Wolfman Jack she ain’t, but the voice is deep and throbbing and the patter is pure deejay. “Hope the Easter bunny’s laid some goodies on you,” Ruth Hutchinson tells her listeners on KSHE in St. Louis before segueing into the Eagles’ Hotel California. At 83 Hutchinson is the grandmother of five, great-grandmother of two—and surely the world’s oldest disk jockey.
“I get fan mail from as far away as southern Illinois,” the disco granny boasts, making it sound like Tibet. She received a five-minute ovation from 11,000 screaming youngsters at KSHE’s ninth anniversary rock concert recently. “Everybody asks me if I’m going to make a long career of it,” she smiles. “I tell them I don’t know how long I’ll have.”
A former clerk and matron at the St. Louis County Jail, Hutchinson stumbled into showbiz two years ago when she stopped by the KSHE studio to pick up concert tickets for one of her grandsons. “A gentleman standing there asked me if I’d like to do some promotional tapes,” she recalls. “I didn’t know what tapes were, but I said I’ll try anything if I think it’ll be fun.”
Grandma Ruth, who broadcasts for a half hour every Sunday night, is KSHE’s undisputed star. The station’s TV promotion spot begins with a shapely silhouette bumping and grinding behind a frosted shower door. When the door opens out steps a withered old lady in a shower cap (not Ruth Hutchinson), who pitches “totally kosmic KSHE”—a phrase that has become a Hutchinson trademark. Ruth’s newfound celebrity has not measurably impressed her friends. Conversation at her frequent bridge parties continues to center around grandchildren and spot removers.
Although she spins the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Grace Slick and the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Hutchinson’s own tastes lean toward Glenn Miller and Cole Porter. But she admits that she is developing an appreciation for the “soft rock” she plays. Her preferences don’t seem to bother the station’s hard rock fans. “Oh, I know Ruth doesn’t really like the music,” shrugs one. “But she’s great anyway.”