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Tom Kelly
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Tom Kelly at WDRC
WDRC's Tom Kelly

In January, 2004, Tom Kelly replied to a series of questions about his tour of duty at WDRC.

Q: I know you're a Boston boy originally. Who did you listen to as a kid who might be considered influences on your own style and delivery?

A: Yes, I grew up in Massachusetts (in Swampscott and later Plymouth). My real radio hero was Dave Maynard at WBZ. He made it all sound so easy to me. Few had better ad-lib ability and live read skills.

 
 

I also admired J. Michael Wilson. In the short time he was at 1510 WMEX he really made a big impact on me. I hung on every word he and Rodney Rodent said.

Come to find out, many of the guys I listened to and enjoyed in Boston passed through Big D. Joel Cash, Larry Justice, Jim Harrington and so on.

Q: Where was your first radio job?

 
 

A: My first paid radio gig was at WFTN (1240AM) in Franklin, New Hampshire. Sadly, today there are few small market stations where a jock can develop their "act". Owner Jeff Fisher and Program Director Lou White gave me that opportunity, after I'd sent a tape as a student from Grahm Jr. College. And no, Mark Simone wasn't there at that point. By then (he'd become "legend" to those in the Lakes Region and) he was working at WPIX in New York

Q: When was the first time you were exposed to WDRC? Was it a goal station on the career ladder?

A: I'd first heard Hartford radio when I moved to Springfield, MA as PM drive host at WSPR (also owned by Jeff Fisher). I remember how good I thought John Larabee sounded at night on BIG D.

Tom Kelly in the WDRC conference room at 869 Blue Hills Avenue - December 1979
Tom Kelly in the WDRC conference room at 869 Blue
Hills Avenue - December 1979

 
 

I'd sent a tape to Charlie Parker on a whim… and within days he'd called me. While it was never a goal to work there, it was certainly a very important wrung on the career ladder!

When I took the job, Bill Neil (then of WIP in Philadelphia and a 'DRC alum) called and said "Congratulations. You'll never have to worry about your career again." In effect, he was right. What he meant was that WDRC had such credibility, I was "set."

I thought then, as I still do today, that it was blind luck I was hired. I honestly believed that I was nowhere near the talent of most of the people that graced the airwaves at WDRC. When I was going through the interview process, I recall Dennis Lee (then midday host at WSPR) saying "Don't get too excited, they interview lots of jocks and few make it though the vicious audition."

 
 

Tom Kelly meets The Incredible Hulk (Lou Ferigno) - February, 1979
Tom Kelly meets The Incredible Hulk
(Lou Ferigno) - February, 1979

Charlie Parker called and asked that I come to Hartford to interview with him. We talked for an hour or so and then he asked if I would mind auditioning. I thought that it would be a live audition; rather it was in a production room.

It was only then that I realized what was meant by "vicious audition"… Because of AFTRA Union regs, jocks were required to be paid for each spot they recorded (a whopping 14.00 per spot, if I remember correctly.) To keep costs down, there were many live spots during an airshift at 'DRC. But frankly, I think it helped enhance the personality image of the station.

 
 

When I walked in for the audition there was a mound of live copy to be read. (None of which I had all that much time to pre-read).

I remember stumbling on copy for Arrow Stereo Tape Town - but I recovered with an ad-lib. Charlie Parker later told me that was one of the reasons he hired me. He felt that I was quick on my feet.

But I came close to not being hired because of my age… In fact, when I was hired at Blue Hills Avenue I was only 19 years old. Charlie feared that (then GM) Dick Korsen wouldn't hire me if I wasn't at least 21. So, I was asked in a round about way to lie about my age.

 
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