Rick Daddy departs — take it easy, tiger

Local radio icon entrusts segment to next generation


Sophie Leung-Lieu

According to KUTX’s Rick McNulty, burying Rick Daddy will be the toughest part about leaving “Uptown Saturday Night,” a segment he ran for six consecutive years.

Noah Braun, staff reporter

The words, “Awwwww, pass off the hatchet, baby!” slinked through the stereo of my Dad’s CR-V on a mild Saturday evening. We cruised through downtown, each crystalline skyscraper gently illuminated by the rose-gold glow of the setting Sun across the river. The lights inside the buildings coating the landscape came on, and Rick Daddy’s silver tongue graced our ears for the last time. There’s something so deeply profound about moments like that, moments that I’ve had before, that I can’t do justice to with words. The swirling cars, people and sounds that emerge at that time are just surreal, intangible. Driving for the sake of it is expensive, but there are things like that which you can only get that way.

I’ve found excitement in the spontaneity of the medium, in the suspense of not knowing what could come on next.

Contrary to what Roger and the Gypsies had to say, the only thing that was passed off last month was the torch; inevitably, Rick McNulty, or Rick Daddy as he’s called, retired on Oct. 8 from his post as DJ on “Uptown Saturday Night,” a long running segment on KUTX that has broadcast the “best doo-wop, rhythm and blues, soul, and uptown sound” for over 30 years. Rick Daddy has been our guide through the magical world of high-steppin’ tunes since 2016 when he took over the show from the late Paul Ray, and he has always been the face of evening radio in my mind.

I’ve held a soft spot for music radio for quite a while now. Maybe I’m just mentally an old, withering man, but I’ve found excitement in the spontaneity of the medium, in the suspense of not knowing what could come on next, but knowing that it could be something great and completely new. I began to notice what differentiated certain segments from others on KUTX at around the time McNulty took over as host of Uptown, and he was able to set himself apart from the crowd so suddenly and smoothly that I couldn’t help but take note.

What set Rick Daddy apart from the usual daytime hosts was the way that he was able to assume control of the airwaves and turn his segment into an extension and manifestation of his personality. Pre-recorded messages about unrelated schlock rarely interrupted the show, which goes to show how respected he was by the station and his colleagues, and that respect is well-earned. McNulty crafted one of the most entertaining personas ever put to the soundwaves. Rick Daddy was that cool uncle you didn’t get to see often, but when you did, he’d always have some cool stuff to show off and something interesting to say. He didn’t even speak too much during his own time slot, only ever opening his mouth to explain a song or share an anecdote, but that scarcity just made every sentence feel important and intriguing in its own right. In the hands of anyone else, the idea would come off as an out-of-touch joke, but with McNulty, it felt every bit genuine; in other words, he has been able to turn his love of R&B and classic funk into a character.

Rick Daddy was that cool uncle you didn’t get to see often, but when you did, he’d always have some cool stuff to show off and something interesting to say.

Speaking of the music, it’s all top-notch groove. Rick Daddy has spent the past six years curating one of the greatest collections of old-fashioned blues to date, each song a demonstration of his exquisite taste and cool-cat attitude that he has been honing his entire life.

It’s a shame to see all of these hosts from my earlier childhood start to fade away, what with this ordeal and the recent passing of the legendary John Aielli. Two other favorites of mine, John E. Dee and Jay Trachtenberg, aren’t getting any younger either, and there’s no way to tell how much they have left in the tank. I mean, God forbid I actually have to branch out and listen to new people.

McNulty has attributed his departure to the fact that as of becoming the music director of the entire station three years ago, he has been slowly burning out due to having to balance all the separate things on his plate. Once McNulty washes the dirt from his hands after burying his persona’s suede-lined casket, he’ll remain on air in his other segment, “Left of the Dial.”  He’s said that he may try to bring back the Rick Daddy persona every once in a while, but if not, his buddy still died honorably, doing what he loved. On an optimistic note, the upside of leaving “Uptown Saturday Night,” according to McNulty, is that he can incorporate more of that style of music that he continues to love into his other show.

The new boy in Uptown will be a younger KUTX DJ, Paul Carrubba, someone McNulty claims to know as being very knowledgeable when it comes to old-school R&B, so I guess I’ll give him a chance with good ol’ Uptown. But Paul, mark my words: mess around with her and I’ll kill you.