Dave Maynard once said that “when you do morning radio, you believe that everyone is listening to you,’’ and for years, it seemed that nearly everyone did tune in to his morning show on WBZ-AM.
In the 1980s, he was the region’s top-rated morning personality, drawing more listeners than his rival Jess Cain on WHDH-AM during what many considered a Golden Age of radio in Boston.
With chatty familiarity, Mr. Maynard spoke to listeners in their cars and their kitchens and their offices, and added to his fame with a series of promotional TV ads that comically placed him in peril.
“He was just a genuine, honest person on the radio,’’ said Peter Casey, director of news and programming for WBZ news radio. “There wasn’t a Dave Maynard on the air and a Dave Maynard off the air. He made a career being Dave Maynard on the air, and that was the Dave Maynard who lived next door to you.’’
Mr. Maynard, who also hosted a TV talent show each Sunday morning for more than two decades, died yesterday in Citrus Hills, Fla., where he lived in retirement. He was 82 and had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about 10 years ago.
“I think people who listened to him just loved him because he was down to earth,’’ said Don Batting, who reported the news on “Maynard in the Morning’’ for many years.
The audience also “liked the music he played,’’ Batting said. “At that time, the disc jockey picked his own music. It was very personal for him, and people loved what he was playing.’’
Mr. Maynard was adept at raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities such as Easter Seals and with his annual Farmstand for Children’s Hospital Boston, a multi-hour farmers market hosted live at WBZ.
In 1999, the Massachusetts Broadcasters Association named Mr. Maynard Broadcaster of the Year. Ten years later, he was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
One of his most powerful moments in the WBZ studio, however, was not when he was playing songs or bantering.
In June 1979, before Mr. Maynard moved to mornings, his show ran from midnight to 5:30 a.m.
Shortly after 1 a.m. during one show a caller announced that he had just swallowed 50 pills of the anti-coagulant medication Coumadin and downed a bottle of 100-proof vodka. The man, later identified as a retired police officer, wanted to speak with Mr. Maynard’s guest, Dr. Ari Kiev, who had written a book for those considering suicide.
Listeners from across the country and into Canada tuned in as Kiev and Mr. Maynard kept the caller talking for about 50 minutes, while police figured out where the man lived, and went to his home.
“It was like a movie script,’’ Mr. Maynard told the Globe afterward. “My heart was in my mouth most of the time.’’
Mr. Maynard began his career as a rock ’n’ roll disc jockey on the former WHIL-AM radio station in 1952, and moved to WORL-AM radio.
He began hosting “Community Auditions,’’ a talent show, on WBZ-TV in the mid-1960s, and started the midnight-to-5:30 a.m. shift on WBZ radio in 1979. The following year, he moved to the morning show.
The show was top-rated for its run of more than a decade. Mr. Maynard gathered recipes from listeners, which he collected in cookbooks, and his “Piece of Cake’’ promotional TV commercials won awards.
His tenure at WBZ on radio and TV stretched for more than 40 years, though like many broadcasters, he filled in so often after officially retiring in 1991 that his presence faded, rather than ending abruptly.
“I believe you send someone in silently, you take them out silently,’’ he told the Globe in 1991.
Yesterday, Casey issued a statement on behalf of WBZ that said “all of New England and the WBZ family has lost a radio icon and a treasured friend today. Dave Maynard ruled the airwaves and owned a special place in our hearts for many years. He was a hall of fame-caliber broadcaster from the very first day here at WBZ. Generations of broadcasters learned to be a communicator, an entertainer, and a friend from Dave Maynard.’’
Mr. Maynard was born in Larchmont, N.Y. He graduated from Emerson College with a bachelor’s degree, and from Boston University with a master’s of communications.
For many years, he taught at BU.
Mr. Maynard’s first marriage ended in divorce.
In 1988, he married the former Patricia Early, a second marriage for both.
She had been a fan of Mr. Maynard before they met, gathering with relatives every Sunday to watch “Community Auditions,’’ the talent show he hosted for more than 20 years on WBZ-TV, before it moved to WCVB-TV (Channel 5) as “Dave Maynard’s Talent Showcase.’’
“We thought Dave Maynard was the be-all, end-all,’’ his wife said.
So popular was he among her relatives that they greeted her romance with disbelief.
“When I finally told them I was dating Dave Maynard, one of my aunts said, ‘Oh, aren’t you funny,’ ’’ she said.
“When I met him, because I had listened to him and watched him on TV for a lot of years, I perceived him to be a very nice, wonderful person,’’ she said. “Sometimes when you’re off the air, it’s different. But David was the same person off the air that he was on the air: very kind, very compassionate, very funny, and very loving.’’
In addition to his wife, Mr. Maynard leaves three sons, Michael of Winthrop, Mark of Boston, and Matthew of Kennebunk, Maine; three daughters, Meredith Rogers of Kennebunk, Marney Whittaker of Bradford, and Megan Kirby of Ocala, Fla.; a stepdaughter, Debra Crosby of Salem; a stepson, John Crosby of Tampa; nine grandchildren; a step-grandchild; and two great-grandchildren.
The family will announce a gathering to celebrate his life and career.
Mr. Maynard and his wife would have celebrated their 24th anniversary Sunday.
“I always used to call him my big and strong and handsome Romeo,’’ she said. “He was my sweetheart.’’Bryan Marquard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.