Bobby López Is a Step Ahead of His Peers
Bobby López is at the top of the list when it comes to Tejano radio firsts. That includes being the first Tejano radio personality with a state-of-the-art prosthesis leg and now a trunkful of ‘leg’ jokes.
Now when he hears James Brown sing “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” Bobby changes the lyrics to “Bobby’s Got a Brand New Leg.”
On the serious side, his story about this unexpected life changing experience is also a lesson in hope, tenacity, perseverance, a positive mind-set, faith, acceptance and helping others.
“I just got a ‘C’ leg and it’s called that because it has a computer chip that senses when I get up, when I walk and it has a natural knee swing,” Bobby said during an interview at his North side Alamo City home.
“It’s all titanium and very hard plastic,” he said as he tapped on the artificial leg. By the time you read this, Bobby, who is already playing golf and driving with his left foot will be walking past us because he is making great strides in rehab in Santa RosaHospital. And no, he did not lose his right leg due to diabetes. In fact, this radio/television personality wants to share the “why” and the lesson he learned so others will not make the same mistake and have to undergo weeks of excruciating pain, not to mention the loss of a limb.
It all started on a hot summer day last year when he stepped out of his residence to check his mail in his bare feet and en route to the mail box, after crossing a small patch of grass, he stepped on the sizzling parking lot asphalt that was hot enough to cook an egg on.
“The asphalt burnt a hole on the bottom of both feet and I could see the skin melting off, but I thought I could take care of it with a cool shower, then wrapping them. At the time I was very busy with my syndicated radio shows and announcing for the ‘Raulito TV Show.’ I was under a heavy work schedule and I kept telling myself, ‘I’ll go get my feet checked, but I never did and I let it go for a month or more without any antibiotics or proper medication.
“Eventually the left foot healed, but the right one had a 2 ½ inch diameter, one-half inch deep hole of which I could see inside. I was in great health, but the day after Halloween I woke up with my foot the size of a pineapple with gangrene in the toe area and I started getting fever. I went to a medical clinic and fifteen minutes later a nurse said I needed to be hospitalized because my vitals were pretty low, that my sugar levels were also too high and my body was shutting down. So they took me to St. Luke’s where I was told they would have to amputate from the toes.
“Next a doctor from Dallas came and ordered an MRI that showed the infection had not gone into the bone. However, it had crawled up further and they had to cut from the ankle down. Then they put me out again and cut from the knee down plus cut out a side of my thigh. If the infection goes up to the heart, it’s death!
Meanwhile, the nationally renowned announcer continued to receive large doses of morphine to ease the pain. “I was in la la land for such a long while that I don’t remember any of the four operations,” Bobby said of being in a bed for close to three months and under the care of wound care nurses. Still there was pain.
“I was in so much pain that I was yelling and screaming each time they had to insert sponges into the open wound and as the wound care machine drained and shrunk the wound; and because of the morphine, I was harmful to myself and those who came in contact with me.
“I must admit that I did go into a deep depression and self-pity about losing the leg on New Year’s Day, but then I told myself, ‘I’m not going to let this get me down.’ I did a stupid thing and I learned a lesson, to stop and make time to immediately get any ailment checked before it’s possibly too late. This is what God dealt me and I’m just glad and thankful for being alive andhaving Sara (Craft), my girlfriend of 11 years literally saved my life and continues to be by me every step of the way.”
After that day, Bobby made it a point to speak to patients that were giving up on life due to the loss of a limb. “I tell them there’s nothing they cannot do and if you use the word ‘cannot,’ you’re going to be in trouble. My progress was so good, I recovered super-fast, and with the aid of a walker or wheel chair, I was able to do everything on one leg. Doctors said my recovery was amazing and that I had a great will.
“Now I can’t be in the sun too long because the skin is too sensitive; and I have to be treated as a diabetic for health purposes, but I can walk.”
Looking down at his spanking brand new prosthesis leg, Bobby said, “This leg cost $61,000 and it works as a natural knee would work. I kind of got emotional when I first put it on because it felt like I was putting on a shoe, but I still get a ‘phantom feel.’ That’s when the mind thinks it’s real and I sometimes feel an itch. When that happens, I touch my real leg, then I hit the stump to set my mind straight. That’s how real it feels. And if I don’t pull my pant legs up, no one can tell I have an artificial leg.”
BOBBY’S ROOTS AND ENTRY INTO RADIO
Bobby and Bob Prado were thirteen or fourteen when Radio Shack offered an FM antenna that could transmit a radio signal up to two city blocks when they pooled their nickels and dimes together to purchase the kit.
“Bob hooked up clothes line wire from a fence to his bedroom window, we got a microphone and a turntable and then we’d have shifts. He’d be on-the-air from 4 to 6 p.m. and I came on from 6 to 8 p.m. and that was our first radio gig.”
At school they passed the word and soon the house next door became the most popular place in the neighborhood as their friends listened to Bobby and Bob’s banter and their great choice of music, but first they had to find the makeshift station on the dial because they could broadcast on any of the channels, but they had no way of knowing on which one they would be heard.
“We even went out and sold time at grocery stores,” Bobby said with a laugh. “Eventually we had to stop because what we were doing was illegal.”
By the time Bobby was 15, he played a little guitar and he loved music because his brother, Richard “Dickie” López, was a multi-talented musician who played a B-3 organ with fellow EdgewoodHigh School classmate Little Junior Jesse and his Teardrops. This led to Bobby becoming a roadie and driver for the band.
