love the format. I love the artists. I’ve been a champion of country music for so long. And the greatest thing about my job is that I have a platform to help charities I believe in, and the country audience is so giving.
I’ve always been an animal advocate, so to be involved with PAWS Chicago is like a dream come true. I’m on the board there. I served on the regional leadership board for the American Cancer Society for years. The Paul Ruby Foundation for Parkinson’s. Governor Quinn gave me a four year term on the Illinois Arts Council. I have a teenager now that needs my attention, so I have had to scale back a bit, but it’s been very rewarding to make a difference.”
And every morning she also gets to hang out with her good pal, co-host Ray Stevens. They have almost nothing in common, but they found an immediate chemistry. “We are total opposites, but it works beautifully,” she explains. “He’s my at-work-husband. We read stuff to each other like an old married couple – ‘Hey did you see this?’ The day it became official I was being inducted into the hall of fame, he was sitting right next to me in the studio, and I got this text from him. ‘So happy. Congrats. But I’m heard in 177 countrys’(sic). And I looked up at him and said ‘You spelled countries wrong.’” She laughed at the memory, but it was just one of the moments from that day that she’ll never forget.
“About an hour later he sent me another text, and this time it had just been discussed that I was only the sixth woman to be inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame, and his text said ‘F the woman thing. You’re as bad-ass as any guy out there. Love playing with you every day. I know you think I’m half-nuts, but I got your back through anything, and if anyone ever disputes that, put them in a room with me.’ That’s the real Ray. I know he really does have my back through thick and thin.”
And Ray knows the real Lisa too. She may not be heard in 177 countries, but she’s in the Country Radio Hall of Fame.
– Rick Kaempfer