Norm Gregory was a popular radio personality who harked back to the era before downloaded music, when disc jockeys had large followings of listeners.
He harked back to a radio era before competition from internet streaming, SiriusXM and people glued to their smartphones.
Memories shared on Facebook of Norm Gregory, who died Saturday at age 74, were from a generation that remembered a disc jockey who, from the late 1960s to 2000, was part of their lives at Seattle radio stations KJR-AM, KZOK, KOMO and KJR-FM.
“When I was 7 or 8 (back in the ’60s) I got my first clock radio. My brother tuned it to 95 KJR. I thought Norm Gregory, along with Emperor Smith and Gary Shannon, were teeny tiny 2-inch men that lived inside that clock radio,” wrote Kacie Summers, who went on to work with Mr. Gregory as an on-air personality at KJR-FM
Mr. Gregory began his radio career in Seattle in 1969 at KJR-AM, then a Top 40 station that at times in the 1960s could claim a remarkable portion of the total radio listening audience — one-third or more.
Most Read Local Stories
- More effective than condoms? Seattle-area couples test new birth control for men
- Whose stadium is it? They tell us it's ours, only not when it comes to selling the big money name | Danny Westneat
- Teen in police custody after report of gun at Issaquah High School
- Dallas-bound flight returns to Seattle after human heart was left onboard
- Traffic in Seattle, 2017: Fewer cars, bicyclists and walkers; more transit riders and carpoolers
“Local radio used to be all about personality, and Norm timed his career perfectly to ride the crest of the wave of what were some of the best years of truly hyperlocal, local radio,” Feliks Banel, a producer and host at KIRO-FM whose specialty includes radio history, wrote in an email.
“During those golden decades of the 1960s and 1970s, you tuned in to hear the people and voices you knew, telling you what was going on, and making you feel connected to everybody else who was listening at that one moment in time,” Banel wrote. “The music was almost secondary to the local personalities who held their particular part of the listening audience together like civic glue.”
Mr. Gregory was a local guy, through and through. A 1962 graduate of Roosevelt High School, he went to Western Washington University on a basketball scholarship (he stood 6-foot-7) and earned a degree in education.
But he had been enthralled by radio since childhood, listening to the legendary DJ Pat O’Day on KJR.
Not finding many jobs for teachers, Mr. Gregory used his last $600 and spent 18 hours a day, seven days a week, studying radio electronics, he said in a 1981 Seattle Times story.
That got him a “first phone” license — then needed to operate a station’s transmitter — from the Federal Communications Commission, and a job at a small station in Mount Vernon as a “combo man,” an announcer-engineer.
He was first and foremost a disc jockey, but also would end up as a program director and station manager at KZOK (“Seattle’s classic rock station”) and program director at KJR-FM when it played “The greatest hits of the ’70s.”
Working in the vagaries of the radio industry, Mr. Gregory bounced between jobs. In The Times story, he told how his mother would ask him, “Can’t you get a job with a bank or the phone company, something a little more stable?”
His answer was, “I’m a radio person. That’s what I do.”
Gregg Hersholt, morning news co-host at KOMO radio, worked with Mr. Gregory at KJR-AM.
“It was like he was in your car with you,” he said of Mr. Gregory. “He knew the music, knew the stories about the artists, and wove it all together. It seemed like he was always on the ‘hottest’ station, whether that was KJR or KZOK.”
Hersholt worked with Mr. Gregory as FM stations were taking away rock listeners from KJR-AM.
“At the end of my newscasts, when I’d mention what was happening in sports, he’d chime in and we’d frequently go five minutes or more just riffing on the sports stories of the day,” said Hersholt. “It totally broke format, but people loved it and the program director just let us do it. It was some of the most fun I ever had in radio.”
Mr. Gregory thought he had retired from radio in 2000, but then was approached by an Olympia radio station to host a classic-hits show from his home in Seattle. He did that from 2001 to 2003.
Since 2008, he had switched his attention to Twitter, where he had 2,274 followers and would continually post links to news items.
He said it was just like the “show prep” work he’d do for radio, typing out items he could talk about. His last postings were Sept. 12.
Mr. Gregory died of complications from diabetes and heart disease, said his daughter, Sara Gregory, of Bend, Oregon.
He is also survived by a son, AJ Gregory, of Seattle; a brother, Brian Gregory, of Seattle; and a sister, Martha Ipsen, of Guemes Island.
There will be no services.
“He lived a great life,” said his son. “He just thought he’d kind of go out, and that was it.”