By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
For the last seven years, Darian Dudrick has been the voice of KODI-AM in northwest Wyoming.
On Tuesday, the 52-year-old talk show host died, leaving behind family, friends and coworkers after fighting for his life for the previous two weeks.
When I first met Darian, I had come back to radio after a seven-year absence. It was December of 2016, and for the previous two years he had been the man in the seat behind the microphone, after the retirement of longtime morning show host Tom Morrison. Darian had been a newspaper man, primarily as an editor, for 22 years, prior to his foray into radio.
As the KODI morning show hosts – he as the host of “Daybreak” and “Speak Your Piece,” and me as the news director and host of “Partyline” – we were the first two people in the building each day. By 5:30, I was printing out my news stories and he was prepping for his four-hour on-air shift.
Twice an hour, he and I would banter before my news breaks, and I’d take over the KODI microphone for my half-hour talk show before he re-claimed the studio for “Speak Your Piece.”
Darian’s call-in show won numerous awards over the years from the Wyoming Association of Broadcasters, including “Best News Talk – Small Market” in 2016, 2018, 2020 and this year.
“Darian is fairly irreplaceable,” according to Susan Patrick, who with her husband Larry owns Legend Communications, the parent company for the Big Horn Radio Network in Cody. “I mean, he did his KODI Daybreak show, and he was very, very good at that. And that’s a little easier to fill.
“But ‘Speak Your Piece’ (a live daily call-in radio show) he sort of made his own,” she continued. “And he was a great interviewer, he had his slew of regulars, but also brought in new and interesting people. And he put his own spin on that, and took great pride in it, and that will be very hard to replace.”
The show sparked conversations that were carried around the state by news outlets like Cowboy State Daily – from comments about Kanye West’s contributions to Cody’s economy (“I am hopeful West continues to explore investment in our community,” Cody economic development director James Klessens said on Speak Your Piece in February) to retired U.S. Sen, Al Simpson blasting Iowa-based Gun Owners of America (GOA) while live on the air in April.
“They’ve been exposed as absolute nut cases,” Simpson said at the time.
Other regular guests that I watched come and go for “Speak Your Piece” were local legislators, economic development experts, school board members, historians, public health officials, and others who would comment on issues important to listeners in the Big Horn Basin.
His reputation as an interviewer allowed him other opportunities, as well, including as the moderator for the 2018 gubernatorial debate that was held in Cody at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
But he wasn’t all serious.
During football season, Darian would be sporting his beloved Miami Dolphins jersey – and his listeners learned quite a bit of music trivia in the early morning hours of the Daybreak show.
Since Sept. 2, the last day Darian was behind a microphone with the KODI Morning Show, Andrew Rossi, the news director for the Big Horn Radio Network, has been filling in as the moderator on “Speak Your Piece” – but how the station moves forward is uncertain.
“We haven’t even begun to discuss it, because of course we were hoping that Darian would recover,” said Patrick. “But, you know, we may feel that we go in a totally different direction – we’ll just have to see. We are considering all options.”
Above all, Patrick noted, the community has lost a good man.
“His co-workers loved and cared for him,” she pointed out. “He’s a great family man and he loved his community. And, you know, part of why he succeeded and did so well with Speak Your Piece is because he truly believed that the issues that he was talking about on a daily basis were important, and he shone a light on them. From Larry and I, he will just be terribly missed.”
Darian leaves behind a wife, two children, a community to whom he endeared himself, and in which his life and his contributions will be remembered with fondness. He will be missed.