Bob Kelly retires after 50 years on radioWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A familiar voice on Toledo air waves will be missing next week. Local radio personality Bob Kelly is retiring after spending the past 50 years on the radio in Ohio.
“I’ve been at every station in town except Sunoco,” said Kelly, who originally came to Toledo in November 1965.
Kelly, born Norman Plumer in Akron, grew up in the nearby suburb of Copley. He got his start on the campus radio station at Kent State University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting.
Someone there didn’t like his name on the air so he began using his middle name Rogers (his mother’s maiden name), and worked as Norm Rogers.
He began his professional radio career in 1961 in Alliance, Ohio. When he was hired at a station in Canton, someone there didn’t like the name Norm and suggested the name Bob Rogers.
“I just said, ‘Thanks for the job, call me what you want,’” Kelly said.
Bob Martz and John Garry from Toledo were driving around Ohio looking for someone they could clean up and make a star.
“I think they liked something clever I said on the radio,” Kelly said.
After their first choice didn’t work out, they hired him but Garry didn’t like the name Rogers and decided he was going to be Bob Kelly on the radio in Toledo and it stuck, Kelly said.
He went back to working as Norm Plumer on WWJ radio in Detroit from 1969 to 1974. He did weekend sports that included hosting a show called Sportsline that Al Ackerman started there.
“I interviewed all kinds of famous sports people like Bill Russell, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, George Foreman and Richard Petty,” Kelly said. “I later did color commentary for Goaldiggers’ hockey in Toledo.”
He returned to Toledo in 1974 working as Bob Kelly on WCWA. He later worked with Martz as The Bob and Bob Show on WOHO in the 1980s.
Kelly also worked at WTOD before it was a country station. He knew nothing about country music, according to one of his radio colleagues.
One of Kelly’s most famous roles was when he played “Perry Chair” on television commercials for the former Perry House Furniture. He was dressed as a recliner chair for those TV spots.
“I made very little money but got a lot of notoriety as people still remember Perry Chair,” Kelly said.
That role was created by local advertising consultant Chuck Allen who directed Kelly when he played Skippy the Scarecrow on TV-24 in Toledo.
In 1992, Kelly came to WRQN where he teamed with longtime sidekick, Dennis Staples, as Kelly and Staples in the Morning. After Staples retired about five years ago, the station thought he needed another on-air partner.
Ron Finn, who follows Kelly on-air and serves as program director, called Becky Shock who previously worked on-air at WIOT in Toledo. She replaced Staples and they began working on the WRQN Morning Show with Bob and Becky.
They have been on-air sidekicks weekdays from 5:30 to 10 a.m. for nearly five years.
With Kelly’s retirement, Finn will move from mid-day to the morning slot. Shock will stay on-air in some capacity with the station, according to Finn.
Looking back on his long career, Kelly admitted to having some embarrassing moments, including the only time he cursed on the air.
Lou Hebert had just read a weather forecast about a storm coming from the west and Kelly said, “It’s coming from those G**d*** farmers in Indiana,” mocking the voice of someone he knew who used that phrase.
On his first job in Alliance, Kelly said he was reading a swap shop ad about somebody selling a kitchen sink “with hot and cold spig-ohs” thinking the word spigot was French.
When asked what he plans to do when he retires, Kelly said, “Starting Monday, I’m sleeping in and then playing in a golf tournament. What a fun way to start your retirement.”
Kelly said he will continue to do some commercials and occasionally will be heard on the radio. He also plans to do some live shows around town. He said his wife, Linda, told him retirement means the bushes need trimming.
Bob and Linda have been married for 30 years and have two grown children, their daughter Kristie, who gave them a grandson, Jackson Pollock, and their son Bobby.
A planned 50th anniversary party for Kelly will now be a retirement party at Fat Fish Blue in Levis Commons on June 10 at 7 p.m.
For more information about the party, visit www.935wrqn.com. O