Radio’s Dick Thompson dies at 89

Staff report


Dick Thompson, a former DJ who was one of the biggest voices in Mahoning Valley radio in the 1960s and early 1970s, died Thursday. He was 89.

Thompson was part of a DJ duo with the late Johnny Kay on WHOT-1330 AM in what was the golden age of Top 40 radio. The two became household names and pulled down some of the highest ratings in the country.

Thompson and Kay came out of retirement in the mid-1990s to do a show on local station WNIO and later WSOM. They retired from those stations in 2007.

Thompson was inducted into the Radio and Television Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2003. He was born in Oil City, Pa., in 1928 and began hosting a radio show there while a senior in high school. After a stint in the Army and at Grove City College, he returned to Oil City in 1952 and got back into radio. He began at WHOT in Youngstown in 1958.

Thomas John, digital content director at iHeartMedia Youngstown, worked with Thompson, who doubled as program director at WHOT, in the 1970s.

“[Thompson] was the prototype for program directors back in those days,” said John. “He did everything. It was fascinating to go by his office because you never know who would be in there.” In those days, John explained, major artists routinely visited radio stations.

“My favorite Dick Thompson story is that he was also DJ Big Al Knight,” John recalled. “He was on the air [in a prerecorded program] from midnight to 6 a.m., and then he would come in and do his morning show at 6. He didn’t change his voice, but no one caught on.”

Thompson lived in Youngstown and Boardman. He and his wife, Sherry, had three children. There will be no funeral service for Thompson, but a memorial service is being planned.

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