Ray Pietz doesn’t see it as retirement. He likes to call it a sequestration.
“I’m actually just not providing some services anymore,” said Pietz, known across the mid-valley as Radio Ray.
Although he still will provide sports coverage, special features, commentary and production Pietz will step down from his 14-year stint on the Morning Update show at KGAL on May 31, ending a 40-year run as an on-the-air personality.
His career wasn’t exactly planned. After leaving the service Pietz, 67 headed west from his home in Buffalo, N.Y. to see California. It was supposed to be a visit.
“I had always meant to return,” Pietz said. “My car broke down in Texas and I had to get a job when I got to California to pay for it.”
While in San Francisco, Pietz heard an ad for the Ron Bailey School of Broadcasting. It seemed a better option than college and “a lot of philosophy courses”.
Pietz took to broadcasting immediately. After graduating he applied for a job in New Jersey hoping to go back home. By the time his application tape reached the east coast the station had already hired someone else.
All wasn’t lost. There was an opening in Roseburg.
“I thought it snowed all the time here. But I realized why Tom McCall wanted to keep people out,” Pietz said. “This is nice.”
Pietz gave himself the Radio Ray moniker and started working at KRSB.
“It was great fun,” he said.
In 1977 he was lured to Eugene where he worked for three different stations before moving to Corvallis and starting a 27-year career in the mid-valley with KLOO and eventually KGAL.
For most of those years Radio Ray has been a morning personality starting at 5:30 a.m. He puts a lot of himself into his shows.
“I grew up listening to the likes of Wolfman Jack,” he said. “Shows had personality. Now they rely on bathroom humor. I like to think I bring a little more variety and intelligence than that.”
He can be off the wall. He was once arrested on the air because of some unpaid parking tickets in Roseburg. He twice ran for president. Occasionally he plays background music and just reads the names of all the products he found in his bathroom.
Pietz has battled dwindling resources, automation and corporate ownership in his industry.
“KGAL is the last locally owned radio station in the area,” he said. “Charlie Eades (KGAL owner) is a hero.”
His love for sports has influenced his career. He broadcasts Lebanon High School football and basketball and local American Legion baseball. He also has a sports talk show, “From the Sidelines” which he will continue to host.
His son Ryan has followed his father’s footsteps and does play-by-play for West Albany High School.
Married to Mary Jo Simone for almost 35 years, Pietz commutes to Lebanon from Eugene. It’s a drive he’s enjoyed for a long time.
“This defines me,” he said of his work. “I kind of fear not being here. I hope I’ve made people feel a little better.”
He’s shared the mic first with Weldon Greig and more recently with Mark Workhoven.
“I like being a voice,” Pietz said. “It lets me hide a little.”
On the air he says he is 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds and has a seven figure salary.
After he turns the show over to Jeff McMahon following next Friday’s broadcast Pietz says he’ll follow Jack Paar’s example.
“He left the Tonight Show way back when with just he and his dog in the studio,” Pietz said. I think I’ll bring in my labrador and when it’s time I’ll turn to him and just say ‘Let’s go’.”