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Published: Friday, 3/30/2012

COMMENTARY

Toledo's golden oldie on the air again

BY KIRK BAIRD
CULTURE SHOCK
Bob Kelly Bob Kelly
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My temptation to jump-start this week's column was to write, "longtime radio man Bob Kelly is back on Toledo airwaves."

Even simpler, "Bob Kelly is back."

But neither would be accurate.

With fanfare and many good-byes, Kelly signed off his final broadcast in June of last year after a radio career spanning five decades.

His retirement proved to be short-lived, though, and by September he was back on the local dial with a once-a-week show, Saturday Mornings with Bob Kelly, on WRQN-FM, 93.5. His 6-to-10 a.m. shift sticks to the station's format of feel-good favorites.

But in the truest musical sense, Kelly really is back -- at least as longtime fans know him -- with his latest show (he doesn't have a title for the program, but is "open to suggestions") on WLQR-AM, 1470. Kelly is spinning the songs he grew up with from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, with a foundation-of-rock format spanning the late 1950s through the mid-1960s, otherwise known as Golden Oldies.

"From when Bill Haley rocked around the clock to when the Beatles started taking drugs ... and when the Jersey Boys were called the Four Seasons," he joked.

Kelly was in high school during rock and roll's formative years, "so that was my kind of music," he said.

But that fertile period of music isn't so popular these days. Once a station format in almost every town, Golden Oldies stations are an increasing rarity on terrestrial radio; there are no-such stations in the Toledo market. There's some concern it will go away completely. Now Kelly is determined that the soundtrack to his youth, as Buddy Holly once sang, will not fade away.

"I'm the senior rock and roll disc jockey in town at the age of 70, so it's fallen on my shoulders to keep the free rock-and-roll oldies alive, since the only way you can get them anymore is through satellite radio or buying the CDs," he said.

A decline among the target audience is mostly to blame for the disappearance of Golden Oldies on the radio. That, and seniors don't fit the prime advertising demographic of ages 25 to 54.

The new trend, including on 93.5, is for so-called "newer oldies," which includes a few songs from the 1960s, with a heavy rotation of pop hits from the 1970s and 1980s.

A Flock of Seagulls, Madness, Dexy's Midnight Runners -- they're now all oldies.

"Time has a way of redefining oldies -- it's hard to believe you can go back 30 years and you land in 1982," said Ron Finn, program director for WRQN and WWWM-FM, 105.5 (Star 105.5). "Radio does and always has served the music tastes of its audience at large, and while there's less demand for '50s and '60s, it's still fun music."

Kelly's new gig isn't the result of angry listeners concerned by the lack of representation of their era of rock on the radio.

The show was his idea and he's paying for the airtime himself. Kelly makes enough revenue from the on-air advertising he sells and through sponsorship, which pays for the show and leaves enough money left over for him to "supplement my golf games," he said, adding, "I discovered being retired is every bit as expensive as being non-retired."

Regardless the reasons Kelly returned to the air, northwest Ohio is all the better for it.

His is a classic radio voice for any era of music.

As Finn said: "Everything sounds better with Bob's wit and style."

Contact Kirk Baird at kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.



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