A man who played a part in Alabama broadcast radio history has signed off for the last time. Jim Kell was just ten years older than me, but in the 1960s he was a radio star to myself and thousands of teenage radio listeners across Central Alabama. Toliver Jim Kell, Jr. passed away at 86 yesterday and everyone who tuned into "The Big 610 - WSGN" during the heyday of Top 40 radio will well remember "JK the DJ" pumping out the patter and the hits.

in the early to mid 1960s, with rock and roll radio at its zenith, he was a local celebrity, one of the "Good Guys" at a radio station that produced amazing talent like Jim "Twixt the Twirling Twins" Taber, smooth Walt Williams, "Rockin" Dave Roddy, Steve Norris, Herb Steadman, Neal Miller, Glenn Powers and others.

I was fortunate to be able to frequently drive up to Birmingham and visit the WSGN penthouse atop the City Federal Building downtown. I often was able to spend some time with Jim Taber and Jim Kell, they were always encouraging of me to look for a chance for a career in radio. They even gave me some guidance.

In those days it was WVOK, the 50,000 watts '"Mighty 690" that attracted a huge audience across the midsouth during its daytime only operations day. But I, like many who fell in love with radio as a kid was attracted to the personalities, the format and professional big city sound of WSGN. In the mid 60s WSGN was grabbing 60% of the Birmingham area radio audience and Jim Kell was one of the reasons.

Sometimes you had to turn the antenna just right to pick up the lower power 610 in Tuscaloosa, but many people did. Jim told me one time he knew he was part of something big while at WSGN.

By early 1965, Jim was ready to take his talent elsewhere, moving to the Rocket City. He took a Program Director's job at WAAY radio, eventually becoming general manger.

Jim eventually moved back to Birmingham in advertising sales and then to Tuscaloosa. He concluded his lengthy and successful broadcasting career running K&L Advertising and played a large role in the success of WTBC and Townsquare Media Tuscaloosa. But he hadn't lost that broadcasting talent he developed in the 60s as he filled in on air from time-to-time.

Jim was also a community minded person who enjoyed driving the special needs bus for Tuscaloosa County Schools.

It was always enjoyable for me to visit with him frequently and recount the heady days at WSGN and the part he played in the state's radio history.

Services for Jim Kell are set for 11:00 tomorrow (Friday) morning at Magnolia Chapel North with Bro. Scott McCown officiating. Graveside burial in Berry will be private. Visitation will take place one hour before the service at the funeral home.


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