Local radio icon Jay Randyll signs off, recalls career highlights
Another familiar voice is missing from the local airwaves.
Jay Randyll — his real name is Randy Ketner — retired from local radio when he put away his headsets June 23 at Forever Media Altoona.
For the last 10 years, Randyll worked the 3 to 7 p.m. shift at WRKY-FM and for the last two years he was co-host of WFBG-AM’s morning talk show with Steve Clark.
“I would say he was a radio icon in these parts. He was one of your friends that you tuned in to listen,” said Tommy Edwards, WRKY-FM program director. “He knows the music like nobody else and a guy who would give you the shirt off his back.
Randyll, 55, graduated from Altoona Area High School in 1980 and received an associate degree in business administration from the Altoona School of Commerce in 1982.
A longtime Pittsburgh Pirates fan, Randyll said his dream job was to be a baseball play-by-play announcer.
“My dad and I listened to Bob Prince and Nellie King on an old Zenith radio. I once wrote a letter to Lanny Frattare (Pirates announcer) after a Memorial Day game with the Dodgers. He called me one day. He arranged for me to do three innings of a game against the Mets. It played in the stadium boxes,” Randyll said.
He said over the years he had opportunities to leave Altoona — he was once offered a job to broadcast Helena Brewers games — but spent his entire radio career in Altoona.
“After buying my parents’ house, I wanted to raise my children in Altoona, give them the same upbringing I had. I am an Eldorado boy. Altoona is a good town, a good city,” Randyll said.
He started his career at WFBG-FM in 1981 at the age of 19 and spent most of his 36-year career at stations under the Forever umbrella.
“I was the first voice at Froggy, they called me Jack Jumper,” Randyll said.
He said he most enjoyed hosting the “Top 9 at 9,” on WFBG-AM, the highest-rated hour in Blair County radio at the time.
“Kids would call in and vote for songs, it was incredible the amount of attention I got from that. This was my big deal,” Randyll said.
Randyll had the opportunity to work with many of the big names in local radio — Dick DiAndrea, Roger Corey, Charlie Weston, Steve Kelsey, Sean McKay — and others during his career.
“I couldn’t believe I was working with them, they were teaching me how to do radio,” Randyll said.
One of Randyll’s role models, DiAndrea recalled working with the announcer.
“He could do any kind of show, any kind of music. He was one of the nicest guys in the world, he couldn’t say no to anyone for anything,” DiAndrea said. “He always called me Mr. DiAndrea. He said I was his hero and he wanted to be like me. I tried to discourage that. He took my advice and didn’t turn out like me.”
McKay also remembers working with Randyll.
“He was a good kid, a good worker and gained quite a popular fan base when he did the six to midnight and of course the Top 9 at 9,” McKay said. “I have nothing but pleasant memories of working with him.”
Randyll said the highlight of his career was when he won a Mercury Records song writing contest and got to meet his favorite band “Kiss.”
“I met Gene (Simmons) and Paul (Stanley); it was really cool,” Randyll said.
Randyll said he was lucky to meet many other big names during his radio career.
“I also got to meet and know Ted Nugent, Ozzy Osborne, Metallica and Jon Bon Jovi. I made a lot of friends in the rock industry. I stay in touch with Ted; he is as good dude,” Randyll said.
Randyll said he was always intrigued by radio.
“With radio, you can be anywhere at anytime with anybody. You can tune in while cutting the grass if you have a headset, while taking a shower, making dinner or in the car. It is very intimate, that was what always intrigued me,” Randyll said.
Randyll admits local radio is not the same as it was years ago.
“It has lost a lot of its luster. It used to be very personal. There were just a handful of us left; we don’t do the job the way we used to do the job. Most of the time we are pre-taped. You used to do your show prep and answer the phones to talk to your listeners. They became like family and friends; that has been impacted because of technology and computers,” Randyll said.
He started thinking about retiring a couple of years go when Forever decided not to carry Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School football games, right after the team won the Class A state championship.
“They didn’t feel it was important enough. That is when I started thinking about the job. Do I want to do this the rest of my life? The beauty of local radio is it should be local, you shouldn’t have a guy on a satellite talking to you in the afternoon,” Randyll said.
The recent deaths of several of his former co-workers — Steve Kelsey and Charlie Weston among them — also played a role in his decision.
“They were all people I loved working with, they are gone. I didn’t want to do it that way. I wanted to go out on my own terms,” Randyll said.
Randyll will leave Wednesday for his new home in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He is not sure what he will do.
“I always wanted to be a bartender. Maybe I will take a bartending class. Maybe I will start a small business. I have a dear friend down there who owns a Yum Yum Shop. I may scoop ice cream for a while. I will see where the Good Lord takes me,” Randyll said.
Randyll hopes he will be remembered favorably.
“I hope they remember me as somebody that could put a smile on their face if they are having a rough day. I was real; a lot of people put on fronts. People knew when they heard me that was who I was. I am just an Altoona kid that got to do what I loved and people got that,” Randyll said.
“I know how much people loved him and respected him when he was on the air,” said DJ, morning host on Q94 and former co-worker with Randyll at Forever.
Randyll said he does not plan to get back into radio.
“Some fellow broadcasters have told me they are taking bets on how long it will be before I put headsets on in Myrtle Beach. I am telling them that I am done,” Randyll said. “Jay Randyll is on a longtime hiatus. Randy Ketner will see where the Good Lord takes him. My faith is very strong. … God has been in the middle of this. God has got it. I just have to pay attention, it will work.”
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.