Len O’Kelly used to be a disc jockey in Chicago and suburbs; Grand Rapids, MI; the Quad Cities, IL/IA; Gisborne, New Zealand; and a bunch of other places in an on-air career that spanned over 25 years. He now teaches radio broadcasting/media studies/media history in the School of Communications at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, and still dabbles in radio and voiceover work when not in the classroom.
Len actually got a Ph.D. in 1960s rock and roll, in a sense. His dissertation was called “But Will It Play in Grand Rapids? The Role of Gatekeepers in Music Selection in 1960s Top 40 Radio.” It analyzed playlists for content based on race and gender, and looked at factors at work in determining what went on to become a part of our musical culture. (Spoiler alert: race and gender mattered.) Currently, he is working alongside College Radio Day founder Dr. Rob Quicke on revising the Routledge textbook “The Radio Station,” with a new edition expected out in 2024.
When not teaching, he is also the faculty adviser for Grand Valley’s student radio station, WCKS The Whale. He begins his lucky thirteenth year there in the fall of 2022, which makes it the station that he’s been with longer than any other in his career (by a longshot). Len also runs WLSX “The X,” an 80s/90s station that is used as the laboratory for students in his Introduction to Radio course.
He currently lives in West Michigan with his wife Mary and literally thousands of 45s, some of which he has owned since he was four.