By Debbie Teofilo
Special to the Sun
Charlie Busch is everywhere, both with his voice on the radio and physically when he’s volunteering at the many non-profit fundraisers throughout the Kern River Valley (KRV). His endless hours of service have made such a positive difference to the community that he is being awarded the coveted “Book of Golden Deeds” by the Kern Valley Exchange Club at a dinner at Paradise Cove Lodge on July 17.
“It was a total surprise,” said Busch about being told he was the 2018 recipient of the award, “and it was kind of embarrassing.” One would think that someone who has been in the broadcasting spotlight for 45 years would be used to the limelight, but that is something he does for business, and volunteering is more a matter of the heart. Busch is passionate about this community and making it a better place to live.
Busch grew up in a small community in the Pacific Northwest, so when he first visited the KRV to consider buying the local 32-year-old radio station, “I immediately respected the lifestyle here and fell in love with this unique place,” he remarked. “All the people I met in the service clubs were so caring and sincere, and I wanted to be a part of that.”
In 2010, Busch and his wife, Trish Lutz, decided to make the leap to become owner-operators of their own radio station and moved to the KRV. Two very active valley residents became instrumental in getting Busch involved in service groups: Jeanette Rogers, who was involved with the Kern Valley Healthcare District and many service organizations; and “Big John” Davis, who worked with George and Darlene Randall on the Christmas in Kernville projects.
Charlie Busch donates promotional airtime, sound equipment, and his own volunteer time as MC and announcer for countless events across the KRV. He has been an active board member for the Kernville and Kern River Valley Chambers of Commerce and the local Rotary Club. Even when he is not a member of an organization, he volunteers anyway, such as for the Kern Valley Exchange Club’s Rubber Ducky Races every August. His latest volunteer position is on the Board of Directors for the Kern Valley Healthcare District, to which he was elected in November 2016.
As a board member for the KRV Education and Cultural Foundation, in 2011, Busch founded the popular summer River Rhythms concerts in Kernville to raise funds for school band instruments, scholarships, and to showcase local musical talent. He lines up all the bands and runs the weekly concerts every August entirely on a volunteer basis. This activity must be a labor of love, since it was music that drew him into the world of broadcasting and changed his life, as well as his name.
Craig Lutz, which is Charlie Busch’s birth name, was a drummer in a band in his younger years. He loved working with the sound equipment, turning knobs, and sound mixing which eventually led him to an on-air radio broadcasting job by the age of 20.
Craig Lutz was known as ‘Doc Maynard’ when he worked those earliest days at a radio station in Seattle, but when he was transferred to Spokane, he needed another unique on-air name. The station program director and Lutz came up with ‘Charlie’ as a first name that fit him well, but they were at a loss for the last name. The longer they sat around drinking a case of beer, the harder it became to think. They finally looked down at the brand on the Anheuser-Busch cans, and his new on-air name was born!
Charlie Busch is well known for his sense of humor and quick wit which has served him well in his role as a broadcaster and as MC at innumerable events. That sense of humor was severely tested when his radio tower was destroyed during the Erskine Fire in 2016. As he struggled to save his business, he was also concerned about getting the signal up again so the community had a means of communicating during its own time of need. He continued to donate sound equipment and his time for fundraising events during that difficult time.
A friend set up a GoFundMe account for the station, and the community showed its support and generosity by contributing whatever it could. His radio business prevailed, and a plan is now in place to make additional improvements. “My glass is always half-full rather than half-empty, and I am thankful for what I have,” Busch said.
The main community focus for Busch at this time is his work to help the local hospital get the funding it needs to make state-mandated seismic improvements so it can remain open. “Not only does the hospital save lives, but it helps the entire community prosper since it is such a large business here in the valley,” he commented. “I believe in it, and want to help make sure that we move forward with what needs to be done.”
Charlie Busch said he gets a lot of personal satisfaction out of volunteering in this very special community and concluded, “One person can make a difference if he looks beyond the obstacles and gets involved in the solutions.”
Public is invited to attend. To RSVP call Marsha Smith at 760-379-7785. Social begins at 6:00 p.m., dinner 7:00 p.m. with program honoring Busch to follow. Cost is $30, choice of prime rib, fried shrimp, chicken or salmon.