One year ago, while writing an article about Detroit radio, I contacted radio historian and videographer Art Vuolo in the Detroit suburb of Novi, Michigan. When Art saw where I was calling from, he said: “You are in Bellingham, WA. I just got back from there two days ago. I was visiting my brother and sister for Christmas and they live in and around Bellingham.”
A year rolled by and Art sent a text the other day asking if I would be around, since he was returning to Bellingham this Christmas. With some advance planning, the man known in the US and Canada as “Radio’s Best Friend” dropped by my house yesterday.
As we were talking, Art mentioned the legendary DJ “Shotgun Tom Kelly.” I said that down in Oregon Roger W. Morgan, formerly with Don Burden’s Star Stations and KYA in San Francisco, runs “The Legend” in Coos Bay. Shotgun Tom is heard on-air at The Legend and he often appears at the station’s promotional events.
Talk about coincidence. Moments later, Art’s phone rang. He looked at the screen, tipped it my way so I could see that the caller was nobody other than Shotgun Tom. Art said “speak of the devil” and the two of them talked about lodging options in California and San Diego radio gossip. I mentioned The Legend, and Shotgun said he had fun at those events. Art and Shotgun Tom have been friends for years, and I will tell you more about that later on.
Art Vuolo, like many of us, became interested in radio as a kid. He was raised in Indianapolis and fell asleep each night listening to a crystal set he had under his pillow. Art’s favorite DJ was Bernie Herman on 1430 WIRE. A few years later, Vuolo began assisting DJ Jim Shelton at WIBC in Indianapolis. Shelton became Vuolo’s close friend and mentor.
Art was inspired to create videos on his own when attending the 1977 R&R Convention in Dallas. He was impressed with a profile, captured on 8mm film, of a young Shotgun Tom Kelly on B-100 in San Diego (you might have guessed that). Two years later, Vuolo made his first video featuring St. Louis news personality Rob Milford at KWK. That same year, working with his friend and PD Steve Cooper, he created a video profile of WIFE in Indianapolis.
In the years that followed, Art has recorded the antics of hundreds of radio DJs, clearly some of the biggest names in radio. Here’s a short list: Real Don Steele, Don Imus, Dr. Don Rose, Howard Stern, Larry Lujack, Gary Owens, Rick Dees, Scott Shannon, Wolfman Jack, Dan Ingram, Bruce Morrow, Dick Biondi, Casey Kasem, Alison Steele, John Records Landecker and the list goes on.
Art’s video aircheck collection is so impressive that it has been turned into a permanent exhibit at the Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago. The exhibit is called “A History of the American Disc Jockey.” Visitors can search and view the content at computer stations. Vuolo told me that when he was contacted by the Radio Hall of Fame, they asked for a very short video montage of some of the people he recorded over the years. It would be a teaser for the exhibit. Art said editing that was a challenge and only a few seconds were allowed per DJ.
It came to my attention that several of the jocks in this video eventually ended up in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle-Tacoma, Spokane, Portland). Personally, I recognized six such personalities, one of whom I believe is still in Seattle. I might have missed some veterans of the Northwest. I encourage our readers to watch this video and to point out, with your comments, those jocks who have been on-air in the Pacific Northwest.
Visit Art Vuolo’s great youtube site here. (If you are interested in radio, I guarantee you will find something interesting).
Visit the Vuolo Video website here.
An article on Art Vuolo’s projects and career is available here.