Joe Dorsey, “best voice in Milwaukee radio,” dead at age 90


Deep-voiced Joe Dorsey, who worked at WEMP and WOKY during the Golden Age of Milwaukee radio, died in hospice surrounded by family on Monday night, one day after his 90th birthday.

Dorsey worked in radio for 55 years beginning with Armed Forces Radio.

He was inducted in the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame in 2012.

Dad and wire request

“Joe was a popular, extremely funny and a gentleman broadcaster for many years.  He will be missed by his friends and peers,” Milwaukee radio veteran Bob Barry posted on his Facebook page.

A 1993 Bill Janz column in the Milwaukee Sentinel described him as a “slimmer than slim, sentimental Irishman who has a heart with a big band beat.”

“Dorsey has the profile of a match and seems to live on radio air, cigarette smoke and wonderfully corny jokes,” Janz wrote.

According to the WBA Dorsey “was the most revered voice in Milwaukee radio” and was “most famous” for sixteen years – from 1947 to 1963 – as host of “Wire Request,” where listeners “would request songs for their sweethearts or special occasions with Western Union telegrams.”

He worked at WEMP for 30 years and hosted the “Play Ball” show, from 1953 to 1965, interviewing Milwaukee Braves players.

He joined WOKY IN 1976, hosting a Sunday night talk show and a music show “Love and Stuff” from 1987 to 1993, and finally hosted “Dixieland with Dorsey,” from 1991 to 2001.

Dorsey was an Iowa native who moved to Milwaukee at the age of ten. He attended Messmer High School and Marquette University. After serving in the military he worked in New Orleans before returning to Milwaukee.

Dad Art WEMP 63“Those were the days when radio was king and the local airwaves were filled with the voices of some exceptional talent,” according to a 2010 feature article on Dorsey.

The field included Dorsey’s longtime friend Bob Barry, Jack Lee, Gordon Hinkley, Tom Shanahan, “Mad Man” Michaels, Robb Thomas and Charlie Hanson.

In 1992 Dorsey was voted “best voice in Milwaukee radio.”

According to his daughter Christine Roarty since his retirement in 2001 Dorsey split his time between Phoenix and Brookfield.

“He kept up his love of Dixieland with attendance at multiple jazz festivals” and riverboat cruises, she said. He and his wife visited Milwaukee Brewers spring training and followed “his beloved Green Bay Packers.”

A visitation will be held Thursday at 4 p.m. at Church and Chapel Funeral Home, 1875 N. Calhoun Rd in Brookfield, with a vigil service at 7 p.m.  Further visitation will be held on Friday at St. John Vianney, 17500 West Gebhardt Rd. Brookfield, at 9:30 a.m. with Mass at 11 a.m.

Dorsey is survived by four children, his wife, Shirley, 6 grandchildren and 3 great-grand children. He  is also survived by his sister, sister-in-law, and brother-in-law.


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