Roger Schutt, who ruled Nashville radio in the late ’60s and early ’70s as Captain Midnight, died Tuesday (Feb. 8) at his Nashville home.
Born in 1931 in Durand, Mich., Schutt is perhaps best known as a confidant, guru and pinball-playing partner to Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, Tompall Glaser, Billy Joe Shaver and Kinky Friedman during the peak of country music’s Outlaws movement of the ’70s.
“It’s really hard to peg Midnight,” Friedman told CMT.com. “He was like a country Rasputin, sort of. Waylon and Roger Miller and Tompall and a number of others, too, considered him very valuable. I certainly did.”
Friedman said Schutt was one of the first people he met in Nashville.
“I don’t remember when that was,” he said. “I mean, we met on the gangplank of Noah’s Ark. I think he was the first disc jockey that played anything by Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys — and also the first one fired for playing it. He got fired for playing ‘The Ballad of Charles Whitman.’ He was a master of the human comedy, a patron saint of sleepless nights, and I will miss him beyond words and music.
“He was an iconoclast. He was pushing the envelope a little faster than Nashville wanted to go. … He knew as much about country music as anybody. For a long time he never had a home. He really epitomized what was great about the Outlaw movement. He was a gypsy on a pirate ship.”
Friedman recalled many instances of staying up all night in Nashville with Captain Midnight and their friends. “As Midnight said, ‘Often we stayed up for six nights, and it felt like a week.’ And now he can rest. I would suspect that he’s in hillbilly heaven now, and I think he’s with Roger Miller and Waylon and Hank Williams. That would be my guess.
The irreverent air personality worked at WSM before bringing politics and current events into his music program on WKDA. Schutt was hired and fired frequently during his career. One of the firings took place in 1981 at WUSW, a station located near Nashville in Lebanon, Tenn., after he locked himself into the control room to protest the management’s decision to shorten its music playlist.
“I’m just going for a little creative freedom,” he said at the time. “The radio industry in this town needs to turn around and be creative and catch up with the rest of the town.”