Late-Night Laughs on Drive-Time Radio

Late-Night Laughs on Drive-Time RadioBy Alexandra Mizels and Brandon Neasman


Ask classic rock disc jockey Kevin McKay what his dream job is and he’ll tell you he’s already doing it. Unlike some radio personalities, the Chicago-born deejay isn’t using radio as a stepping stone to a television career or as a platform for his own garage band. McKay simply loves rock ’n’ roll and being on the radio.

In a day and age where MP3s and online audio libraries allow music fans to listen to infinite amounts of music sans commercials, McKay offers more than classic Metallica, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith and Eric Clapton. McKay’s listeners get entertainment, good music and a local connection ­— something you won’t find on Pandora.

Every weekday from 2 to 7 p.m., McKay cranks up the music and pushes buttons — literally and figuratively — on Fort Walton Beach’s 99 Rock. McKay talked with Emerald Coast Magazine’s Alexandra Mizels and Brandon Neasman about his start on radio, meeting rock stars and pulling pranks on his listeners.

How did you get started in the radio industry? When I was 17 years old, my father, a chemical engineer, and I were taking tours of colleges to see where I best fit. He tried persuading me to follow in his footsteps, but of course I had no desire. When I saw the radio school of communications at Eastern Illinois University, it knocked me off my toes. I knew right then what I wanted to do with my life, and that is where I got my dream started.     

What’s your favorite part of the job? I like going on the air. It’s so different from TV in the sense that we have an open canvas to work with. Whatever I want to talk about within the parameters, I can. It’s my job to make something out of that day. It’s like, “Alright, you have to be interesting in some way, how are you going to do it?”

What’s one of the funniest jokes you’ve pulled on-air? The funniest stunt that got me and my listeners to laugh the hardest was probably the complaint phone call. Here is what happened: A phone call came through and when I answered they asked to speak to the general manager. After saying, “One moment,” I put the phone down and answered the phone again. This time I answered with a different voice and posed as the general manager, only to find out that it was a complaint call about myself. Sometimes I call people and ask what their favorite station is. As long as they don’t say 99 Rock, I tell them they just won a prize and to come down to the radio station, which meant they would show up at a different radio station to find that it was a scam. They may sound spiteful and that is not my intention. But trust me, when you listen you will be cracking up.

Would you consider yourself one of the goofier personalities at 99 Rock? I think so. I’m not afraid to be goofy. I’m not afraid to be the whipping boy in some situations. I’ll try to put myself out there and that’s fine. I just want to make it entertaining, even if it’s at my expense.

Who’s the biggest rock star you’ve met? Bon Jovi, Buck Cherry, Selective Soul and Nine Inch Nails. Those are some of the bigger names that I thought were really cool.

Is there still some type of fan element there when you meet these guys? Oh, of course, yeah. There’s always going to be that. I’m always a fan.

Do you ever ask for autographs or pictures? I definitely ask for one. They realize we’re in radio, but we’re also fans.

Would you consider yourself a radio celebrity? No. I love what I do, but I don’t have the ego that goes with it. I just have fun and I’m glad to be doing the job every single day. I love it.