“This is Kelly Thompson signing off.”

Posted: July 13, 2015 in beginnings, cancer, deejay, endings, Health, Jobs, Life, Music, Radio
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

As the last strains of Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” (released a hundred years ago and now considered classical music) echo through the control room speakers, the paramedics draw the sheet over my faded “Your face was made for radio” t-shirt. They gently remove the headphones from my greyed head before covering my face and wheeling me out the front door I’ve held keys to longer than to any other place in my life. As they slide the gurney into the ambulance, one medic says, “I grew up listening to her.” The other replies, “So did my parents. And grandparents.”

That’s how I imagined my radio career would end. It ends this Sat., July 18, 2015 for reasons I wouldn’t have imagined. 

Running the board at KJJQ, circa 1987

Running the board at KJJQ, circa 1987

Radio is all I ever wanted to do. Growing up, I recorded my own radio shows on a suitcase-sized tape recorder. At 19, I went on the air as an intern at KIMM/Hit 100 in Rapid City, SD and from there to a real announcer’s job with KJJQ/Q102 in Brookings, SD. I ended up at what’s now KCCR/KLXS in Pierre, SD where, with a few short lapses, I’ve spent nearly 25 years, moving from news director to sales rep to promotions director to PSA director and announcer.

For many years now, the radio station hasn’t felt like a job but more like a second home. A place I go to talk to my friends about anything and everything, to play good music, to inform and entertain. When I started in radio, we played the National Anthem before every sign-on, wrote copy on a typewriter, and used reel-to-reels, carts and turntables. That gave way to cassettes then CD’s then computers and satellite feeds. I feel old yet privileged to have been there for all those changes in my industry.

Deciding to leave was hard. Life made the decision for me. Many of my listeners might not know that for the last 16 years, I’ve had two jobs: a full-time job with the State of South Dakota, and my radio station gig. One feeds my family, the other feeds my soul. When I was diagnosed with cancer last year, I didn’t consider quitting either one, although if forced to, which one to leave was obvious. But I’m stubborn and I didn’t want to go. Through testing, treatment, bone marrow biopsies, crappy chemo days and finally stem cell harvesting, I went on the air as many days as I could. Some days they weren’t my best shows ever but they were the best show I could give that day. Thanks for listening, either way.

I have a stem cell transplant coming up next month and I know it’ll kick that cancer to the curb. But when the transplant and recovery period are over, there can be only one. Job, that is. And practicality, which is not always my strong suit, has dictated which one it has to be.

I’ll miss the people, the spontaneity, the pace, the thrill of not knowing what’ll happen during my show and how to tell you about it when it does. And I’ll miss having a place to go to just be myself. I’ve never used an on-air name that wasn’t my real name because I always wanted radio to just be me on the air with an open mic and something to say.

Maybe my departure from radio isn’t for forever but for just right now. I’ve left and been hired back several times over the years. But if it doesn’t happen again, that’s O.K. Life really is about time – how much you have and what you do with it. I’ve spent a lot of my time working. When you catch your second wind in life, maybe you should use it to climb new mountains and conquer new peaks. Some people go their whole lives without ever getting to do what they really want to do. I got to live my dream for well over half my life and it’s been the BEST TIME EVER.

My last “Kelly Thompson Show” this Saturday will be all requests, as many as I can find the music for and fit into two hours and 52 minutes. Those last 8 minutes are all mine for the final “Three Stories Hot off the Wire” and my good-bye song which will remain a secret until it’s played. If there’s something you want to hear between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. CT July 18, please post it in the comments below or email it to kelly@todayskccr.com by noon on July 16.

If you’re within 150 miles in any direction of Pierre, SD this Saturday morning, tune me in on your radio at 1240 AM. And if you’re not, I’ll be streaming live at todayskccr.com. It’ll just be me on the air with an open mic and something to say.

