Tom Clay

Last updated
Tom Clay
Tom Clay 1964.jpg
Clay in 1964 at the time he left CKLW
Thomas Clague

(1929-08-20)August 20, 1929
DiedNovember 22, 1995(1995-11-22) (aged 66)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
  • Radio personality
  • disc jockey

Tom Clay (born Thomas Clague; August 20, 1929 November 22, 1995) was an American radio personality and disc jockey.


Clay was born in New York, and in the 1950s he was popular in the Detroit area on WJBK-AM both as a DJ, and for his on-air comic characterizations; he became a local celebrity. In the early 1950s Clay, using the pseudonym "Guy King", "The Clay" or "The magnificent Tom" worked for WWOL-AM/FM in Buffalo, New York; on July 3, 1955, he conducted a stunt in which he played "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley & His Comets repeatedly from atop a billboard in Buffalo's Shelton Square, an incident that led to his firing and arrest (Danny Neaverth later repeated Clay's stunt but did not suffer the same consequences). [1] [2] In the mid-1950s he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and was equally popular.

He was caught up in the payola scandal of the late 1950s, and admitted to having accepted thousands of dollars for playing certain records. After being fired from WJBK, Clay worked at the short-lived Detroit Top 40 station WQTE (now WRDT) only to be fired again when the station changed format to easy listening music in 1961. After moving to Los Angeles to work at KDAY, Clay returned to the Detroit area and found work at CKLW in neighboring Windsor, Ontario, at the time one of the foremost Top 40 AM stations in North America.

According to the book Rockin' Down the Dial, a history of Detroit Top 40 radio of the 1950s and 1960s by David Carson, Clay became friendly with Marilyn Monroe during his time in Los Angeles in the early 1960s. Clay's daughter, Kimberly, told Carson that her father never revealed much about his friendship with Monroe, but would only say that she seemed very lonely.

Riding the wave of early Beatlemania he again rose in popularity, met and interviewed The Beatles. He was fired over a scheme in which he invited listeners to send in one dollar for membership in a "Beatles Booster Club", an essentially non-existent organization which had no benefits beyond a promised membership card or decal. According to fellow CKLW DJ Dave Shafer (also now deceased), Clay also promised each listener who sent in a dollar a personal item used by one of the Beatles; these "personal items" turned out to be items such as cigarette butts and used tissues, and other listeners claimed to have received nothing. However, since over 80,000 fans responded, Clay was able to live comfortably for a time on the cash that appeared in his personal post office box. Dave Shafer told David Carson in Rockin' Down the Dial that Clay skipped town in the wake of the Beatles Booster fiasco, leading to Shafer's being briefly jailed on charges of international fraud. Clay eventually returned to work at other Detroit area radio stations, including WWWW-FM, and also worked at WCBS-FM in New York. In 1984, he played pop standards at KPRZ, Los Angeles.

External image
Searchtool.svg The cover of Tom Clay's 1971 LP What the World Needs Now.

Clay is best remembered for his single on Motown's MoWest label "What the World Needs Now Is Love"/"Abraham, Martin and John" (MoWest MW5002F). The record is a compilation of clips from the two popular songs, with an overlay of interviews with small children (who cannot pronounce, let alone define, segregation nor bigotry), news reports, and speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. and brothers John and Robert Kennedy, emphasizing tolerance and civil rights. It went to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. [3] The single peaked at number 3 in Australia in August 1971. [4]

A follow-up album had respectable sales, but another single, "Whatever Happened to Love" (MoWest MW5007F), flopped, and Clay found himself unemployed. Both songs were featured on the MoWest album What the World Needs Now (MS 103-L, released August 1971). Clay finished his career doing voiceover work.

Clay died of stomach and lung cancer at the age of 66, in Valley Village, Los Angeles, California on November 22, 1995. [5]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">CKLW</span> Radio station in Windsor, Ontario, Canada

CKLW is a commercial radio station in Windsor, Ontario, serving Southwestern Ontario and Metro Detroit. CKLW has a news/talk format. It features local hosts in morning and afternoon drive times, with syndicated Canadian hosts in middays and evenings. Evening newscasts are simulcast from CHWI-DT Channel 16 CTV Windsor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Murray the K</span> American DJ

Murray Kaufman, professionally known as Murray the K, was an influential New York City rock and roll impresario and disc jockey of the 1950s, '60s and '70s. During the early days of Beatlemania, he frequently referred to himself as the fifth Beatle.

Charlie Van Dyke is a former radio disc jockey who is best known for his voice work on radio and television stations. He is recognized by his deep, booming voice.

Bill Drake, born Philip Yarbrough, was an American radio programmer who co-developed the Boss Radio format with Gene Chenault via their company Drake-Chenault.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">WUFL (FM)</span> Radio station in Detroit, Michigan

WUFL is an FM radio station licensed to Detroit, Michigan. Owned by Family Life Broadcasting, it broadcasts a contemporary Christian radio format. Its studios are located in the Fisher Building in New Center, while its transmitter is located at the intersection of 10 Mile and Greenfield Road in suburban Oak Park.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">RKO General</span> Former broadcasting mass media corporation

RKO General Inc. was, from 1952 through 1991, the main holding company for the noncore businesses of the General Tire and Rubber Company and, after General Tire's reorganization in the 1980s, GenCorp. The concern was based around the consolidation of its parent company's broadcasting interests, which dated to 1943 and were brought together under the General Teleradio umbrella in 1952. The company was renamed RKO Teleradio Pictures following its 1955 purchase of the RKO Pictures film studio, and then RKO General in 1959 after dissolving the motion picture division. Headquartered in New York City, the company operated six television stations and more than a dozen major radio stations around North America between 1959 and 1991.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joey Reynolds</span>

