Spike O’Neill reflects on 25 years with Bob Rivers amid radio HOF induction
Nov 11, 2023, 5:56 PM | Updated: 6:27 pm
(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)
Historically, there’s a lot of attention given to the major media centers of Los Angeles and New York City — both of which have produced legendary talent in radio and television through the years.
But Seattle, especially in radio, punches well above its weight class for broadcasting brilliance. And there’s no better example than Bob Rivers.
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A native of Connecticut, Bob debuted on radio as a call-in contest winner at five years old. His first paying gig was when he was 16, and he honed his craft at a number of New England stations, becoming prominent at Boston’s legendary rock outlet WAAF.
1987 brought Bob to Baltimore’s “98 Rock” (WIYY) where a Mamas and Papas parody tune (“Hyundai, Hyundai” sung to the tune of “Monday Monday”) caught the ear of one Spike O’Neill, who it just so happened sold Hyundais at his father’s dealership and challenged Bob to a test drive.
“Bob and Sean came to town in 1989 with a young fresh-faced kid named Spike O’Neill, who had no, and I mean no, experience in radio. Less than two weeks on air in Baltimore before I left my hometown to come with Bob,” Spike O’Neill, co-host of The Jack and Spike Show, said on KIRO Nights. Fast forward six months after we got here, The Bob and Sean Show lost Sean Donahue. He was diagnosed with MS and left radio to go back and be with his family on the East Coast. So here’s Bob and a kid now with six months and two weeks experience and Downtown Joe, who Bob had just got from a broadcast school who had no professional on-air experience, and the three of us did a show for 25 years.”
There began what would become a 25-year Seattle radio legacy with Bob Rivers and company bringing “Twisted Radio” to morning drive and delighting countless commuters. Their impact measured beyond the far-ranging 100,000-watt signal of their Seattle radio home, with the show’s “Twisted Tunes” being played across the nation and worldwide, especially during the Christmas season.
Rivers had the instinct to surround himself with great talent, being, in his words, the “bandleader” for a team of unique personalities including KIRO’s own Spike O’Neill and “Downtown Joe” Bryant — who’s now guiding the next generation of broadcast and digital talent as an instructor at Mercer Island High. The show even supported Seattle and national music talent, with sessions in Bob’s Garage.
“That’s exactly how he describes himself as a conductor of an orchestra,” Spike added. “One of the beauties of Bob Rivers was that he recognized talent and gave credit where credit was due. And everybody got an even playing field when it came to opinions and points of view and time on the radio. It didn’t matter what you did for the show, whether it was a phone screener or a director or a producer, if you had a point of view, it merited time on air.”
Nor was it just about good humor or the rock & roll. Bob and his team also made an impact on people’s lives with a generosity of spirit that included partnering with World Vision, finding sponsors for more than 3,000 children in developing nations and raising over $10 million.
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On November 2, Bob was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame, cementing his team’s legacy and service to Seattle and beyond in radio history.
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