Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Len O'Kelly (2)
I have previously interviewed Len O'Kelly (2) for Chicago Radio Spotlight, but I also recently conducted this mini-interview of him for SHORE Magazine...
Len O’Kelly // WFGR Radio, Grand Rapids
Len O’Kelly grew up in Tinley Park, Illinois, before embarking on a long and successful radio career. After working in Chicago radio for many years, he recently made the move to oldies station WFGR (98.7 FM) in Grand Rapids. He is the program director, and the host of the morning show every weekday.
My first rule for putting a radio show together is simple: no matter what happens in my life, the listener is here to have a good time. Put them first. Talk about things that they are interested in, rather than sticking to things that I am interested in. If there is overlap, great: it’s easier to be relatable. Which leads to my second rule: be real. I’m a real guy. I mow my own lawn. I wait in the line at the checkout. Everyday things happen to me, and I talk about that stuff. I don’t put on any airs of celebrity at all. I’m a guy with a job and a boss, just like my listener. I just happen to have a job I may like more than they do, and I am lucky to get paid for what I do. I bring my private life into the show to a point. My listeners know the names of my wife and some of my nieces and nephews.
I was very lucky to grow up in Chicago listening to some of the greatest disk jockeys ever to take a hold of the mike. I was one of the stereotypical “radio under the pillow” kids in the ’70s, listening to John Records Landecker, Larry Lujack, Tommy Edwards, Fred Winston, Bob Sirott, etc. A lot of that rubbed off on me in that it made me want to do radio. I have been very fortunate to work with many of the names I heard as a kid. I have learned much from each of them. My hope is that some of the younger jocks in the building—we have five stations in my cluster, and the youngest was born the year I started in the business!—may be able to learn something from me.
Favorite Brush with Greatness
Most of my time in radio I’ve been on Oldies stations, so those are the acts that I have met. Guys like Freddy Cannon, Peter Noone and Bobby Vee are among the nicest guys you’d ever meet—it’s as if they actually appreciate still having the ability to play after all this time. Frankie Avalon and Dick Clark were very nice, as well. The Monkees were nice if you kept them separate.
The suggestions to smoke and drink more cheap whiskey to “roughen” my voice may have been the worst. Glad I didn’t follow through on them!