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Over 50 years of Gary Kelley’s voice in San Diego

“Whenever the bumper cars would blow a fuse, we would go off the air”

At home on the air: Gary Kelley
At home on the air: Gary Kelley

Residential radio redux: Radio caught Gary Kelley’s ear when he was 13 years old. A year later, he had a built a small radio station in his closet. (“I kind of came out of the closet when it meant something different than it means today,” he jokes.) When word of Kelley’s closet broadcasts started to spread, long-running local DJ Gene Knight (then working for a small radio station called KSEA) arrived at his house wielding a cassette recorder. He taped the young DJ in his driveway and played the recordings for his boss. The boss liked what he heard, and Kelley was hired on as part of the KSEA family.

Gary Kelley

Kelley’s earliest days at KSEA were spent pre-recording clips for the automated station. “I was 15 years-old with a little voice and covered in pimples, long-haired and skinny,” he recalls. “I would say, ‘Good morning, San Diego. This is Gary Kelley on KSEA. It’s going to be sunny with highs in the 70s today.’ When I was getting ready for school, I would listen to myself on the radio. That was pretty cool when you were fifteen.” By 1972, KSEA had gone live, and Kelley was able to broadcast from Belmont Park. “We had a studio there seven days a week,” he says. “People could look at you in the fish bowl. The station was plugged into the bumper cars, and whenever the bumper cars would blow a fuse, we would go off the air.”

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Kelley would go on to spend close to three decades working in radio, and considers his long stints at KPRI (1977-1984) and B100 (1984-1994) as his heyday in the field. “They are polar opposites of each other,” he explains. “One is high-energy: ‘I don’t care if you have had a really bad day or not, you’ve got six seconds to talk over this song and you better sound happy.’ Our mantra at B100 was, ‘Have fun and sound like it,’ and it was total blast. KPRI was ‘have fun’ as well, but it was totally different. That was definitely in the sex, drugs, and rock and roll era back then.”

A bonus for Kelley at KPRI was getting to introduce national touring acts at local concerts. ‘They gave me 20 seconds to get on and pump the crowd and get off. I only got paid in concert tickets, and that was the best job I ever had. To be standing next to Eddie Van Halen and saying, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, MCA recording artists Van Halen!’ I was like, ‘I could die now. This is so great.’”

Kelley’s last radio gig ended in 1999, but now he’s back on the airwaves with TheVoiceofSanDiego.com, an online radio station that he operates out of his home. “I’ve grown up on the radio in San Diego and Los Angeles,” he says. “I was a radio personality at the number one radio station in San Diego, B100, and did most of the middle school and high school dances all over the county. Over the years, I kept playing music for events, and eventually weddings, while on the radio and television. My number one passion is music, and it always will be. To see people smile and connect with the music has been a blessing most of my life. If the Eagles, Paul McCartney, The Stones, and Willie Nelson can continue, so can I.”

He prides his station’s ability to feature six different formats per hour, with the underlying connective thread being Americana. A block of songs featuring the likes of Tom Petty, Zach Brown Band, Jimmy Buffett and Kenny Chesney isn’t out of the ordinary. A signature feature of Kelley’s new station is Local Music Sunday Nights, an interview show that he co-hosts with Gary Seiler. Artists such as Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield), Bob Monroe (The Monroes), and Jerry Raney (The Beat Farmers) have all appeared as guests. Local Music Sunday Nights can be heard on TheVoiceOfSanDiego.com on Sundays at 7 pm. “Out of all the things I have ever done, this is the greatest job I have ever had. Being able to go full circle from building a station at 14 to building a station at 66, it’s been a blessing. I hope I can do this until the day that I die. I have some people ask me, ‘Is this a hobby?’ I go, ‘Nope. Not a hobby at all.’ I work on it all the time like it’s a business, and I’m hoping people will listen to it. I ask for feedback, and I want to make it great.”

