Adieu O’Day: Seattle DJ Leaves The Air After 25 Years

March 14, 1985
Tomorrow marks the close of an era in Seattle broadcasting when a local radio legend, Pat O’Day, ends a quarter of a century on the airwaves.
O’Day, 50, the morning personality on KKMI _ and a trend-setting top jock since 1959 _ will have his last shift before the mike from 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. He was fired last week by the new, Tucson-based owners of the station which O’Day built from the ground up.

KKMI is being operated on an austerity basis until the new owners take over April 29.

Three weeks ago, O’Day himself terminated most of the rest of the air staff he had assembled a year ago for the station. At the time, he said he had been asked to stay on by the new owners _ but they changed their minds and gave him notice.

The station will change its call letters to KQKT.

After brief stints in Longview and Yakima, O’Day began his Seattle radio career in 1959 at KAYO. But it was in 1960, after he joined KJR, that he began making broadcast history. As a Top-40 station, KJR owned the town, and O’Day charted new standards as a raucous, fun-loving, fast-talking teen idol.

“I remember one rating period, in afternoon drive, I had a 48 share in Pulse,” O’Day said. Although the Pulse audience-measuring firm no longer exists, today’s Arbitron rating service gives no present-day radio station much over a 10 “share,” or percentage of the listening audience.

Keeping pace with young people’s entertainment needs in the early 1960s, O’Day began promoting teen dances at the old Spanish Castle at Midway and also in Bremerton. At the same time, he advanced through the broadcasting ranks, becoming program director and then general manager of KJR.

O’Day and others eventually developed Concerts West, a national booking agency which brought the Rolling Stones to Seattle and helped place O’Day on concert tours with such entertainers as Elvis Presley.

In 1976, he formed O’Day Broadcasting and purchased stations in Hawaii and Seattle. His Seattle station was KYYX, a contemporary-music station, and three years later he added KXA to his operation, changing it from a classical-music format to golden oldies. O’Day had initial success but eventually found himself facing bankruptcy.

“I made $1 million in 1977,” O’Day recalled, “but my interest payments also amounted to $1 million.”

In April 1984, KXA and KYYX were bought by a new firm: Madison Park Broadcasting. O’Day was retained as morning personality and station manager at KYYX, which was renamed KKMI. Madison Park Broadcasting, however, began efforts to sell the station last October.

The consummate promoter, O’Day had scheduled a Mexican cruise for listeners next week; thus he was due to take some time off after Friday. Now, he will not be returning to the air.

“I am not pleased,” O’Day said. “But I am not depressed.

“I may turn my back on broadcasting,” he added.

The adult-contemporary format at KKMI was working, he said, but he was not able to get enough people to sample the station: “It’s a very competitive radio market.”

More cheerfully, though, he added: “There’s never an ending, only a new beginning. Orson Welles said that … on the NBC 50th anniversary telecast … about Richard Nixon.”

O’Day spoke gingerly of disc jockeys he had fired.

“I always tried to make a positive thing out of it, explaining why things weren’t working, what they might be doing wrong.”

He paused. “I can’t think of any firing that came back to haunt me. No one became a big star.”

On the other hand, those who left KJR voluntarily for other stations include Charlie Brown, now at KUBE, and Tom Murphy and Larry Lujack, now Los Angeles and Chicago personalities who have established national reputations.

O’Day said his biggest disappointment might be not being able to broadcast Seattle’s Seafair hydroplane race this year. In hydros, too, he became an energetic promoter, broadcasting races for 18 years.

In 1977, only his KYYX broadcast the race, but interest by other stations grew, and broadcasts again proliferated. This year, however, only one radio station will be authorized by Seafair officials to broadcast the event.

O’Day said he would have some small role in operating KXA until it, too, is sold.

Author: Victor Stredicke

Former radio columnist for the Seattle Times (1964-1989). --- View other articles by Victor Stredicke

2 thoughts on “Adieu O’Day: Seattle DJ Leaves The Air After 25 Years

  1. I very briefly worked at KKMI. The studio was in Madison Park and it was live, except on the weekends. I was never on the air.

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