Hunting and fishing for history: Do you have tapes of KIRO’s old ‘Outdoor Line’ show?

Aug 31, 2022, 8:35 AM | Updated: 9:50 am
KIRO Newsradio...
Bill Davis was host for 20 years of "Outdoor Line," heard live on Sunday nights on the old KIRO Newsradio 71 from the late 1970s to the late 1990s. (Courtesy Josh Linke)
(Courtesy Josh Linke)

For 20 years – from the late 1970s to the late 1990s – a live Sunday night radio show on what is now KIRO Newsradio dug casually, yet deeply into fishing, hunting, and other Northwest recreational pursuits. It was called “Outdoor Line” and the host was the late Bill Davis. The family of the popular outdoorsman and broadcaster contacted KIRO Newsradio recently with a special request, and we’re now turning to our listeners for help.

“I think he just really enjoyed the community and the relationship building,” said Josh Linke, Bill Davis’ grandson. “There were literally hundreds and hundreds of people that reached out to my mom and my uncle when [my grandfather] passed who shared their condolences.”

Many people are familiar with a show heard Saturday mornings on Seattle Sports 710 – also available as a podcast – called “Outdoor Line” and also “The Outdoor Line.” That program was introduced around 2011 and is a clear descendent, in a way, of the original radio show which began in the 1970s.

That long-ago decade was a different time and a different era for broadcasting. Infomercials or “paid programming” hadn’t been invented yet or at least weren’t as prevalent, and streaming audio or podcasts on the Internet, or even satellite radio were decades in the future. This meant that there was a lot more time on the local radio clock, especially on the weekends, that needed to be filled with programming.

In those days, there were often folksy local shows about all kinds of topics, such as home improvement, car repair and maintenance, and gardening – which is not unlike what Cisco Morris was doing on KIRO Newsradio until very recently. Typically, the hosts of these shows were not primarily broadcasters – they had day jobs or businesses that required their specific expertise and industry contacts, and so that expertise and those contacts – along with a helping of personality – often lent themselves to hosting a weekly radio show, which could even attract paying sponsors.

Bill Davis was the laid-back host of “Outdoor Line” from its debut – which is believed to have been in late 1977 – until the show went off the air in 1997 after Davis had bypass surgery. He lived another five years and passed away 20 years ago this week Sept. 4, 2002. Bill Davis was just 64 years old when he died.

Before he hosted the radio show, Bill was a fishing guide and had even worked in taxidermy in the 1960s when he first arrived in the Seattle area from his native Pennsylvania, after a brief stint in Arizona. Along with the guide work, he had a day job for years with GTE as a draftsman, and he was also a talented illustrator.

Davis kept busy. While the show was on the air he was a frequent presenter at big events, such as boat shows and other outdoor-recreation-focused gatherings. All these years later, it’s not exactly clear how “Outdoor Line” came to be a fixture on KIRO on Sunday nights, but it’s easy to imagine how hosting a weekly show fit right into his interests and schedule.

Bill and his wife lived on the Eastside and had a couple of kids and several grandkids. He was particularly close to his daughter’s son – his grandson – Josh Linke, who was just a teenager when Davis passed away.

“I don’t want to say he was Santa Claus, but in some ways, he was more of a gray Santa, you know, like he just had the rosy cheeks, he always had the belly,” Linke told KIRO Newsradio.

“He loved to cook, and one of my most fond memories and something I carry on to this day is the smoked salmon recipe he had,” Linke continued. “He was always giving it out to friends, family, whoever, and it was just something we loved so much.”

That smoked salmon recipe is still pretty famous – and still sounds tasty – featuring a brine with soy sauce, apple juice, brown sugar, salt, and water with the “Little Chief Smoker” (a specialized electrical appliance which is still the pride of Hood River, Oregon) doing the rest.

“Food was a big part of his life, for sure,” Linke said.

“Outdoor Line” covered fishing and hunting and related outdoors topics like boating safety and camping. One highlight came early in the show’s history when they flew Bill Davis around and over the region’s popular lakes in the KIRO-Copter in April 1978 to do live traffic reports on the Sunday morning opening of trout season.

