DJ: Jon Michaels from Sioux Falls, SD
Born Michael Donnelly in 1947 in central Sioux Falls, Jon Michaels graduated in 1965 from Washington High School. He attended SDSU, working at KAGY radio in Brookings and was the first manager of KESD-FM Public Radio. Jon spent many weekends working at KELO radio and KELO-TV in Sioux Falls and met Lord Douglas (Harley Worthit) at Augustana College’s speech and drama department.
Michaels joined the Navy in 1969, spending two years in Chicago, followed by stints in Pensacola, FL, and Guam. He was offered work at radio station KABL in San Francisco but returned to his hometown to join KISD radio and started the station’s news department. Jon worked alongside Worthit and Warren West.
Jon helped promote a Three Dog Night concert at the Sioux Falls Arena, which attracted a standing-room-only crowd of 11,700. The Sioux Falls City Council then decided to ban rock concerts at the Arena. After Elvis Presley contacted Michaels through KISD, Jon approached the council, whose response was, “Oh, Elvis—he’s not rock and roll. That’s OK.”
During his tenure at the station Jon interviewed Patrick Simmons of the Doobie Brothers, Jim Croce just before Croce’s death, and many more.
Michaels organized a Battle of the Bands at the Sioux Empire Fair, headlined by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show. The band had so much fun that the members crammed into the KISD studio to play a few songs live on the air. The station, with Jon’s encouragement, was able to kick-start Michael Martin Murphy’s classic “Wildfire” onto the national charts. Another song KISD and Jon pushed onto the charts was “Black Betty” by Ram Jam.
Jon Michaels is highly respected by many current radio DJs. KELO radio’s Greg Belfrage writes: “I have many fond memories of listening to Jon rocking on the old KISD when I was young. Jon was one of the great local broadcasters who inspired me to pursue a career in radio. He’s a Sioux Falls icon. All of us at KELO radio are incredibly proud of Jon and his wonderful contributions to our community.”
Mark (Cartwright) Nelson adds: “As a youngster on a farm we only had one tractor that had a radio on it. The radio was mounted to the fender and the fender wobbled badly. I wanted that tractor all the time. Cultivating is a tedious and lonely job. But there was Jon Michaels on that wobbly fender all day. He helped make those acres go faster. Jon is true radio icon.”
Jon has always been actively promoting not only his radio stations but rock and roll in general. He loves his job and does it well.