10 Questions with ... "Shotgun" Tom Kelly
August 12, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- KDEO/San Diego, CA - (1966) - Remote Producer
- KPRI/San Diego, CA - (1966) - On Air MOR Jock
- KYOS/Merced, CA - (1969) - On air
- KACY/Oxnard, CA - (1970) - On Air
- KAFY/Bakersfield, CA - (1970) - On Air
- KGB/San Diego, CA - (1971) - On Air
- KCBQ/San Diego, CA - (1971) - On Air
- KGB/San Diego, CA - (1972) - On Air
- KRIZ/Phoenix, CA - (1972) - On Air
- KCBQ/San Diego, CA - (1973) - On Air
- KFMB/San Diego, CA - (1976) - On Air
- KOGO/San Diego, CA - (1980) - On Air
- KFRC/San Francisco, CA - (1982) - On Air
- KCBQ/San Diego, CA - (1984) - On Air
- KFMB/San Diego, CA - (1985) - On Air
- KBZS/San Diego, CA - (1992) - On Air
- KCBQ/San Diego, CA - (1993) - On Air
- KRTH/Los Angeles, CA - (1997) - Afternoon Drive for the Last 16 years!
1) What Got You Interested In Radio?
When I was 10 years-old I saw Frank Thompson doing a remote at KOGO radio in San Diego.
2) Who do you consider your radio mentors?
My biggest radio mentors would be Frank Thompson, "Sunny Jim Price," "Wolfman Jack," and "The Real Don Steele."
3) You recently received a star on the "Hollywood Walk Of Fame" to celebrate your 40 years in radio. Please tell us what it's like to receive this honor and how it felt to become a part of history?
This was the most wonderful honor I've ever received! Not only did people in radio turn out, but radio fans from San Diego and Los Angeles also came to the ceremony. Stevie Wonder sang a song to me at the ceremony and KRTH PD Jhani Kaye delivered a speech with some very kind words.
There were hundreds of people who showed up to see it happen. We had television news crews there to cover the event, and we even gave away my "Shotgun Tom Ranger Hats" on the air and listeners were wearing them at the ceremony. TV reporters even put on the hat for their reports.
(Shotgun Tom Kelly's star is located at 7080 Hollywood Blvd. near the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, right next to the star of legendary KHJ/Los Angeles radio personality "The Real Don Steele." To watch the ceremony, click here. To watch the local news coverage on KCAL-TV 9 (CBS2), click here).
4) On September 19th, you will be hosting the Marconi Awards here in Los Angeles. As a life-long radio personality, how does it feel to be a part of this important radio event?
It feels great! I felt very honored when John David called me to hosts The Marconi Awards! I'll be joining some big name hosts who previously hosted the show including Larry King and others.
My first thought was that I'd like to keep the show moving and that's what I intend to do. There are a lot of great stations up for awards. I love radio and l love radio people so this must be why they thought I'd be a great host for this event.
5) How did you get your radio name?
My dad gave me that nickname. I never liked to ride in the back seat. I always liked to ride in the front. And that position is called "shotgun."
6) Ok... what's the deal with the ranger's hat? How did that hat become your signature trademark?
When I was young, my parents would take the family to the national parks for vacation. I liked the rangers hats, so when I got to KCBQ that was when I started wearing the "Shotgun Tom Ranger Hat."
7) How are you using social media to market your radio station and your show?
8) How do you prep yourself for your radio shift?
I listen to the news, I read the newspaper, and look for things my listeners want to hear about. For example, they just announced that they will be renovating The Forum in Inglewood which was the big concert and sports venue here in town before they build the Staples Center. The Eagles will be playing there for the launch of the newly renovated venue.
9) How do you stay in tune with your audience?
I love to give my fans shout-outs! People Love to hear their name on the radio!
10) What was the biggest gaffe you've made on air?
When I was at KCBQ in San Diego, we were selected to play the new John Lennon song that was just being released. This was great because our competitor KHJ always used to get the exclusive on new music.
So we sent an armored truck to the airport to pick up the record and deliver it to the station. We had TV news crews showing up for the event, and I was lucky enough to premier the new song on my show.
Back then, we didn't have computers so we wrote all the song titles on a cart by hand. Also, keep in mind that I also had a habit of sounding out the words as I read them.
So our intern brought the new song into the studio, and I cracked the mic and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, KCBQ now presents the world exclusive you've been waiting for..." So like I always do, I sounded it out, "...Here's the brand new song from John Lennon... 'Imogene." (Of course, the title of the song was actually "Imagine.") Oops.
What is the most rewarding promotion or activity your station has ever been involved with to benefit the community or a charity?
For over 35 years, I have been helping to raise money for the USO (Bob Hope), the Los Angeles Police Department Car Show and "Cops For Tots," which benefits Children's Hospital, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, The Fire Department's "Pass The Boot" fund raiser, and I'm also the MC for their awards and "Run Walk And Ride. In addition, I also work with the Pomona Catholic Girls School.
I believe it's important for radio to get involved with the community, so I do whatever I can to help. Even in the bigger markets, and even if you don't get paid, it's still great to give back to the community.
Who is one of the rising stars that you believe will be a major radio talent in the future?
Clint August who currently does afternoons at KGB in San Diego.
What advice would you give people new to the business?
You have to have the passion. I started in 1966 at KPRI/San Diego as an intern producing remotes. Eventually, Charlie Van Dyke hired me as a jock and gave me my first big break playing standards like Frank Sinatra and Sergio Mendez. This helped me early in my career even though that was not my preferred format. I really wanted to be on KGB which was the new Rock station at the time, and that was a goal that I eventually achieved.
When you first get in this business, you won't make a lot of money. You have to pay your dues. I started out at small stations in the San Joaquin Valley, Ventura, and Bakersfield, CA. You need to have a love for radio, pay your dues, and do whatever it takes. In this day and age, you'll probably start out as an Intern and work for next to nothing. You've just gotta hang in there, and one of these days you'll get your shot!