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At home on the air: Gary Kelley
At home on the air: Gary Kelley

Residential radio redux: Radio caught Gary Kelley’s ear when he was 13 years old. A year later, he had a built a small radio station in his closet. (“I kind of came out of the closet when it meant something different than it means today,” he jokes.) When word of Kelley’s closet broadcasts started to spread, long-running local DJ Gene Knight (then working for a small radio station called KSEA) arrived at his house wielding a cassette recorder. He taped the young DJ in his driveway and played the recordings for his boss. The boss liked what he heard, and Kelley was hired on as part of the KSEA family.

Gary Kelley

Kelley’s earliest days at KSEA were spent pre-recording clips for the automated station. “I was 15 years-old with a little voice and covered in pimples, long-haired and skinny,” he recalls. “I would say, ‘Good morning, San Diego. This is Gary Kelley on KSEA. It’s going to be sunny with highs in the 70s today.’ When I was getting ready for school, I would listen to myself on the radio. That was pretty cool when you were fifteen.” By 1972, KSEA had gone live, and Kelley was able to broadcast from Belmont Park. “We had a studio there seven days a week,” he says. “People could look at you in the fish bowl. The station was plugged into the bumper cars, and whenever the bumper cars would blow a fuse, we would go off the air.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

Kelley would go on to spend close to three decades working in radio, and considers his long stints at KPRI (1977-1984) and B100 (1984-1994) as his heyday in the field. “They are polar opposites of each other,” he explains. “One is high-energy: ‘I don’t care if you have had a really bad day or not, you’ve got six seconds to talk over this song and you better sound happy.’ Our mantra at B100 was, ‘Have fun and sound like it,’ and it was total blast. KPRI was ‘have fun’ as well, but it was totally different. That was definitely in the sex, drugs, and rock and roll era back then.”

A bonus for Kelley at KPRI was getting to introduce national touring acts at local concerts. ‘They gave me 20 seconds to get on and pump the crowd and get off. I only got paid in concert tickets, and that was the best job I ever had. To be standing next to Eddie Van Halen and saying, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, MCA recording artists Van Halen!’ I was like, ‘I could die now. This is so great.’”

Kelley’s last radio gig ended in 1999, but now he’s back on the airwaves with TheVoiceofSanDiego.com, an online radio station that he operates out of his home. “I’ve grown up on the radio in San Diego and Los Angeles,” he says. “I was a radio personality at the number one radio station in San Diego, B100, and did most of the middle school and high school dances all over the county. Over the years, I kept playing music for events, and eventually weddings, while on the radio and television. My number one passion is music, and it always will be. To see people smile and connect with the music has been a blessing most of my life. If the Eagles, Paul McCartney, The Stones, and Willie Nelson can continue, so can I.”

He prides his station’s ability to feature six different formats per hour, with the underlying connective thread being Americana. A block of songs featuring the likes of Tom Petty, Zach Brown Band, Jimmy Buffett and Kenny Chesney isn’t out of the ordinary. A signature feature of Kelley’s new station is Local Music Sunday Nights, an interview show that he co-hosts with Gary Seiler. Artists such as Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield), Bob Monroe (The Monroes), and Jerry Raney (The Beat Farmers) have all appeared as guests. Local Music Sunday Nights can be heard on TheVoiceOfSanDiego.com on Sundays at 7 pm. “Out of all the things I have ever done, this is the greatest job I have ever had. Being able to go full circle from building a station at 14 to building a station at 66, it’s been a blessing. I hope I can do this until the day that I die. I have some people ask me, ‘Is this a hobby?’ I go, ‘Nope. Not a hobby at all.’ I work on it all the time like it’s a business, and I’m hoping people will listen to it. I ask for feedback, and I want to make it great.”

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Comments
1

What a great way to reconnect to my youth and the music of that era. Left feedback on Kelley’s website and got response to my surprise. He even helped me set up my Alexa device so I can listen with just a voice command at home. Many many memories of a time long long ago. If you have a chance, download app or just listen at their website ….thevoiceofsandiego.com. Yeah, I was confused about that too, but the local non-profit is a dot ORG

Oct. 28, 2022

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