"He was doing the morning show when I started at WNUE in the early ’80s, and I was in awe," said former co-worker Stephen Baldwin. "He was an incredible talent and an incredible individual. I never saw a frown on his face."

FORT WALTON BEACH — Gabby Bruce, radio personality, business owner and local legend, has died.


Bruce began his radio career in 1967 after spending five years in the Air Force. His first job was with Fish Radio in Niceville, but he achieved celebrity status during 12 years locally at WNUE radio.


"He was doing the morning show when I started at WNUE in the early ’80s, and I was in awe," said former co-worker Stephen Baldwin. "He was an incredible talent and an incredible individual. I never saw a frown on his face."


Baldwin also recalled Bruce’s distinct voice and in particular the way he would say "In Fort Walton Beach."


"You would know it was Gabby," he said.


Bruce left WNUE to go to Destin and WMMK or K92 where he spent another 12 years. He then moved to Love 100, later Coast 100, headquartered on Hollywood Boulevard in Fort Walton Beach.


Lauri Buckley had been in radio in Little Rock, Arkansas, but transferred down to much smaller Fort Walton Beach with her military husband.



She wasn’t quite sure of what to make of the local radio scene until she teamed up with Bruce to work at Coast 100 doing a live morning show out of a room she described as no bigger than a closet.


"One day I was waiting for him to come in and I got a phone call. It was the paramedics who were driving him to the hospital after a heart attack. He wanted me to know he was OK, and he wanted to say hi," Buckley said.


Buckley didn’t know for sure it was the heart attack call to their listeners that did it, but Bruce/Buckley morning show wound up that season as the highest rated show in the area.


"I looked at Gabby and said, ’You will do anything for ratings,’ " she recalled.


"He was just the nicest person. You never saw any radio ugliness, no gossip. He was kind of larger than life," she said. "I kind of rode his coattails."


Bruce left the radio business in 1997 when he bought A to Z Specialty Advertising. Show business and sales business must have overlapped to some degree because Buckley remembered many a day when the radio show was over, Bruce would hurry out the door to go hustle coozies.


"He just never slowed down. I’d say ’Should we plan for the show tomorrow?’ And he’d say ’We’re fine.’ "


Niceville City Manager Lannie Corbin hired Bruce one year to serve as the master of ceremonies for the city’s annual Mullet Festival. The one-time gig turned into a permanent post, and Corbin said he was sure Bruce had served as MC for at least 35 years.


"He was so good at it. Even when he left the radio station he would be our MC," Corbin said. "He had a unique voice and he was organized. Sometimes people get up there on stage and want to go on and on. Gabby had a very tactful way of getting people off the stage for the next act."


Buckley said Bruce’s death has "devastated" a close knit radio family.


"He was so positive, always fun," she said. "He never said an ill word about anybody, and he was pretty much a legend."