#1.1 Pat O'Day: Seattle, Seafair & Rock'n'Roll

Rise Seattle: Pat O'Day: Seattle, Seafair & Rock'-n'-Roll

Pat O’Day is a Seattle radio and entertainment legend.  For about 60 years his voice has been present in the Seattle area through radio and commercials.  He’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame radio division and has had influence on the music careers of legends like Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix.

The Beginning

Pat’s Dad was a minister in Tacoma that had a daily radio program on KMO. Pat would go to the radio station with him and he wasn’t interested in ministry but he fell in love with radio. His heroes were play by play men who were the stars of KMO Tacoma. Pat would go into his bathroom at home and do play by plays into the bathtub because of the echo. By the time he was nine he knew he wanted to be a radio announcer (what they were called before DJ or personality).

Jimi Hendrix

In the early 60’s Pat held dances on Friday nights at a place called the Spanish Castle. The bands in those days had tiny amps that would blow because they would overdrive them. One night that happened and a kid came up to Pat and offered to let them borrow a big amp he had if they would let him stand on the back of the stage and play with them. Years later Pat was handling all the appearances of Jimi Hendrix. One night they were talking and Jimi told him he was that kid.

Jimi Hendrix Death

Pat said Jimi did not die of a drug overdose. He was not a big druggie; he just smoked a little weed and drank. He had trouble sleeping at night so he would take sleeping pills. One night he got sick and started to vomit and since he was in that deep sleep only made it halfway to the bathroom before he collapsed and died.

Three days after Jimi died they found out that his body was still in the morgue in London. His managers had left town and the record company wouldn’t deal with it because of litigation over royalties.  So they sent someone to London to claim his body, flew him back to Seattle and paid for the funeral and gravesite.

Elvis

They did the first Elvis satellite around the world concert. It was the Aloha Concert and it was a two night deal in Hawaii. The first night the band was disappointed because they couldn’t find any White Castle Burgers. Because they had worked so hard Elvis had his plane The Lisa Marie fly to St. Louis and pick up a box of White Castle and fly them back to Hawaii.

Led Zeppelin

Thirty days on the road with Led Zeppelin is a lot different than thirty days at Vacation Bible School.  They had them stay at only three hotels: The Edgewater Seattle and The Whitehall in Chicago and Houston. The band would get in a lot of trouble and attract a lot of trouble.  They would hire the police in those cities to protect them from themselves.

There was another side to Zeppelin which Pat saw one afternoon when he took them over on his boat to Blake Island. They had a picnic and walked along the shore talking and he was dealing with totally normal guys. The showbiz thing was off and they were themselves that day.

Seafair hydroplane races

There isn’t much engagement with the hydroplane races today but they were important back in the day.  When hydroplanes took off Seattle had no major league sports. Then a boat that flew on top of the water called the Slow Motion set a speed record on Lake Washington and then went to Detroit and won the gold cup. Seattle didn’t have a clue what a gold cup was but they were so proud to have won something.  That drew crowds and got more people involved in the sport.  As the city has grown and added professional sports teams, the hydros have slipped in popularity.  Pat even helped develop the first turbine powered boat.  These jet engines make the boats go much faster but lack the exciting noise people were accustomed to.

Pat’s fears for Seattle

Pat said he fears losing the texture and warmth of the city. He said many of the people who run the city, from the mayor on down, say they want to unite but everything they do is divisive and they have their own little agendas.

Today

Pat is the premier property director for Windermere Real Estate on San Juan Island. He also works with Schick Shadel Hospital, the most successful treatment hospital for alcohol and drug use in the United States. He was a patient there himself 30 years ago. 

Pat wrote a book:  It Was All Just Rock-‘n’-Roll  with many more amazing stories from his life and career.

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