It probably would have been difficult – if not impossible – to find someone in Bo Thompson’s class at Eastover Elementary School as obsessed with politics as Bo Thompson was.
“I’m embarrassed to say this,” says the WBT morning host, a Charlotte native, “but to anybody who knows me, this won’t surprise them: I used to go to the Grady Cole Center on Election Night with a little book, and I’d go around and have all the candidates sign it.”
And it probably would have been equally difficult to find anyone as obsessed with talk radio.
Thompson would bring tape recorders on family vacations so he could capture and study talk-radio programs in whatever city they were visiting. By the time he was at Myers Park High School (fun fact: he succeeded current mayoral candidate Kenny Smith as student body president), he shunned the pop music all his friends worshipped so he could listen to “The Rush Limbaugh Show” in the afternoon and fall asleep to Henry Boggan’s “Hello Henry” show on WBT at night.
He became so enamored with the latter that his parents arranged for Thompson to visit the station. He met Boggan, who liked Thompson, now 15, enough to invite him to sit in the studio during the show.
Before long, “I was coming out here once a week,” Thompson says. “I would go in the studio and sit in the corner and just watch. ... I was hanging around so much, they finally – I don’t know if they felt guilty or something – but they said, ‘If he’s gonna be here, let’s let him be constructive.’ ”
Thompson went away to college but transferred back to Davidson as a sophomore, and started doing overnight and fill-in shifts at WBT. After graduating with a political science degree in 1997, he was hired by the station as a producer for Al Gardner’s morning show. Fifteen years later – eight spent at WBT and seven spent bouncing around other TV and radio jobs in the area – he landed Gardner’s slot when the longtime host departed for Philadelphia.
And the timing was perfect: The 2012 Democratic National Convention was about to come to town.
“You can imagine the kid who walked around at the Grady Cole Center on Election Night?” Thompson says. “I mean, when the DNC was here, the same thing: I did the show in the morning, then I walked around all day with my recorder, interviewing people.”
Of course, “WBT’s Morning News” is not a political show; it’s more of a catch-all, with news, weather, traffic, sports and entertainment for Charlotte commuters.
But you never know when a future U.S. president might call in.
Last fall, Donald Trump called in twice (and once, it was the only interview he gave that day). And he also had Vice President Joe Biden on the phone last fall, too. But you’d probably never guess the one other person he marks as a career highlight:
“A couple of months before he died, I had (pro wrestler) Dusty Rhodes on... That’s one of my favorite interviews because he didn’t do many...
“It goes to show you that I never know who I’m going to talk to in the morning.”
Meet more personalities behind Charlotte’s top morning-radio shows
WBT’s Morning News w/ Bo Thompson
Host: Bo Thompson, 43.
Station: 1110 WBT-AM (99.3 on the FM dial), aka “News 1110/99-3 WBT.” (News/talk; owned by Entercom.)
When the show was founded under the current name: March 2012.
Supporting cast: John Stokes (news updates), Jim Szoke (sports) and Freddie Hammer (traffic).