Joseph Pinto, better known as Joey Reynolds, is a long-time radio show host and disc jockey. Reynolds' broadcasting career started on TV in Buffalo at WGR TV 2 and he worked at various stations, including at WNBC.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">KNX-FM</span> Radio station in Los Angeles, California

KNX-FM is a commercial radio station in Los Angeles, California, United States. The station is owned by Audacy, Inc. and airs an all-news radio format in a full-time simulcast with KNX. The station has studios at the intersection of Wilshire and Hauser Boulevards in the Miracle Mile district of Los Angeles, and the transmitter on Mount Wilson.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">CIDR-FM</span> Radio station in Windsor, Ontario

CIDR-FM is a commercial radio station in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, targeting the Detroit–Windsor metropolitan area, with fringe reception into Toledo and Cedar Point/Sandusky in Ohio. It is owned and operated by Bell Media and airs a Top 40/CHR format. The studios and offices are located on Ouellette Avenue in Windsor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">CKWW</span> Radio station in Windsor, Ontario, Canada

CKWW is a Canadian radio station in Windsor, Ontario. It is owned by Bell Media and airs an oldies format targeted to the Windsor/Detroit market. Most of the playlist is made up of hits from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. The studios and offices are on Ouellette Avenue in Windsor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">WOMC</span> Classic hits radio station in Detroit

WOMC is a commercial radio station in Detroit, Michigan. It airs a classic hits radio format and is owned by Audacy, Inc. The transmitter and studios are both located on American Drive off 11 Mile Road in Southfield, Michigan.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">WDFN</span> Black Information Network radio station in Detroit

WDFN is a commercial AM radio station in Detroit, Michigan. Owned by iHeartMedia, it broadcasts an all-news radio format under iHeartRadio's Black Information Network (BIN), targeting Detroit's African-American community. Its studios and offices are on Halsted Road in the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">WDTW (AM)</span> Radio station in Dearborn, Michigan

WDTW is a commercial AM radio station licensed to Dearborn, Michigan, and serving the Detroit metropolitan area. Owned by Pedro Zamora, the station broadcasts a Spanish-language radio format branded as La Z 1310. It features Regional Mexican, Spanish-language Contemporary Hits and Mexican Pop. The studios and offices are on Goddard Road in Taylor, Michigan.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">WXYT (AM)</span> Radio station in Michigan, United States

WXYT is a commercial radio station licensed to Detroit, Michigan, featuring a betting-oriented sports format known as "The Bet Detroit". Owned by Audacy, Inc., the station serves Metro Detroit and much of Southeast Michigan. Studios for WXYT are located in Southfield, while the station transmitter resides in Ash Township. In addition to a standard analog transmission, WXYT is licensed for HD Radio broadcasting, is relayed over the third digital subchannel of WXYT-FM and is available online via Audacy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dick Purtan</span> American radio personality (born 1936)

Paul Richard "Dick" Purtan is an American radio personality. His last radio job was as the morning radio show host on WOMC serving the Detroit, Michigan, radio market. Purtan was also a disc jockey at WKNR, WXYZ, CKLW, WCZY-FM which became WKQI in 1989 and WOMC from 1996 until his retirement in 2010. Previous to coming to Detroit at WKNR "Keener 13" in 1965, Purtan worked at WOLF in Syracuse, New York and WSAI in Cincinnati; he began his radio career in his hometown of Buffalo, New York at WWOL under the station-mandated name "Guy King" and also worked for a very short time at WBAL in Baltimore.

WRDT is a commercial radio station licensed to Monroe, Michigan, and serving Metro Detroit. It is owned by Crawford Broadcasting and it broadcasts a Christian talk and teaching radio format. The studios and offices are on Capitol Avenue near Burt Road in the Weatherby section of Detroit.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">WLQV</span> Radio station in Detroit, Michigan

WLQV is a commercial radio station licensed to Detroit, Michigan. It is owned by the Salem Media Group and broadcasts a Christian talk and teaching radio format. It uses paid brokered programming where hosts buy time on the station and may seek donations to their ministries during their programs. Religious leaders heard on WLQV include David Jeremiah, John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, Jim Daly, Tony Evans and Charles Stanley. The studios are on Radio Plaza in Ferndale, Michigan.

Roger Christian was an American radio personality and songwriter from Buffalo, New York. After moving to California in 1959, he became a lyricist for the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. From the early to mid-1960s, they wrote many songs together, mostly about cars, including the singles "Little Deuce Coupe" (1963), "Shut Down" (1963), and "Don’t Worry Baby" (1964).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Robin Seymour (DJ)</span> American DJ (1926–2020)

Robin Henry Seymour was an American radio personality and disc jockey who worked at CKLW and WKMH. He was also the host of the television series Teen Town and Swingin' Time in Detroit. He started in radio as a child actor on the Lone Ranger Show and eventually became one of the country's longest-serving disc jockeys.

Thomas Shannon was an American broadcaster from Buffalo, New York.


  1. "Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers timeline". Archived from the original on March 2, 2005. Retrieved 2015-03-06.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  2. "Buffalo's KB: WKBW 1520 Radio". 1958-07-04. Retrieved 2015-08-25.
  3. Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p.  291. ISBN   0-214-20512-6.
  4. Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 66. ISBN   0-646-11917-6.
  5. "Tom Clay; Radio Disc Jockey, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer". Los Angeles Times . November 29, 1995.