440: Satisfaction - In depth
Thursday, September 29, 2005

Jerry Kay, part of a powerhouse lineup of disc jockeys that made KJR-AM the dominant station in Seattle in the 1960s, died Sunday (Sep 25, 2005) at his home in Seaside, Ore., according to former KJR program director Pat O'Day.

O'Day hired Kay at a Yakima station in 1957, then brought him to Seattle in 1961 (Kay was born Jerry King, but changed his name when he came to Seattle, because of a competing station with that name as its call letters). He later moved to Chicago's rock giants, WLS-AM and WCFL-AM, returning to the Seattle area to work for such stations as KBSG, KHIT, KSPL and KJR, according to friend and colleague Bill Taylor.

"He was hip, he was funny, he was consistent, he was simply wonderful," O'Day says. "He could employ a very syrupy sound, with his cutting sarcasm." Kay would bill himself "the nice man on the radio."


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A sampling of expressions about Jerry from the Seattle radio message board:

Just got an email from Pat O'Day advising that former KOL and KJR jock Jerry Kaye passed away yesterday in Seaside, OR. Jerry had been out of touch with his old friends the past few years due to failing health. Here's the email from Pat (with Kaye spelled both ways).

To all:

Sad, Sad, Sad, news this morning. Jerry Kay has died! His daughter Erica sent an email stating he passed away yesterday at his home in Seaside, Oregon.

Jerry exited his relationships over the past couple of years and made himself impossible to reach. We might feel guilty over not visiting him or contacting him but hat seemed to be his choice. His health clearly deteriorated but how were we to know.

Now then, lets talk about the live Jerry.

I hired him in Yakima the year he graduated from High School. Super smooth voice, rye sense of humor, and truly a potent talent. Later he came to Seattle, first to KOL and then we brought him over to KJR. It was during the years of 1961 and 1963 that he achieved total greatness. He was inspired by Garry Owens and embraced many of Garry's little takes and expressions.

Later, he was the PD at KNEW Spokane, eventually did Chicago thanks to Lujack and others. Much later, he worked for a period at KJR again doing the all night show and always, always, his talent was underestimated and he always underestimated himself.

So many happy happy hours I spent in his company. From the golf course to liars poker at The Blew Eagle. From totally enjoyable lunches to hilarious phone calls, I have missed him in recent years. Jerry inherited marginal genes where health was concerned. His sister died at a young age and Jerry's weight was never to his advantage. Jerry Kaye was truly, one of the most enjoyable aspects of my life. Damn, I'm so sorry I didn't get to tell him how great he was and tell him goodbye!!!

Pat O'Day

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Jerry Kay/Kaye

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We will all miss Jerry. Although a year ahead of me, we had radio production class together at Yakima Senior High School. There are lots of wonderful stories we could all tell about our friendship with Jerry. He will always be in our hearts.

Jerry was one of my closest and dearest friends, although, as Pat mentioned, it was damn difficult to get him to talk to anyone in recent months. Our last chat was April when he called me in a panic because he knew I was going to see a mutual friend who would "spill some dirt" and wanted to make sure I was armed with both sides of the story first. That conversation was so upbeat -- and I remember it vividly because I was sitting at SeaTac on my way to Dr. Don Rose's memorial and was stunned to see Jerry show up on caller ID after months of dodging calls and email from all his closest friends.

Every phone call, visit, encounter that we had was incredibly funny -- and that is attributable to nothing less than his outstanding outlook and sense of humor. Very dark and dry -- but dammit what a great equalizer to so much other stuff that we have to deal with. His on-air work involved an incredible wit that usually let everyone in on just a part of his warm and genuine personality -- but often on his unique, funny outlook on something bizarre.

In my media room is a vintage radio that was part of his late mother's living room in Yakima. Jerry gave me that as a way to remember the fun times we had in the biz together ... and to always remember some of the better days in the business. In my archives are most of his airchecks -- he wasn't all that enthusiastic about hanging on to them and, mercifully, knew just how much I appreciated his work --- ALMOST as much as I appreciate his friendship.

Godspeed, buddy.

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Reading about Jerry's passing brought back memories of some of the good things about the biz. I only knew him casually, but while cutting my radio teeth in Yakima from '77-'80, he was my morning guy's landlord. Radio was something he did, he was proud of, but didn't carry it with him. He could be a regular guy and that's important if you want to play radio AND have a life.

Those of you who knew or met him, consider yourself lucky.


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