Danny Holiday – Rock ‘n’ Roll Time Machine

Of the hundreds of radio personalities who ever pulled a gig in the Puget Sound area, only a few left much of a lasting footprint. Well, you say, that’s just the way radio is.…isn’t it? Not so fast. There were notable exceptions.

One was Daniel Prescott Thygesen, professionally known as Danny Holiday. Danny not only pulled a lot of board shifts, he lived some of them to the utmost — mostly when reveling in his favorite on-air passion, the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Time Machine.” If you look at his career and life tracks, you’ll see the RRTM was more than just a name for his popular radio show. It was Danny Holiday.

Trivia lovers wouldn’t — and didn’t — challenge him on the topic of rock music history. He knew a lot more than the mundane stuff — titles, artists and song years. How about record labels? B-sides? Recording studio locations? Who the backup session musicians were? How many recording takes it took? Alternate versions? And on and on and on. He was a walking encyclopedia and a collector of unlimited facts, tapes and materials from many ’50s and ’60s artists. He enjoyed nothing more than discussing and presenting them on his RRTM, his signature oldies show, which actually didn’t materialize under that on-air moniker until later in his career.

Everett born, Holiday developed an early interest in radio, sweeping floors at KRKO-AM when in grade school. After his family moved to Anacortes, he hung around KAGT-AM and got a brief on-air shot in his first year of high school. He played sports, had singing talent and was in the school band. He had his ear to the radio and became an immediate fan of both Dave McCormick and Red Robinson, two legendary early Canadian pop music deejays in Vancouver, B.C.

After attending the 1957 Elvis Presley performance in Vancouver, Holiday’s radio interest was matched by his musical pursuits. Robinson says Holiday was singing with backup bands in some rock ‘n’ roll shows on both sides of the border before he was 17. He also promoted other local rock bands.

His first real broadcasting job was at Bellingham’s KPUG-AM as one of the “Live Guys” while attending classes at Skagit Valley College in the early 1960s. He claimed his on-air name from the once well-known Holiday Ballroom in Burlington. That’s where he first met Red Robinson, who coached him not only about radio but also how to effectively work with and promote big-name pop music performers.

Like several others, Holiday made the leap from KPUG to Seattle rock radio, landing at KOL-AM as part of the station’s Magnificent 7 in 1965. Program Director Buzz Barr launched a major run at KJR-AM that year which added Holiday (below photo, far right) to a lineup with, from left, Tommy Vance, Don January and Rhett Hamilton Walker I.  See Space Age KOL Challenges KJR, 1965-’66

KOL jockshot from 1965, then a brief Danny Holiday aircheck from ’66 (Running time :53)

Chuck Berry was one of Holiday’s favorite rock music creators and performers. While Holiday was at KOL, his love for original ‘50s rock continued to surface — both on and off the air. So with backup help from a local band called The Bumps, Holiday recorded four songs. One of them was a cover of Berry’s Little Queenie, with Holiday as the lead vocalist.

Little Queenie (Running Time :41)

Despite brief interruptions for military reserve duty and a short KJRB-AM stint in Spokane, Holiday continued into ’67 as part of KOL’s ongoing surge, which included Dave McCormick, Dex Allen, Dick Burch, Bob Watson, Jim Martin, Lee Perkins, Tom Connors and Robin Mitchell. Holiday called McCormick the best program director he ever worked for.

Most of the on-air staff changed with the sale of KOL in late 1967. Holiday went on to the program director job at KSND-AM 1590, where he hired Robert O. Smith away from KJR. In 1968 KSND proclaimed itself Seattle’s first truly oldies station. (In early 1970 it flipped to a country format before another change to KUUU).

Holiday had one more brief return to KOL, just before it became KMPS-AM in 1975. He left the radio microphone in the 1970s, his meticulous ear and passion for rock music leading him to the recording industry (A & M, Columbia and 20th Century Fox), where Danny promoted the records of a number of the country’s top rock stars.

Holiday briefly returned to the airwaves at Tacoma’s KTAC-AM, just before his RRTM took serious flight in 1985 at Seattle’s KZOK-FM. 102.5 had moved into classic rock in ‘86, which allowed Holiday more on-air latitude than his more playlist-structured KOL days.

