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Shotgun ambassador

Deejay "Shotgun" Tom Kelly goes radio silent

Insiders estimate that Kelly was earning $250,000 to $300,000 a year.
Insiders estimate that Kelly was earning $250,000 to $300,000 a year.

San Diego’s most recognized radio deejay has learned that his gig is over. After 18 years at L.A.’s classic hits station KRTH-101, Shotgun Tom Kelly was told his contract as the afternoon drive-time host would not be renewed.

Insiders estimate that Kelly was earning $250,000 to $300,000 a year.

Kelly, known for his Smokey the Bear hat and oversized bearlike personality, will remain with the station as an “ambassador,” making public appearances at KRTH-sponsored events, just as the “KGB Chicken” did in the '70s.

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But Kelly will not hold down the weekday KRTH on-air shift he’s had since 1987 when he replaced L.A. “boss jock” Real Don Steele who died that year of lung cancer.

Kelly leaves L.A. radio on top. In June KRTH was the top-rated station in Los Angeles among all listeners. Three years ago Kelly was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

A San Diego native, Kelly started in local radio shortly after he left Mt. Miguel high school, playing instrumental standards at “beautiful music” station KPRI 106.5 FM before that station flipped to a progressive, “underground” album-rock format.

Video:

Shotgun Tom on the air

...at 136KGB circa 1972

...at 136KGB circa 1972

Kelly left town to develop his fast-paced, jivey rap at smaller markets before he returned to Top 40 station 136 KGB in 1970 . Kelly did not remain at KGB when that dropped Top 40 and most of its DJs for album rock in April 1972. But he went on to become one of the most recognized San Diego rock jocks first at KCBQ (1170-AM) and then “B-100” (KFMB-FM 100.7). Kelly was at local oldies station “K-BEST 95” when he got the call from KRTH.

Like most other so-called classic hits stations across the country, KRTH does not call its format “oldies.” Within the last two years, KRTH has dropped most of its 60s and 70s hits and now plays much more recent hits to keep its listenership skewing younger. Some radio purists were surprised when KRTH added No Doubt’s 2004 hit “It’s My Life."

”White is out,” says Bobby Ocean, another San Diego rock jock legend from the 60s and 70s. “And by white I mean white hair. When I got into radio I thought white was a good thing because it meant you had all this experience.” Ocean, who is now semi-retired in Northern California says Kelly was a master at “power branding,” but that the bigger-than-life image doesn’t matter as much to corporate radio as the bottom line.

“Let’s say they were giving Shotgun three stacks of a large amount of bills. They know they can get a new guy to come in and replace him for one of those stacks…Up here they just got rid of three well paid morning show [hosts] just in the last few months. Power branding doesn’t cut it like it used to.”

Kelly, 66, underwent a quadruple bypass surgery last year. He lived in El Cajon during his years at KRTH but would stay in L.A. during the week.

Kelly spearheaded the drive to have a monument erected at the Santee site of the old KCBQ building in 2010, honoring the KCBQ DJs from 1958 to 1978.

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Insiders estimate that Kelly was earning $250,000 to $300,000 a year.
Insiders estimate that Kelly was earning $250,000 to $300,000 a year.

San Diego’s most recognized radio deejay has learned that his gig is over. After 18 years at L.A.’s classic hits station KRTH-101, Shotgun Tom Kelly was told his contract as the afternoon drive-time host would not be renewed.

Insiders estimate that Kelly was earning $250,000 to $300,000 a year.

Kelly, known for his Smokey the Bear hat and oversized bearlike personality, will remain with the station as an “ambassador,” making public appearances at KRTH-sponsored events, just as the “KGB Chicken” did in the '70s.

Sponsored
Sponsored

But Kelly will not hold down the weekday KRTH on-air shift he’s had since 1987 when he replaced L.A. “boss jock” Real Don Steele who died that year of lung cancer.

Kelly leaves L.A. radio on top. In June KRTH was the top-rated station in Los Angeles among all listeners. Three years ago Kelly was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

A San Diego native, Kelly started in local radio shortly after he left Mt. Miguel high school, playing instrumental standards at “beautiful music” station KPRI 106.5 FM before that station flipped to a progressive, “underground” album-rock format.

Video:

Shotgun Tom on the air

...at 136KGB circa 1972

...at 136KGB circa 1972

Kelly left town to develop his fast-paced, jivey rap at smaller markets before he returned to Top 40 station 136 KGB in 1970 . Kelly did not remain at KGB when that dropped Top 40 and most of its DJs for album rock in April 1972. But he went on to become one of the most recognized San Diego rock jocks first at KCBQ (1170-AM) and then “B-100” (KFMB-FM 100.7). Kelly was at local oldies station “K-BEST 95” when he got the call from KRTH.

Like most other so-called classic hits stations across the country, KRTH does not call its format “oldies.” Within the last two years, KRTH has dropped most of its 60s and 70s hits and now plays much more recent hits to keep its listenership skewing younger. Some radio purists were surprised when KRTH added No Doubt’s 2004 hit “It’s My Life."

”White is out,” says Bobby Ocean, another San Diego rock jock legend from the 60s and 70s. “And by white I mean white hair. When I got into radio I thought white was a good thing because it meant you had all this experience.” Ocean, who is now semi-retired in Northern California says Kelly was a master at “power branding,” but that the bigger-than-life image doesn’t matter as much to corporate radio as the bottom line.

“Let’s say they were giving Shotgun three stacks of a large amount of bills. They know they can get a new guy to come in and replace him for one of those stacks…Up here they just got rid of three well paid morning show [hosts] just in the last few months. Power branding doesn’t cut it like it used to.”

Kelly, 66, underwent a quadruple bypass surgery last year. He lived in El Cajon during his years at KRTH but would stay in L.A. during the week.

Kelly spearheaded the drive to have a monument erected at the Santee site of the old KCBQ building in 2010, honoring the KCBQ DJs from 1958 to 1978.

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