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Man From Mars Productions

Tom Kelly
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December 1979: Meatloaf visits WDRC's Tom Kelly to promote "Two
December 1979: Meatloaf visits WDRC's Tom Kelly to promote "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad"

Q: You started at DRC in November 1978. By that time WPOP was musically history. TIC FM was a year old and had screamed from 13th (classical) to 4th (top 40) in the ratings. DRC AM was second in the market with a 9.5 behind perpetual leader, WTIC AM. What was Hartford's competitive landscape like?

A: Actually, I started working at BIG D in mid October of 1978. When I first went to town, 96-TICS (Ninety-Six-Tix) was the thing. The Mike Joseph-programmed station was an overnight success. And of course, 1080 WTIC was nearly bullet proof.

 
 

But BIG D still held on to some enviable numbers. PM drive placed Top Five 18-34 while I was there. By 1980 that all began to change… AM's started to flail.

Q: In 1978 Bob Steele had a 42.7, followed by Brad Davis with an 11.8. Was Brad still playing music then? How did his morning show set the plate for the rest of DRC's day?

A: In 1978 Brad's show was unlike the rest of the station in that it was talk intensive. He still played three or four songs an hour. But it was mostly Brad just being Brad. He and Bob Steele were undeniably the most recognizable radio personalities in Southern New England.

Q: At Big D you had the unenviable position of replacing a legend. For 10 years Dick McDonough sat in the afternoon drive chair. Did you ever meet him, and did you get much listener feedback on the switch?

A: I knew this question would come up.

Replacing Dick was at best, a daunting task. And retrospectively, I had no place doing so. Mr. McDonough was a smooth, seasoned veteran and I was a green kid. I felt just awful.

But later in 1980, I attended the "WDRC Reject Reunion" Party (dubbed so, I think by Kenny Griffin) Dick came up to me and was cordial, warm and quite complimentary. He lived up to his knick name "The Prince".

And no, I don't recall much negative audience reaction. However, I believe the station as a whole eclipsed the popularity of any one personality (sans Brad Davis) and I don't mean that in a negative sense… it's just that the station was the thing. Not the jock.

 
 

Q: Did you ever have thoughts of working on the other side of the dial?

A: When I was at BIG D the FM hadn't hit its stride so, no, I had no ambition to work for what was then D-103. At the time, the station was a hybrid Top 40 and the jocks were low key and mellow.

WHCN, and to a lesser extent WCCC, owned album rock. TIC-FM was kickin' it with Top 40, WRCH commanded large shares with beautiful music… I'm not sure there was a format hole. And it was much too early of a time to be talking about niche programming, yet in a sense that's what they did. In many ways, Charlie Parker was so ahead of the curve.

WDRC AM and FM logos

 
 

Bill  Pearson and Tom Kelly in March, 1980
Bill Pearson & Tom Kelly in March, 1980

Q: Talk about some of the jocks you worked with at Big D.

A: I worked with some great people at 'DRC. I considered Charlie Parker to be a "God." He inspired me and always encouraged me. One of my favorite jocks at Big D was Bill Stephens. He was incredibly talented. (He moved on to WVBF I think and later WRKO). Then, Bill Pearson took his spot if I remember.

While I rarely spoke to Stephens (even at work) Pearson and I remained friends until his death. He made me laugh so damn hard (both on and off the radio) I eventually hired Bill as my afternoon guy when I went back to WSPR as PD. I was asked to help make something of the station so Jeff Fisher could get it ready for sale. Bill and I both knew that we only had a year or two to do it… so we made the best of it.

 
 

Paul Ciliano (aka Paul Roberts) was another of my favorites. He was hired at BIG D when he was just 17 years old (!). We had a lot in common and still occasionally speak to one another today. He's a great talent and a great guy.

 
 

Tom Kelly in the Big D Mobile Studio - 1979
Tom Kelly in the Big D Mobile Studio
- 1979

Q: In June of 1980 the love affair ended. What led to your dismissal from WDRC?

A: I don't exactly know what lead to my dismissal. I'd not been fired from a job before or since. But I do remember I wore a 91Q t-shirt to work one Saturday and that didn't sit well with Dick Korsen. Maybe that's an understatement… He was enraged.

And it wasn't a question of being lured to WTIC (though a Hartford Courant article made it sound that way). Hell, I was out of work with only two months severance in the bank.

Tom Barsanti was Ops Manager for WTIC AM & FM at the Gold Palace… but it was Arnold Chase that pushed to hire me. Chase was Program Director and the son of the owner.

 
 

And it was a plum gig for a 22 year old kid. Though much of it was right place, right time, as Bill Lenky had been released from his duties for making a reference to condoms on the air. Lenky later went on to KFRC.

 

Tom Kelly at TIC FM
Tom Kelly at TIC FM

 
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