One autumn Saturday in ‘86, Holiday featured rocker Paul Revere (Paul Revere & The Raiders) on his RRTM show. The audio track (below the photo of the two men) begins with one of Holiday’s favorites — an outtake from an Elvis Presley recording session from 1956.

Holiday & Paul Revere

Danny & Paul Revere on KZOK-FM (Running Time 6:39)

Holiday left KZOK before the end of the ‘80s, taking another short radio hiatus. Aside from his rock music history expertise — and as a performer and a recording  artist in his own right — he was inducted into the Northwest Music Hall of Fame in 1990.

In 1991, Danny began a 7-year stint at KBSG-FM a Seattle oldies station whose stereo treatment of ‘50s, ’60s and ‘70s hits built a sizeable audience. Here’s a 1992 audio track of Danny from his Friday night show at KBSG.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Time Machine, Danny Holiday on KBSG (Running Time 4:29)

Danny at Lan Roberts’ memorial lunch 2006. Frank Thompson (front), Pat O’Day (right)

In 1998, in the face of increasing health issues, he left commercial radio to spend more time with family. It would again be a temporary retirement from radio and the music that had been such big parts of his life.

Danny & Pat Boone

In September 2008, Holiday revived his RRTM as a weekly volunteer host on Everett’s KSER-FM. To no one’s surprise, his three-hour show drew a faithful audience, which contributed to a higher community profile for KSER .

His last on-air installments of the then-famous Rock ‘n’ Roll Time Machine continued for more than two more years, the last show airing on January 15, 2011. Danny Holiday died on February 20, 2012, capping a radio and rock music promotion career that exceeded 40 years. Danny Holiday’s lively personality always attracted volumes of radio listeners and, through his promotion skills, endeared him to many of the same mainstream rock music performers he had long idolized.

Red (left) and Danny

Longtime friend Red Robinson has called Holiday’s era — “the best of times when radio meant something — radio that celebrated rock and roll music. Those were the halcyon days and Danny was a part of it. I miss him.”

Click on the names below to read about these broadcasters who were popular in Bellingham and Whatcom County, including nearby Canadian legend Red Robinson:

Danny Holiday (KPUG)
Dick Stark (KENY & KPUG) 
Kirk Wilde (KPUG)
Gary Shannon (KPUG)
Mike Forney (KPUG)
Jay Hamilton (KPUG & KBFW)
Bob O’Neil & Marc Taylor (KPUG)

John Christopher Kowsky (KPUG)
Haines Faye & Rogan Jones (KVOS & KGMI)
Tom Haveman (KENY & KVOS)
Red Robinson (Vancouver B.C.)

Author: Ronald DeHart

Ron DeHart is a former newspaper and broadcast journalist and a retired Public Affairs Officer from both the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Navy/Naval Reserve. His historical accounts of Pacific Northwest broadcasting are published by Puget Sound Media. View more articles by Ron DeHart  

3 thoughts on “Danny Holiday – Rock ‘n’ Roll Time Machine

  1. I sat next to Danny in many high school classes and performed in the same high school band. During one of his broadcast sessions in the summer of 1961 I was in the booth with one of my friends. The booth faced Commercial Avenue which provided a good view of the traffic which on this night included two hot looking girls in a 1959 Impala convertible. We did not manage to meet up with the girls that night but some weeks later I met them through a friend I was working in the fields with. Like George Lucas I was planning to leave for college in a different state. I did maintain an intermittent relationship with the girl for several years. When Danny retired in 1998 we reconnected via email and I visited his house in Marysville twice. Our discussions revolved around his obsession with Rockabilly and my obsession with Blues. I faked a disdain for Rockabilly to stimulate the conversation. He added some of my blues favorites to his personal playlist. In recent years I listen to more and more Rockabilly. I love the revival and the talent that has committed to this genre. I have fond memories of my personal Wolfman Jack. Danny was a unique character. Underneath that he was a good friend, I miss him.

  2. Even in 2021 after my own study of rock n roll history for 55 years Danny’s shows thrill me with his deep personal knowledge of every songs and groups

    The main reason I support KSER radio
    A true rock n roll hall of fame treasure

    Thanks so much to kser for continuing to air these great hours

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