WALLA WALLA — The sound of a prop plane roaring in for a landing at the Walla Walla Airport opened the 1970s Night Flight radio show hosted by local rock ’n’ roll DJ Dave Herbert Cochran, recalled Richard “Rich” Greenwood, who as a teenager caught his broadcasts. Cochran died Nov. 27.
Burial was Friday at Pine Grove Cemetery in Hood River, Ore.
Variously known on air as “Rockin’ Cochran,” “Dynamic Dave” and “Sebastian,” among others, the Hawaiian shirt-clad Cochran was part of area radio activity from the late 1960s into the 1970s. He died at age 62, shortly after Thanksgiving, and was found at his Walla Walla home at 11 E. Chestnut St., said Greenwood, the Walla Walla County coroner.
Despite being a bit of a loner, Cochran reached thousands over the airwaves. Some of his first audience was captive.
It started in his early teens when he built a transmitter. He lived near the Washington State Penitentiary and had a pirate radio station in his basement with a six-block range. “His broadcasts hit the pen and inmates listened to him,” Greenwood said.
As an infant, Cochran came to Walla Walla with mother Roma Jean Banister Cochran and brother Terry Allen, after his father’s death from polio.
Cousins John Wells of Hood River, Ore., and Deborah Banister Kirk of Port Angeles, Wash., said Cochran suffered through the loss of his father, who died before he was born; his brother, who was killed in an accident at age 18 in August 1966; and their mother, who suffered from diabetes before her death in 1986.
“He was by himself and yet he walked right through it, always happy,” Wells said. Cochran was living on Social Security the past few years. “But he was able to cope with his disabilities.”
He was a local mall Santa, the cousins said, and rang a bell for The Salvation Army’s fundraisers, celebrated his birthday at Rising Sun Clubhouse — he was born Feb. 9, 1950, in Hood River — and ate dinner every night at the Christian Aid Center.
His distinctive appearance as an albino included white hair, white eyebrows and eyelashes, pale pink skin and pink eyes. Among the health concerns albinos experience is vision, Greenwood said. Cochran became blind in 2009.
Before he graduated from Walla Walla High School in 1968, Cochran worked at KTEL 1490 as a DJ, Wells said. He received his first-class radio-telephone license in 1972 and worked at nine other stations including KUJ 1420 AM and KAFR, Wells said.
“Dave thoroughly enjoyed all kinds of music. He knew the artist, composer and when a song first hit the top of the charts. He humorously delivered this information to his audience in a manner only Rockin’ Cochran could do,” Wells said.
Former Walla Wallan Mike Barer, also a member of the Wa-Hi Class of 1976, said in those years he worked part time at KTEL.
He said it seemed all that mattered to Cochran was being on KTEL. “To the listeners, he was bigger than life. To the management, from what I’ve pretty much heard, he was a major headache. His talent and rebellious spirit really came across on the air. Much of the music that I’ve come to love over the decades was introduced to me by listening to Rockin’ Cochran.”
Barer said after KTEL let Cochran go, “he did voice-over commercials on the local cable TV channel and a Yakima/Tri-Cities station before reappearing again in the summer of 1976 as a rock DJ on KUJ ... It was a short-lived engagement as management there grew weary of Cochran’s free-form ways.”
“Dave Cochran may be gone, but former Walla Walla teens who wanted to be part of the scene decades ago will never forget him.”
Hot Poop owner Jim McGuinn said the DJ was known as “Country Cuzin Cochran” on the country portion of KTEL’s broadcast.
“He would run some commercials and then come back using a more dynamic voice as ‘Rockin’ Cochran.’ Dave had the reputation of being Walla Walla’s equivalent of TV’s legendary Johnny Fever (on WKRP in Cincinnati) who was kicked off the air for saying ‘booger.’”
Dave told McGuinn KTEL fired him for doing a live remote from the Stereobird music and video store in the Eastgate Mall. “Dave told me that he encouraged listeners to ‘come in and take a gander’ at the smoking accessories available here,” McGuinn said.
Wells said during Cochran’s career, he was a videographer and managed TV 13 of Walla Walla from 1974-75 and was supervisor of electronics at Griggs Department Store from 1978-80.
He studied computers at Walla Walla Community College in 1997 and worked with Goodwill Industries in electronics. He also worked for a time at D&K Frozen Foods, Greenwood said.
Cochran collected music and film, played piano and synthesized re-mixed tapes, recordings he sold commercially. “His friends considered him an electronics genius,” Wells said.
Kirk and Cochran, only four months apart, grew up together.
“A highlight in David’s life was being Santa Claus every year. That was huge for him. He was always talking about that. He came in on the fire truck and then was at the mall,” she said.
“He liked the joy, being part of something and being able to interact with the kids, who were so excited. He was a kid at heart, a sweetie pie. Part of his enjoyment came from being needed. He was just always happy and would do anything for anybody and had a real humble heart. I loved him so much.”
Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8313.