Former Grand Rapids Radio Personality Aris Hampers has Passed Away
His voice was heard on the Grand Rapids radio airwaves for decades. His deep, iconic voice was silenced by throat cancer about four years ago. Aris Hampers passed away early Sunday morning, February 5th, 2023 after a long battle with cancer. He was 73.
Aris' Music Career
Aris' love of music began at an early age. As a young man, he sang vocals and played keyboard for a band called the Soulbenders in the late 60s. Their song "I Can't Believe in Love" was a local hit in 1967.
The band later changed their name to Phlegethon. The band went back to Aris' Greek roots to come up with that name. In Greek mythology, the river Phlegethon was one of the five rivers in the infernal regions of the underworld, along with the rivers Styx, Lethe, Cocytus, and Acheron.
Aris took that love of music and soon became a radio personality in Grand Rapids.
Aris On the Air
For four decades, Aris worked at many of the local radio stations. His first job in radio locally was a WLAV. He was part of ground breaking rock 'n roll radio in Grand Rapids. The progressive style of the station influenced many. Aris gave his all to air shifts. There was rumor that he actually had a metronome in the studio with him so that when he faded from one song to another, the beat would be the same. It was a very subtle technique, but he found it important to do that for the listening pleasure of his listeners.
From WLAV, Aris moved on to the FOX 101, and later to WKLQ. His last air shift in Grand Rapids was probably on The Brew (101.3) sometime in the last decade or so before he officially retired.
Aris' Disc Shop
Aris' love of music also developed into a love of movies. He opened up a disc shop on 28th Street that predominately featured movies on laser disc. The store would later move to Celebration Cinema at Knapp's Corner. The shop also gave him the opportunity to sell CDs and some of his vast album collection that he had in the basement of his home. Walking into his basement was like walking into a vinyl record warehouse...and everything was carefully cataloged on 3x5 cards in the early days, and later converted to digital files.
Aris and Local Music
Aris never forgot his musical roots. He did everything he could to promote local bands. For many years, at several of the radio stations he worked at, he would do a "Hometown Rock Search" to find the best local band. It was a very involved process to put these musical competitions together. Bands would submit cassettes of their music and Aris would personally sit down and listen to each and every tape in putting together the line ups for those competitions.
Aris was a Big Dog Lover
Despite having a big love for music, Aris' first love was his dogs. Over the years he had several dogs that were as pampered as you could find. His last dog, Asia, died of cancer in 2018 at the age of 13.
Aris Silenced by Cancer
In December of 2019, Aris wrote of his being silenced by cancer. In February of 2016 he started to notice a change in his voice. Doctors did a scope of his through and found nothing. His voice continued to deteriorate for the next three years. Aris said...
I chalked it up to getting older and a natural change for a person who spent most of his life ‘talking’ for a living on the radio, not to mention a smoker since my freshman year in high school.
In the winter of 2018, doctors found a 1-1/2 inch cancerous tumor on his windpipe. The tumor had damaged Aris' voicebox/larynx to a point it could not be saved. Aris told us of the news in December the following year, stating that he "may be broken, but I'm still here".
Here is his complete Facebook post from December 5, 2019...
News of Aris death has shocked everyone that knew and worked with him (me included). He was truly a radio icon and was always there to help in whatever way he could.