Pete Soderbergh charmed Baton Rouge listeners in the mid-1990s with his radio show “Pete’s Swinging Sunday Morning”.
On air, Soderbergh and his warm, radio-ripe voice embraced his large audience.
This is one of Soderbergh’s memorable stories from “Pete’s Swinging Sunday Morning”
“It’s Sunday again,” he said on a June 1997 show. “Aren’t you happy? Lauren is here in the outside room, ready to take your messages. Please call at some point during the program.
Soderbergh’s “Swinging Sunday Morning” returns Sunday at 8 am to his original home, WBRH-FM. Baton Rouge Magnet High School radio station will rebroadcast the show every third Sunday of the month.
A professor and former dean of LSU College of Education, the late Soderbergh made big band and swing music the core program of his show, but the program was much more than that.
Soderbergh played popular music from 1920 to 1960, performed humorous sketches, and affectionately read the names of his listeners. On the previously mentioned 1997 show, the former actor played his recurring character, the Old Timer, a fictional weekend keeper, and played both roles in a skit starring classic movie couple Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara.
Rob Payer, WBRH’s Director of Production and Programs, was one of Soderbergh’s many fans.
“Pete’s listeners responded to the joy he felt while making the show,” Payer said. “He played wonderful stuff, recordings that I didn’t know, and he would give you a great music story.”
Originally from Brooklyn and arrived at LSU in 1976 from the University of Virginia, Soderbergh had academic expertise in music and film. His passion for cinema influenced the fifth of his six children and those of Mary Ann “Midge” Bernard Soderbergh, Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh.
Soderbergh aired his final show on February 15, 1998. He suffered a brain hemorrhage later that day and died two days later at age 69. LSU Chancellor William Jenkins declared two days of mourning on campus, including flags at half mast.
At LSU, Soderbergh had also served as Director of the Office of Academic Development and helped build the LSU War Memorial on the parade ground. Decorated Korean War veteran and former Marine Corps captain, her many books included three stories of women in the Marines.
The late Danny Dean, then CEO of WBRH, cited Soderbergh’s death as a personal loss.
“I don’t know anyone who was sweeter and nicer than him,” Dean said.
The Sunday morning after his father died, Soderbergh’s daughter Mary replaced him at WBRH.
“It was hard to come in and do that, but I didn’t want to lose a step,” she said last week from her home in Los Angeles. “I liked it because it was something my dad liked. And I thought it was the right thing to do for people who had a connection to him but couldn’t come to his funeral. We had a very nice response.
When Mary Soderbergh and her siblings Steven, Susan, Katherine, and Charles divided their father’s estates, she got her vinyl records and 45s meticulously cared for. She also saved dozens of Maxell tapes from her radio show.
In February 2018, the seeds of Soderbergh’s radio comeback were sown when Mary and her siblings called the station during the fundraiser that took place on the weekend of the 20th anniversary of the last broadcast of their father.
“We managed to raise a few thousand dollars in a matter of hours,” said Mary Soderbergh. “And we were hoping that other people who remembered the show would call and sign up.”
Sometime after the Soderbergh children ‘s contributions to WBRH, one of their father’s Sunday morning successors, Winston Day, told fellow Sunday host Gerald Lively that he came across a tape recording that he had made of a Soderbergh program.
“It made me wonder if there were more bands,” Lively said. “And I remembered Pete once telling me that someone was recording his show for him.”
In May, Lively called Mary Soderbergh, who confirmed the existence of the tapes and gladly sent them to her. In June, after Lively determined the audio quality of the tape was excellent, he began the painstaking process of converting them to digital files.
The return of “Pete’s Swinging Sunday Morning,” Lively said, has nothing to do with Soderbergh being the father of a famous director. A labor of love, the show deserves a reminder.
“His program is so unique,” he said. “Pete was the master educator, using all of his methods to get people to listen and appreciate what he was doing.”
“Pete’s Swinging Sunday Morning” will share the 8 am-11am Sunday slot with “Music on the Sunny Side of the Street,” featuring rotating hosts Lively, Day and Fritz McCameron.