For two decades at the height of the baby boomer youth revolution — 1954 to 1974 — Seattle's Pat O'Day was the Pied Piper of Northwest rock. As the lead DJ...
FOR TWO DECADES at the height of the baby boomer youth revolution — 1954 to 1974 — Seattle’s Pat O’Day was the Pied Piper of Northwest rock. As the lead DJ at “KJR Seattle, Channel 95,” a singsong known to every Puget boomer, he led a domination of the airwaves never equaled before or since: as much as 37 percent of the total listening audience in the 1960s. He started a string of dance clubs up and down Puget Sound, from Sea-Tac’s legendary Spanish Castle to Bremerton and Burlington. His Concerts West dominated — some say tyrannized — the local and national rock scene, and O’Day was on the road with legends ranging from Jimi Hendrix to Led Zeppelin.
Today, the 71-year-old is still Pied Piper to boomers, but this time around he’s selling them real estate on San Juan Island and drying them out at Schick Shadel Hospital.
O’Day defies the adage that there are no second acts to American life.
He invented himself by dropping his birth name of Paul Berg, son of a Tacoma radio preacher. After his crazy on-air antics rocketed him to fame, he left KJR in the ’70s, bought his own radio stations, declared bankruptcy when his floating $10 million loan was caught by the through-the-roof interest rates of the Jimmy Carter era, and struggled with booze, cocaine and pot.
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Recovery came after a second marriage, the birth of a daughter when he was 54 (he has three sons from his earlier marriage), and sobriety after Kirkland’s Schick Shadel Hospital’s hard-core, drug-assisted aversion therapy in 1986. He bought the John L. Scott franchise in Friday Harbor, started several developments, and built a spectacular Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired all-concrete home overlooking Speiden Channel.
He’s back on radio, now doing commercials for Schick Shadel, where he bought a 10 percent share and helped triple its patient load. He also helps broadcast the Seafair hydroplane races on KIRO, organizes celebrity golf tournaments and boats local waters. His charming autobiography, “It Was All Just Rock-N-Roll,” tells only half his story.
“I will never retire,” O’Day promises. Eating just one meal a day, he carries the same weight he did half a century ago.
Does rock keep you young? “I don’t feel any different than when I was 32!”