Kel on the air

Talking the talk in my control room

  1. Denise says:

    This story brought tears to my eyes Kelly!
    I am happy that you have gotten to do something you love and are passionate about. I hope you get the chance to do it again once you are back on your feet. Your listeners will miss you as much as you will miss being there.
    I will be listening Saturday, so play my favorite song, you know what it is! Just not too early though. 😛
    Best of luck my friend, but I will see you before you leave for your next challenge in life!

  2. Carroll Collins says:

    Very good description of your Radio career, Kelly.

  3. RoseAnn says:

    Oh, Kelly, how you have blessed, encouraged, provoked, enlightened and entertained us through the years. I am so priviledged to have known you since “back then” and can attest that you are real – off and on air. This community is with you and I’m confident that we will hear your sweet voice over the air waves again.

  4. Kristy Dozier says:

    Kelly, you are such an inspiration to so many people….your strength and zest for life is admirable! I will be listening Saturday morning……I am confident that we all will hear your voice on the radio again……Hugs!!!!! Kristy

  5. Roger Helmbolt says:

    Don’t know you, but you are a strong woman! Stay Strong! God Bless!

  6. Carol says:

    Kelly: good luck with the transplant – I have loved listening to you on the radio. You are the best!!

    • Carol, my friend, good to hear from you. Thanks as always for the support. Now that you’re retired and I’ll have all this free, non-working time, maybe you can give me some tips on what to do with myself! =)

  7. Lisa Vander maten says:

    Best of luck for a speedy recovery Kelly! God bless you and Jeremy.

  8. John moisan says:

    You know ’em………Mustang Sally and Play That Funky Music White Boy! You’ve played funky music all these years………you play the “funkiest” on your last day. Congratulations, my friend ,and we hope you reopen the request line in a couple years.

    • My radio family has been cool through this whole thing and the option to come back eventually is there. But moving on isn’t a bad thing either, Moisan, as you well know. Tracking down your songs for Saturday, buddy!

  9. Dennis and Lois Ries says:

    Dennis wants to hear “Grandma Got Ran Over By A Reindeer”. Love you Kelly – we will be praying for you.

  10. Becca says:

    It was a privilege to work with you all those years ago. I will be listening on Saturday and praying for you during your journey.

  11. Nancy Kornbaum Peters says:

    Kelly, good luck with the transplant! As someone who listened to you in both Brookings and Pierre, I know you will be missed on the air.

    • Nancy! So good to hear from you. Been thinking about Kris this week and the station in Volga. I learned so much there, especially from him. And that we got to all see each other again in Pierre years later was amazing. Hope all is well with you.

  12. Susan Johnson says:

    Bad Company – Silver, Blue and Gold. I know you always think of me when you hear that song. Thanks kid. Best wishes!

  13. Love you, friend, and feel for you, too. I will be listening (kind of reminds me of Pirate Radio.) Got Rebel Yell by Billy Idol?

  14. Trista Stenson says:

    Kelly- I’m happy to say I know you when I hear your familiar voice come on the air – a distinct, wonderfully talented voice that I admire & will sadly miss. Thanks for 25 great years in radio…you are truly one of a kind at what you do. I will always think of you as a damn hard worker…and now…it’s time to KICK CANCERS BUTT! Will be thinking of you as your journey continues! Wishing you all the best!

  15. Ki and Jennie says:

    What a blessing you have been to us. We have rocked, laughed, and enjoyed your shows. Saturday mornings won’t be the same until you’re back. Blessings to you and the family as you kick cancers butt. You have always ROCKED!!! Ki & Jennie

  16. Mike Kelley says:

    You’ve always done things your way and your way was always very good. You and I spent many Saturday mornings together when I was working. I was right there beside you many times and, along with many others, unhappy when your show came to an end each time. It seems appropriate to request an old song by Frank Sinatra “My Way”. I and many others will be beside you once again as you navigate the path to recovery and health. I know your strength, faith and attitude will see you through! Come back soon and God Bless!

    • Thank you for the wonderful comments. Got you on my list for an old Blue Eyes’ song, Mike. We Kelly’s (no matter how you spell it) stick together; sending good thoughts and support back your way as well.

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