By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
PHILADELPHIA – Call it part of the maturing process. Back when Tom Kelly was a student at Villanova studying accounting he was a self-described “Rock ‘n Roll guy.” He spent quite a bit of time at the university’s radio station as a DJ spinning the likes of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Who.
At one point he spent 120 straight hours on the air, a college record at the time, as part of a fundraiser for muscular dystrophy. “There was a lot of coffee involved,” he said.
Now at 50, he’s president and general manager of Martini Lounge Radio, 1340 AM WHAT, which neither rocks nor rolls. Tune it in and you’ll hear quite a bit of Sinatra, along with Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee and the “Rat Pack.” Or for those with more contemporary tastes there are Michael Buble, Harry Connick Jr. and Diana Krall.
“There is nothing like this in the Philadelphia area,” Kelly said. “We play the music that used to be played by WIP and by WPEN before it went to a sports format.”
He estimates his Manayunk-based 1,000-watt station, which is celebrating its first anniversary, reaches a fair-sized audience in the city and near suburbs, and it can also be heard streaming on the internet at www.martiniloungeradio.com.
It’s not just the music which may be familiar to his mostly 40-plus audience; so are the DJs. There’s Mike Bowe, Wee Willie Webber, Bob Craig and Paul Kelly.
Raised in St. Matthias Parish, Bala Cynwyd, and a graduate of Archbishop Carroll High School in Radnor, Kelly has been married to the former Sheri Christman since 1984. They met in Allentown, where he was a DJ. They have two adult daughters, Jaclyn and Kristen, and live in St. Denis Parish in Havertown, where he is a lector.
“God is the focal point of my life; it revolves around what God wants me to do,” Kelly said, noting his own father was a permanent deacon.
“I believe in the teachings of the Catholic Church about what God expects of us,” he said. “That helps hold my marriage and family together. We try to maintain the old traditional values.”
This sense of values spills over into his radio career too. First of all, Kelly believes the medium of music makes people happy and God wants people to be happy. But he looks askance at abuse of the medium by the so-called “shock jocks.”
“We have choices to make,” he said. “I would not want to make my living at other people’s expense. You can be funny without doing it at someone else’s expense.”
In his private life Kelly has always tried to reach out for worthy causes, as a fundraiser or volunteer. He remembers his own mother making casseroles for St. John’s Hospice in Center City every week, and the different members of the family volunteering at the hospice. This fall he is taking that outreach to the next level.
“Martini Lounge is sponsoring a major donation drive to benefit St. John’s Hospice,” he said. “We are organizing an effort with our sponsors as drop-off locations for donations of men’s clothing, toiletries and non-perishable foods, and the station will also be collecting cash donations for St. John’s.”
He believes this is the first time in the history of Philadelphia’s premier soup kitchen and shelter that a media outlet has conducted such a drive for its benefit.
It’s certainly a worthy cause.
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.