Saturday, July 20, 2024
Home News Industry News An Interview with Legendary Seattle DJ Pat O’Day, Now 84

An Interview with Legendary Seattle DJ Pat O’Day, Now 84


O’Day recalls the day superstar Jimi Hendrix was too cool for school

By John Hughes, Special to The Seattle Times

IF EVERY PICTURE tells a story, this one from Feb. 13, 1968, should be in a time capsule as evidence the times were changing. The 30ish guy in the tailored sport coat, black slacks and tassel loafers, his reddish-brown hair carefully brushed back, Philly-style, is Pat O’Day, the legendary Seattle disc jockey and concert promoter.

Pat was the king of Seattle Top 40 radio from 3 to 6 weekdays in the Sixties. The jingle he wrote for his station is nostalgic catnip to hundreds of thousands of aging Puget Sound baby boomers. They can intone it on cue: “KJR Seattle, Channel 95!”

Jimi Hendrix should need no introduction. The Garfield High School dropout is on the brink of international stardom. He’s arriving at his alma mater for a special pep assembly on the morning after a sold-out homecoming concert at Seattle Center Arena.

1968: The Year That Rocked Washington

The office of the Secretary of State has produced an exhibit that will open Sept. 13 at the capitol in Olympia. The 3 p.m. grand opening will feature remarks by Secretary of State Kim Wyman and several of the individuals spotlighted. Two of those stories — John C. Hughes’ profile of Pat O’Day, the legendary KJR disc jockey Hughes met in 1968, and Bob Young’s profile of Ralph Munro, our former five-term Secretary of State, appear in this week’s special 1968 issue of Pacific NW magazine.

Optically, O’Day and Hendrix are as incongruous a pair as Dick Clark and Little Richard (or Ryan Seacrest and Ozzy Osbourne). Jimi, who is 25, looks like a gypsy troubadour in moccasins and British peacoat, his electric hair stuffed into a jaunty Western hat banded with purple ribbon and silver hoops. His slightly bent left knee, downcast eyes and shy smile betray his what-am-I-doing-here nervousness, exacerbated by a raging hangover. He’d partied hard most of the night.

But, hey, man: Pat O’Day was going to introduce him. Jimi’s song “Spanish Castle Magic” was an homage to O’Day’s prime concert venue in the 1960s — an old roadhouse with faux turrets midway between Seattle and Tacoma. A combo called the Rocking Kings, with 17-year-old Jimi on a $49.95 Sears Roebuck guitar, opened for another band at the Castle in 1960.

“Look at him,” O’Day says, studying the photo half a century later. “He’s so cool. But when it came time to talk to a bunch of teenagers in the gym at his old school, he was absolutely petrified. … The Garfield student body was then predominantly black kids from the Central District, but Jimi’s music wasn’t exactly Motown. A lot of the kids didn’t really know who he was. I grabbed the microphone and said, ‘Standing before you today is a man who may soon surpass the Beatles in popularity!’



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here