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Airwaves: January 2, 2015

Kelly does "Tonight"

“Shotgun” Tom Kelly has been a popular DJ in Southern California for over 40 years. I listened to him for years as he played the hits from his old radio home of San Diego on such stations as KGB, KOGO, B-100 and the legendary KCBQ. Since 1997, he’s been handling afternoon drive on our own KRTH (101.1 FM), meaning he celebrates his 18th anniversary with the station later this year.

But there’s another side to Kelly. One more mysterious. Secret. A double life known only to his friends ... and perhaps a few thousand viewers on YouTube. From his garage at his home in San Diego Kelly helps recreate ... The Tonight Show.

“I’ve been doing this for years,” Kelly tells me. “I did the first home Tonight Show long before ‘Kramer’ on Seinfeld did his.”

In his garage (his wife must be a VERY patient woman) he put together a set that is not a duplicate of the set, but is most certainly in the same spirit as what you would see in the heydays of Johnny Carson’s tenure hosting the iconic NBC television program.

“I loved the format of The Tonight Show,” Kelly explains. “I thought to myself, ‘it would be great to remember friends on video in a way people who watched it would not be bored but entertained.’”

He saw the program in person over 25 times. Once when he was working on a Variety Club telethon, he was able to take a peak at the Tonight Show studio which happened to be right next door to the studio they were using for the telethon. “I was able to get a close-up look at the set -- to see Carson’s desk, how the backdrop was put together, the guest seats ... everything. He returned to his home and started building the set.

“To do a Tonight Show right, you must have a crew,” he told me. “You need Camera people, someone on the mic boom and lighting, and some one to run audio ... at least 5 people to do it right. I even found a producer of music to produce my own theme ... I did not want to use Johnny's ‘Tonight Show’ theme, so I did my own. We rented a recording studio and a full band. I paid $3000 for 12 cuts of custom music.”

At last count, he’s done 26 episodes, and you can see a couple of them on YouTube. Just go to or

All as a way to showcase friends and pay tribute to the history of radio and television from one of both industry’s nicest guys.

Shotgun Tom as "Ed," friend

Photo: Shotgun Tom Kelly (left) and friend Jack McCoy on Kelly's garage"Tonight Show."

Readers’ Revenge

You have some of the best story ideas. Just one example? Reader Greg Wood sent in this link for your consideration: “Have you ever come across this site?” he asks.

I had not. But it is a fun diversion. It is a collection of ads, music lists and photos related to some of the great radio stations and personalities of the past. A fascinating look at how stations promoted themselves in years gone by, and even a few ads and photos of some of the radios on which you may have heard those stations. Check it out ... the radio link of the week.


Copyright © 2015 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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