Winter, 1988, somewhere east of Beaverdam, Ohio, when US 30 was still just a two-lane, you'd rumble through the frozen fields of the Great Midwest in your International Transtar with its screaming 318, trying to make Cuyahoga Heights by six. Two in the morning, then, and you were barely holding on by Coca Cola, coffee and Lucky Strikes, just hoping to catch your second wind by Upper Sandusky.
On those sleep deprived nights, you'd work the AM dial in a manic state, looking for some show that could pick you up. In that part of the country, your options for trucking radio were 700 WLW Cincinnati and the Truckin' Bozo Show and 1140 WRVA in Richmond, Virginia, with Big John Trimble.
Some nights, though, if it was down in the teens and the sky was clear, the ionosphere would smile down on you. You could pick up Dave Nemo's Road Gang on 870 WWL, "deep down in New Orleans!", just like you were on the banks of the ol' Pontchartrain.
"Muleskinner called in from Nacogdoches, and he wants to hear a train song!" Nemo would announce, and then a song you'd never heard before would scream through the night, bearing you to your second wind. It was pure Americana, and it was all there for you and others of your trade.
As I’ve said before, it’s difficult to overstate the outsize importance that the all-night trucking radio hosts held for the working driver in those days. Twenty-hour days were, at least for this gearjammer, not uncommon then. And the unique brand of entertainment that hosts like Nemo provided was pure cetane to the trucker burning the midnight oil. They were like high priests of an unseen subculture, curators of a certain aesthetic sensibility; but of all the practitioners of the genre, you'd be hard-pressed to find any who did it with the aplomb of Nemo himself.
[Related: An indelible portrait: Long Haul Paul's 'Long Haul of Fame' through trucking highs, lows]
Subtracting some initial years as he got his footing, 2022 marks the 50th year of Dave Nemo's uninterrupted career in radio. This is his story.