Remembering My Friend – Radio Legend Mike ‘Sandman’ Sanders
If you’re a fan of 103GBF and you’re on this site reading this then you, no doubt, know who Mike ‘Sandman’ Sanders is. What you may or may not know is that our beloved Sandman passed away earlier this week. And though we had both moved on from 103GBF, after working together for nearly two decades on this station, I knew I had to come back here to remember my friend.
I’ve known Sandman for over half my life (he hired me when I was still just 20 years old), so how in the hell do I encapsulate all that time into this article? I have waves and waves of thoughts and memories crashing around in my brain and I honestly don’t know how to corral them. I’ve never been in the situation before. But here’s goes…
There’s no doubt that if you ever met Sandman or knew him, then you are familiar with that big smile and huge laugh of his. He really was an amazingly positive, kind, and generous person. And he was passionate - about 103GBF, about rock music, about tattoos, and most of all, about his family.
No article about Sandman would be complete without talking about the tragic last several years of his life. Sandman was a very public person, living his life and sharing all aspects with his audience on the air and online. So I have no problem sharing these details. And I take no pleasure in sharing these details, but I think it’s important for people to know exactly what this man went through.
The picture above (thanks for sharing Don Swain) is one of my favorites. That’s the day Sandman married Andrea. The bride and groom, along with Sandman’s daughter Kelcey, look so incredibly happy here. And if you look closely at the window behind them, you’ll see some idiot (that’s me) photobombing this joyous moment. I was just being a knucklehead, but I actually felt really bad after seeing the finished picture because I felt like I ruined it. Sandman just laughed it off and told me it was all good. He considered me part of his family anyway, so it was kinda fitting. It’s still hard to imagine that less than two years later I would find myself in the back of an ambulance parked in front of Sandman’s home, covered in his tears as we learned of the tragic passing of his young wife. I will never forget the uncontrollable emotion that poured out of my friend, it was absolutely horrible.
That was the day that the once-bright spark started to dim in Sandman. Andrea passed away in November of 2014. It was almost exactly two years later, in November 2016, that Sandman parted ways with 103GBF. That spark seemed like barely a twinkle. It would be less than a year later that Sandman would go through something no parent should ever go through.
I’ll never forget the last time I actually spoke face to face with Sandman. It was September of 2017. My buddy Ryan O’Bryan and I got a call saying Sandman was in our lobby, wanting to see us. He had just gotten out of rehab. He seemed so clear, and upbeat and positive. We could see a bit of the old Sandman. He was there to tell us that he was moving down to Florida. He would stay with his mom and help take care of her. Ryan and I were actually really excited for him. We thought this would be the fresh start that he needed. Go somewhere where he wouldn’t be “The Sandman,” he would just be Mike. Maybe that would help him figure out the next step in his life. We had a great visit and shared some big Sandman hugs. He planned to leave the next day. It was the very next day when I learned that Sandman’s daughter Kelcey had passed away. Whatever was left of that spark was now snuffed out.
Sandman had been in Florida since then. Trying to find some sort of radio job down there, and longing to come back home. We was able to find some part-time work at a group of radio stations, but he told me the pay barely even covered the long commute to and from work. Sandman’s mom passed away earlier this year, giving him the opportunity to return to the Tri-State. In fact, just last month Sandman announced on Facebook that he was coming home. There was proverbial ‘radio silence’ after that. The next thing I know Sandman is in the hospital but expected to make a lengthy, but full recovery. And then, just like that – just like his wife and daughter – Sandman was gone. Following a stroke in the hospital, Sandman was briefly placed on life support. He was taken off and passed shortly after.
I was definitely shocked, stunned and saddened when I heard the news, but knowing what kind of life he had been living, those feelings turned into a sense of relief, for him. He is no longer alone in a state where no one knows or loves him. He is no longer haunted by the images and memories of the last few years. I believe he is reunited with the two women he loved the most in the world, Andrea and Kelcey. And I am blown away (but not surprised one bit) by the outpouring of love on social media. The sheer number of people who worked for and with him is amazing. And you’ll notice a common theme among those particular comments…”Sandman hired me back in…Sandman took a chance on me and gave me a shot…Sandman helped me get to where I am today.” So on and so forth. And that’s just scratching the surface. The number of people influenced, impacted, affected by Mike Sanders is mind blowing and heart warming. While I am definitely sad, I choose to celebrate his life and with so many others, and hang on to the hundreds of awesome memories with my buddy Sandman – aka Sandpants, Uncle Sandy, Sandpa and countless other nicknames.
Sandman was a true radio icon. I can't think of anyone else more closely associated to Evansville radio and to one particular station than Sandman. He was a leader and inspiration for scores of up and coming jocks and he was a source of joy and entertainment for countless people that listened to him over the years. For me, he had become much more than a mentor...he was my brother and my friend.
I’ve gathered a collection of photos of me, Sandman other coworkers through the years.
Friends and family are currently trying to raise money to bring Sandman home to Evansville to be buried with his family. To donate visit his Go Fund Me page.