Before he left us for New York and national fame, Rush was the same bombastic idealist he is now, the same great human being you know today. Except, he was a lot bigger, physically, in those days (1982). We all worked for KFBK, Sacramento: Rush (9-Noon), my partner, Bob Nathan and me (5-9AM) and we were pretty good pals. Bob and I often went rafting on the American River, which flows through Sacramento as a very, very mild ride, and one day we convinced Rush to go with us even though he was, and as far as I know still is, TERRIFIED of natural water. As we approached a bend in the river we were all musing about how much money we hoped to make someday; seeing the gentle rapids ahead, Bob gave Rush an oar and told him to absorb the blow of the canyon wall to give us a little spring back into the current. This was no rapids, friends. Well, Rush panicked, stuck the oar out, his arms stiff as a board, and upon impact he fell overboard. With 300-pounds of ballast suddenly missing from one side of the raft, Bob and I went out the other side and the raft flipped over, dumping an ice chest full of beer, several shirts, sunglasses, a pack of cigarettes and I think a radio.
Rush was in an absolute panic for his life as the three of us floated gently down a series of ripples at no more than six to ten miles per hour. Bob and I were laughing hysterically but poor Rush couldn't breathe. We told him just to relax and float...go with the flow...but the more he flailed and gasped, the more evident it became that we would have to do something or we might lose him. Being the natural leader of the group, I made a decision, "Bob," I shouted, "you get Rush, I'll get the raft!" And with that I cut some powerful strokes against the current while looking over my shoulder to see 300 pounds of Rush climbing the frail and skinny frame of my partner reaching for air!
We got Rush back in the raft and the next day he spent the entire three hours of his show talking about his horrendous whitewater grapple with the grim reaper. It was an exaggeration, of course, but he believed it...and from that a legendary radio style was born.
Now that I think of it...his views on "Whitewater" might have a lot to do with that summer day in 1982.
PS...This is an absolutely true story with no exaggeration.