“Jesse knew how much I wanted to be in radio so he suggested I start working on my voice by being his announcer and helping him sing some songs,” the former almost singer-musician continued.
Dickie next joined Henry (Peña) and the Casuals and Bobby got to work as an engineer cueing records for Jesse and Henry’s ‘Top Teen Tunes’ on KUKA. Next Dickie joined Zapata, than formed Celsius, which he heads to this day.
Bobby landed his first job as a radio disc jockey at KITE and Bob Prado was hired at KBUC. Once Bob worked his way up to KTFM, he made a pitch for Bobby to be brought onboard. From that time on, the two childhood friends looked out for each other as they followed each other’s paths.
RADIO – TELEVISION CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
“When I reflect back on my radio career, I look back and see I’ve done a lot of ‘firsts,’ Bobby said. FM (frequency modulated) radio was invented in the 1930s and was first broadcasted in 1939, but didn’t catch on until the 1980s and when the first FM radio station went on-the-air in San Antonio, Bob and Bobby were the first Chicano jocks to be hired at KTFM, then an acid rock station. Then Bobby became one of the first Chicano radio personalities at KTSA, did a 6 to 10 p.m. teen hour show and garnered a 21.5 point rating share audience.
Next Bobby moved to Corpus Christi where he took the ‘Number 8’ radio station (KEYS) and in six months made it ‘Number One.” It was also during his stint there that Johnny Canales started his television show that the hot radio jock was hired as his sidekick and announcer.
“Orale, aqui viene Johnny Canales, take it away!” was Bobby’s weekly opening line.
Then it was back to KTFM where he teamed up with Héctor Rios and Sonny Rio to play urban Top 40 music. Bobby was on a roll when he was made music/production director at WOAI-FM when it changed call letters to KAJA and worked the 3 to 7 p.m. afternoon drive shift until it achieved a “Number One” rating.
“I didn’t go back to my roots until KRIO changed their format to Tejano music and I was hired as the program director,” Bobby said. “The end result is that I won Billboard’s Magazine Program Director of the Year.”
None of these accomplishments went unnoticed and when CMT (Country Music Television) decided to create a Latin American division from the ground up, the head of Arista Records suggested Bobby was the man for the job. Thus he was chosen as their golden boy in a competition of fifteen contenders. He moved to Nashville. Then Bobby brought in Camille Rojas and Roland J. Ruiz as his music directors, Santos Lopez, from Argentina, as his graphics expert and Danny García for voice-overs.
His programming of videos by Raúl Malo, Emilio Navaira, Rick Treviño, Ram Herrera, Joel Nava, Rick Orozco and anybody from Texas mixed with videos of America’s top country artists became a huge hit, not only here, but all over South America. He segued from country music to Latin music so smoothly that even Anglo Saxon viewers started to watch this network.
Part of the job meant many trips to Buenos Aires and other South American cities to sell the syndicated program. “Besides their love of country music, we also found out that people there are into eccentric clothes and the way our artists dressed made a fashion statement. So their costumes and attire were a popular part of the show.”
When Tichenor Broadcasting witnessed his success, they lured Bobby with phrases like, “You need to come home and do the same in Texas, where you belong and can be close to your family.” They bought out his contract and Bobby came back home to fix “Tejano Country”and work in the Tichenor Compnay of radio stations.
“This is when there were problems with the host and hostess. Then the show went into limbo,” Bobby said with a hint of disappointment. “What can I say, they still honored their commitment and I still got paid. So then I started producing at KXTN with Bob Prado.
Next Tichenor sent Bobby to Houston to take KRTX and beat the pants out of KQQK, the number one Tejano music station.
“To do this I convinced actor/comedian Paul Rodríguez, who was then looking to buy a home in Houston, to help me one month during the height of the ratings period. Then I brought in Jonny Ramírez and Go Kart Carlos, who both flew in to do the afternoon show plus Lorena Macarena. We did concerts and our events filled up the Astrodome. Then Tichenor decided to do away with the Tejano format, but this was before the ratings came in indicating KQQK with a 1.2 share and us with a 1.1 share. That’s when they changed their mind, but it was too late, I was already on my way back to San Antonio.
“I was tired of all the moving, so in 1998, I started working with Pro Tools and in 2000, I built my own studio and started the ‘Tejano Classic Radio Show’ and it was syndicated all over. Five years later, I started the ‘CD Tex Radio Show’with partner Bill Green, and it has even caught on in Australia and France.”
Locally, the “CD Tex Radio Show” can be heard on AM 1670 at 3 p.m. every Sunday.
WHAT’S IN THE FUTURE?
“I will continue to be the ‘voice’ for TTMA (the Texas Talent Musician’s Association) and do the Tejano Music Awards radio Show Podcast. In addition, I will produce a Latin country show on KBWN internet radio with George Rivas. I will also be getting back into the television scene on Latin Fusion TV with Brandy Lopez..
“I plan to rebuild my studio with digital tools and let it be known that I’m available for music videos. I also want to dedicate myself to learning more about diabetes and educating others, so no more flour tortillas or the combination of rice and beans, which when mixed together turn to pure sugar. That’s why so many Mexican Americans get diabetes.
“I also want to talk to other amputees and tell them that life is not over, that we have to learn to walk again. I mean, didn’t we have to learn how to walk when we were babies. Now that I have this leg, I’m glad I didn’t throw all my ‘right-foot’ shoes away.”
Yes, Bobby is serious about his goals, so don’t try to pull his leg.