Along with the show and its wide range of outdoors topics, grandson Josh Linke says it was fishing in Alaska or on his beloved Skykomish River that Bill Davis really loved. Oh, and he really loved the tackle and the gear, too.

“He created lures in his garage and he had like a whole [work] station when he passed that we had to go through where he would paint and create his own lures,” Linke said. “And he worked as a tackle rep in his spare time, and had probably 300-plus rods and reels just hanging out in his garage.”

“It was his life,” Linke said. “The outdoors, fishing, and hunting . . . [but] really fishing was really, really just what he loved.”

Josh Linke is in his mid 30s. He moved away from this area not long after his grandfather died and nowadays lives in Arizona. Along with missing the grandfather who taught him to fish and who he spent a lot of time with as a kid, Linke is clear about Bill Davis and what “Outdoor Line” represented to a part of the community which seemed more visible in those simpler years.

Looking back, it seems that for the local listeners, “Outdoor Line” may not have been unique in terms of a radio show about outdoor recreation – there were probably similar shows in other parts of the country – but Bill’s enthusiasm and his unique personality and the social and cultural realities of that particular era, from the 1970s to the 1990s, are pretty distinctive in Northwest history. Especially given how much has changed, and given how digital technology has shifted when and how people listen to specific programs.

“There was something about that era, and long before then, of the Western Washington area that was so different then . . . [there was] a different vibe, I feel like, than a lot of other parts of the country,” Linke said. “I’ve lived in the South, I’ve lived in the Southwest, and I feel like it’s kind of like a dying thing, like people just don’t understand the regionality or locality of different places and what culture was like in those places in those times.”

Linke must be on to something. Clearly times have changed – and no radio station has done traffic reports from a helicopter for the opening day of trout season for many decades.

As for the family’s special request, Josh Linke contacted KIRO Newsradio because he would love to hear the sound of his grandfather’s voice again.

“I don’t have anything at all,” Linke said, referring to audio recordings of his grandfather’s show. “We went through everything and tried to find a tape or something, but I guess it was just the nature of the show. People didn’t record it . . . it was more about the engagement and less about preserving it.”

“I guess that’s why I was hoping that KIRO maybe had something like even the old reel-to-reels or something from way back then, but I guess maybe you all didn’t record it either,” Linke continued.

Unfortunately, Linke is right. If recordings were made, KIRO Newsradio has no known recordings of “Outdoor Line” now – or much of anything else from the pre-digital 1970s to 1990s.

This is a longshot, but Linke is hoping that some current KIRO Newsradio listeners might have intentionally or inadvertently made even a short recording of the show. Perhaps they were fans of “Outdoor Line,” or maybe someone they knew appeared as a guest, or they worked for a tackle company who may have advertised on the show. Hopes are that someone has a shoebox of old cassettes just gathering dust.

It sure would mean a lot to Josh and the rest of Bill Davis’ family if those tapes existed and if someone was willing to share.

“It’s been 20 years since he passed, and while I can still remember him and remember his face, remember his jokes, remember just who he was, to hear his voice again, would be insanely special for me,” Linke said. “I’m sure it would probably bring my mom and my uncle to tears, and it’s just something that would really touch me and my family, for sure.”

If you have tapes – or even if you think you may have tapes – of Bill Davis and “Outdoor Line,” please reach out to Feliks Banel via my contact information below. KIRO Newsradio would be happy to convert just about any vintage format to digital. If anything turns up, we’ll share it with Bill Davis’s family and play highlights on Seattle’s Morning News.

As former FBI director James Comey – who’s likely an outdoorsman and probably would have loved “Outdoor Line” and Bill Davis’ smoked salmon – once said, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”

You can hear Feliks every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien, read more from him here, and subscribe to The Resident Historian Podcast here. If you have a story idea or questions, please email Feliks here.

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Hunting and fishing for history: Do you have tapes of KIRO’s old ‘Outdoor Line’ show?