January 18, 2015 at 12:07 am #5698Craig_AdamsParticipant
Today January 18, 1942 Thomas Michael Gerlitz was born in Walla Walla, Washington to Vivian Grace (Johnson) & Peter P. Gerlitz. Sometime after 1946 the family moved to Pendleton. In 1952 another move to Portland when Tom was 10 years old. By November 1957 the Gerlitz family was living at: 707 S.W. Pine St. Then another move to Tigard. On June 2, 1960 Thomas M. Gerlitz graduated from Tigard High School.
Tom began attending Lewis & Clark College, originally planning to become a dentist but Tom was bitten by the radio bug while gazing through the college radio station window. He got side tracked and began his broadcast career as a disc jockey at KLC, the Lewis & Clark carrier current station. Tom remembers: “I wound up in work relating to the mouth anyway.”
In early 1962 Tom landed his first deejay gig at KLOG in Kelso, Wash. Michaels had been DJ friends with “Tiger” Tom Murphy & Roger Hart over at KISN Radio in Portland. They pitched an idea to the radio group P.D. (Steve Brown, Star Station National Program Director) who was in town, to have Michaels fill Murphy’s evening time slot.
In late April 1962 Tom Michaels became a “KISN Swingin’ Gentlemen” but not using his later familiar DJ name. He was known as “Tom Murphy’s Buddy” because he was filling in for the popular “Tiger” Tom Murphy 7 to 1am weeknights. Murphy had left for Basic Training & Active Duty in Texas. KISN decided the best way to hang onto Murphy’s tremendous ratings until his return, was to have his shift filled by “Tom Murphy’s Buddy” sometimes called “Tom Murphy’s Friend.”
In August 1962 after Murphy’s return, Michaels continued on the air as a KISN DJ weekender with yet another name assigned. Michaels was now known as “Wonderful Weekend.” Murphy remembers: (owner, Don) “Burden wanted the entire weekend on KISN to be called “Wonderful Weekend” and it was listed that way in Pulse (rating service). Burden wouldn’t let Tom say his name on “Wonderful Weekend”, either. It was just “Wonderful Weekend On KISN. To add insult to injury, the full timers did use our names.”
Michaels weekend air shifts were done from the KISN transmitter site in North Portland, filling the stations’ 51% obligation to the FCC. KISN soon found that Tom Michaels was a fine producer of commercial productions. Murphy remembers: “Tom had joined, or was drafted into, the ARMY probably sometime in ’64, and when his father passed away (Peter P. Gerlitz, died 1-11-65 at age 54) he got a discharge because he was an only child and his mother was alone. I attended his father’s funeral and Tom had been granted leave from the Army to attend.”
In early January 1966 “Kisn Good Guy”, Tom Michaels, using his name for the first time, became Interim KISN Program Director and began filling the 9am to Noon time slot weekdays on The Mighty 91 until Buzz Barr arrived in February 1966 and Tom returned to weekends. Michaels was also heard on KISN 20/20 News with the Portland Police reports.
In December 1966 Tom Michaels became KISN Program Director. In February 1967 Tom filled in for The Sam Holman “Happening” 6 to 9am mornings until March 17, 1967 when Michael O’Brien arrived St. Patricks Day. In June 1967 Tom Michaels began his fist full time KISN air shift 9am to Noon.
In February 1969 Tom Michaels was filling in on “The Roger W. Show” mornings 5:30 to 9am but was back in the 9am to Noon time slot by the end of the month. Beginning in April 1969 Michaels probably wanted to concentrate on programming and production and did not have an air shift.
Also in 1969 Thomas Michael Gerlitz, 27, married 26 year old Carolyn Ida Landsiedel. In September 1970 Tom was back on KISN Noon to 3pm “Luncheon Munchin.” Beginning in April 1971 Tom’s shift hours changed to 10am to 1pm.
In January 1972 J.J. Jorden became KISN P.D. This is most likely when Tom Michaels became Star Station National Program Director in-charge of KOIL AM/FM Omaha & WIFE AM/FM Indianapolis, as well as KISN. Tom’s KISN hours on the air were cut 10am to Noon.
On June 22, 1974 it was announced that Tom Michaels had joined KPAM-FM to do afternoon drive 2 to 6pm and was KLSC/KPAM-FM Production Manager. In 1977 Thomas Michael Gerlitz, 35, married 34 year old to Sandra Lee Dreyer. By October 1978 Tom Michaels was on KPAM-FM 10am to 3pm weekdays. In 1979 Tom began TV commercials for Fred Meyer.
In 1981 Tom Michaels became KEX Production Manager. Tom was also on KEX Saturday mornings. These would be his last on air show. On July 28, 1984 Thomas Michael Gerlitz, 42, married 27 year old Virginia Lorene Casteel.
On March 27, 1987 Tom Michaels left KEX to concentrate on his career as the main spokesman for Fred Meyer stores on Radio & Television: “For families who love selection, low prices and one-stop shopping….Another good reason to shop at Fred Meyer”; and others like KPTV: “The entertainment’s on us”. He would announce tonight’s movie on TV 12.
On April 2, 1987 The Oregonian wrote “The most successful voice in the rapidly growing Portland advertising market belongs to Tom Michaels.”
Micheals commented on his technic: “Some people ask for a certain type of delivery, and that’s where I’m fortunate. I can do a lot of different kinds. Some people have only one type of delivery, but I have to change things around. If you’re selling baby clothes, you have to be warm and fuzzy. Jewelry demands a different delivery. It has to be fascinating sounding or very bright or very luxurious. Cars? It depends on the dealer.”
Tom didn’t like talking about his income: “But people inside the advertising and broadcast industries estimate that a successful announcer in Portland can pull down an income approaching six figures in a good year.” In 1997 Tom’s mother Vivian Grace Gerlitz died at age 82.
On October 30, 1999 Tom Michaels, 57, died suddenly at his home in Manzanita, Oregon and the entire broadcast community was stunned by this news. On November 11, 1999 a memorial service was held at Hope Community Church in lake Oswego at 2:30pm. Arrangements were in the care of Waud’s Funeral Home in Tillamook.
On November 19, 1999 The Portland Advertising Federation paid tribute at its annual Rosey Awards ceremony to Tom Michaels, former Portland DJ and broadcast personality for Fred Meyer stores.
Tom said in 1987: “I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve found peace in a business that’s not very peaceful.” He was once on both sides of a political issue. Supporters of a ballot measure hired him to voice their television ads while opponents of the same measure asked him to voice the opposition on radio. “People called and asked me how I could do that. I just said I couldn’t make up my mind.”
Special Thanks to Joel Miller who helped make this biography more complete.
References: Billboard magazine, Dave “Records” Stone’s E-Mail Vault, The Oregonian, Robin Mitchell Associates, “Tiger” Tom Murphy’s E-Mail Vault.January 18, 2015 at 12:53 am #5701semoochieParticipant
“In February 1967 Tom filled in for The Sam Holman “Happening” 6 to 9am mornings until March 17, 1967 when Michael O’Brien arrived St. Patricks Day.” Not to get off topic or anything but I didn’t realize Miichael O’Brian began on St. Patrick’s Day and was wondering if that was the beginning of him calling an Irish pub every March 17th, a feature he continued on other radio stations.January 18, 2015 at 11:29 pm #5721Craig_AdamsParticipant
That I do not know but maybe someone else has the answer.
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