Rock In Peace: Saying Goodbye to Disc Jockey David Kelso

Even though I don’t listen the radio very much anymore, if ever, in Oklahoma City, KRXO often got me through my teen years by playing the only music I could ever truly identify with – classic rock. That station had a somewhat colorful cast of on-air characters, but the disc jockey that I often listened to on my cheap Koss headphones was Dave Kelso.

I was floored to learned that he died yesterday.

A name from my past, to be fair, I barely knew he was still a radio personality and, to my shock, I had no idea that he had been struggling with an aggressive form of brain cancer known as glioblastoma. When I learned he passed yesterday, a few good memories came rushing back.

Kelso didn’t have any gimmicks, especially at a time when they were on every station. It’s probably one of the reasons he was so listenable, actually talking about the music with a true fandom that very few personalities ever seem to have. He didn’t come off like other DJs, probably because he seemed to actually love what he was doing.

That’s something that can come over the airwaves even more than the music does.

The first time I ever won concert tickets was while listening to his show in the early 90s. I had to be a certain numbered caller to win two tickets to see the Beatles tribute band 1964 at the Civic Center—for me, it might have well of been the actual Beatles. After a few redials like you used to do, I had those tickets in my pocket. Pretty good for a first concert, I’d say.

But I wasn’t able to say thank you until a year or so later when I won a Jethro Tull cassette tape from his show. It was sometime during the summer and my parents took me to KRXO to pick it up. As I was coming in, he was coming out. We stopped and talked for a few minutes, with me hanging off his every word like the classic rock fanboy I obviously was.

The tape was alright, but I’ll never forget that Kelso was funny, cordial and absolutely normal, something that you usually don’t see in the forced humor of too many disc jockeys, then and now.

Over the years I lost touch with not only him but the radio as well. KRXO moved from 107.7 to 104.5 on the dial, something I didn’t learn until a few years ago when I punched up the dial and got nothing but boring sports talk.

A few years ago, however, I had just gotten out of the hospital and, while messing around with my mom’s truck radio, and I heard him broadcasting on KOMA. I sat back, internally happy that, in the dying beast that is Oklahoma City radio, he was still alive and kicking and, even better, still seemed to enjoy what he was doing.

Learning about his recent death, I was taken a bit aback, not knowing about his recent health troubles. And while I am heartbroken that some kid out there won’t get it to know him or his show as I did, I feel that the best I can do to preserve his memory is to pass that same knowledge on, just like he did without his even knowing to me. Our thoughts and condolences go to all his friends, family and colleagues.


Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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16 Responses

  1. Nicely done, Louis! I worked with Kelso at KRXO for six years back in the mid/late 90’s and kept in touch with him since then. He was such a great dude. Always passionate, inclusive and very kind. He always stood up for himself, and anyone else around him who needed it. With Kelso, what you saw was what you got. Just a larger than life guy whose personality was so big, he had to have 100,000 watts of power and a radio transmitter to do it justice.

    1. Unbelievably sad news, Dave O. He was bigger than life.

  2. Classy, Louis

  3. You nailed it! He was THAT guy! I worked with him…. we were both on the air together and I still felt the exact same way you described! I was such a fan! He also used his illness in the last year, to inspire others more powerfully than you can even imagine! His “Hike to Heal” group is now national! What a legacy! This is the kind of radio “star” any of us should aspire to be!

    1. +1

  4. Brings back memories. I met Kelso a few times, because back in the day I was friendly with several of the KRXO-KOMA people, and ran into Dave socially while with my friends.

    And, even before his days on commercial radio, I believe Dave did a Saturday afternoon blues program on public station KGOU.

    I was into motorcycling back then and Dave was, too, but complained he had trouble finding a helmet because he had a large head. (I mean physically large, not “big ego.”) I looked closer and said, “Goddamn, Kelso, you DO have a big head!”

    “I told you!”

    Sorry to hear of his passing. RIP, man.

    1. I completely forgot this, but it popped into my mind just now:

      I ran into Kelso once and said, “How’s it going?”

      His reply: “It does not suck being ME.”

      I’ve used that line about a million times in the years since. I only steal from the best.

    2. Rock and Roll and motorcycles. Rings all the bells.


  5. Tragic news, as I remember listening to Kelso earlier this year. The state agency that I worked at always had KOMA on the air while customers were being served in-store. He definitely knew his music, and was all of the great things that Louis mentioned. This sucks. He will be missed, and I hope his family is able to navigate through this tough time as smoothly as possible in the months and weeks ahead.


  7. Very sad news. I used to listen to him in the nineties when I was working late all the time. He had a classic voice and an incredible knowledge of rock and roll.
    Condolences to his family.

  8. I used to love listening to Blues Cruise on Sunday night! So sorry to hear of his passing.

  9. Dave was a great friend. He really cared about the music and the people who loved it. We will miss him.

  10. Great piece Louis. Kelso was a awesome person and the few times I met him in Norman back in the jay were some fun nights not to ever be forgotten even if they’re hard to remember. Something about classic rock, beer and a bunch of rugby players that make for fun side splitting late nights. Dude was a legend in my books.

  11. We’re not acquainted, he also at the Sunday night Hosty show at the Deli Memorial weekend. Crowded show, found a spot by a table where I could rest my big ole red cup of Bud near him. Going for refreshment asked what I’m drinking and bought me a red cup. Same person as on air which is probably rare.

  12. Good tribute, Louis! I met him a couple of times and he was a really smart and friendly dude. My best friend died from that same nasty glioblastoma in 2015. He beat it once but it came back like lightning and he was gone in a couple of days. When my mom died, he was the first guy at my house. From what I know of Kelso, he’d do the same

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