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Subject: I remember when he hosted A.T. 40 a few times, always did a great job.


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Date Posted: Saturday, December 01, 02:42:13am
In reply to: Rob Durkee 's message, "Dave Roberts -- San Francisco area DJ, started KRQR, filled in for Casey Kasem on "American Top 40" 4x" on Friday, November 30, 10:28:37pm

On the air, Dave Roberts was a smooth, straight-ahead Bay Area disc jockey hosting the afternoon drive for KYA and K101. Off the air he was “Dr. Dave,” armed with a doctorate in communications research and a knack for launching and driving radio formats.

Roberts died Saturday at his home in Rochester, Mich., from complications of prostate cancer, said his wife, Marsha Kelliher. He was 70.

“Dave was energetic, but not in a hyped-up, Top-40 style,” said Ben Fong-Torres, longtime radio columnist for The Chronicle. “He did the right thing for any format he was working. A real pro.”

His voice was heard nationwide on “The Hot Ones With Dave Roberts,” an interview show syndicated to 200 stations, and “American Top 40,” where he filled in for legendary radio host Casey Kasem.

As a program director, Roberts’ boldest move was to switch KCBS-FM from classic hits to album-oriented rock. He came up with the call letters KRQR and the handle “the Rocker.” When KRQR went live in 1982, it became one of the last hit stations in the golden age of album-oriented rock.

“KCBS was a stodgy oldies format, and New York management did not think it would be CBS to play hard rock,” said Peter B. Collins, morning host on KRQR. “Dave did the research and proved them wrong. KRQR lasted for 10 years and bested KMEL and KKCY (“The City”). We even beat KFOG in some years.”

That success got him a promotion to director of programming for CBS FM stations nationwide.

“Dave gave me my big break, and the big breaks for many other people,” Collins said. “He was a good guy in an industry with a lot of creeps.”

David Bob Kelliher was born Nov. 1, 1948, in Los Angeles, where he grew up spinning the dial on a transistor radio. At Yucaipa High School, east of Los Angeles, he played trumpet in the marching band until he was kicked out for riffing a solo during the national anthem. He later played trumpet and guitar in the Peppermint Trolley Company, a six-piece prom band with a recording contract and regular gigs at Disneyland.

Convinced that he would be drafted, Kelliher enlisted, instead, into the Marines and was able to get an assignment to the Defense Information School in Hawaii. He served out his tour as a radio and TV producer for the Marine Corps. His deep voice also earned him the job of narrator for “Moments of Valor,” a program syndicated by the Marines.

After his discharge in 1970, Roberts used the GI Bill for nine years of college, culminating in his doctorate from the University of Oregon. At one of his first radio jobs, a station manager told him the name David Kelliher would never cut it on air. When Kelliher said his middle name was Bob, he became Dave Roberts, though nobody away from work ever called him that.

In the late 1980s, Roberts left radio stations to form a consulting firm with Dave Cooke, a former news director. Roberts/Cooke Media Research and Resources operated out of Roberts’ house in Mill Valley. This was when drivers were still punching buttons on the car radio during the commute, and the major news/talk stations on the AM dial went to Roberts/Cooke to figure out how to get listeners to stop punching.

“Dave had a Ph.D. and a lot of experience both on the air and in program management,” Cooke said by phone from Texas. “He was able to combine these talents and skills to effectively interpret what stations needed to do to improve their ratings.”

At the time, Roberts was married to Pam Hamilton, who ran the public relations firm Hamilton Ink, also out of their home in Mill Valley. That marriage ended in divorce and soon after, Roberts met attorney Marsha Cox at a party. They became part of a circle of friends that toured Italy in the summer of 1992, and along the way, Roberts proposed.

“We had our first date after we got engaged,” she said by phone from Michigan. It was sometime later that Cox learned “that my last name was not going to be Roberts, but Kelliher,” she recalled. “I’d never heard the name Kelliher before, which was odd because I had met his parents.”

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It was smoothed over just in time to correct the wedding invitations. The ceremony was held at Landmark Vineyards in Kenwood in January 1993. After a short stint in Mill Valley, they moved to Austin, Texas, where they lived for 20 years.

Roberts built a broadcast studio in their home and did radio and TV voice-over work. When they moved to Michigan, Roberts built another recording studio and continued to work up until six months ago, when his health became a full-time job.

“Dave was a really funny and happy-go-lucky guy. Everybody liked him,” Cooke said. “He was also one of the smartest and nicest people I have ever known.”

Along with Marsha Kelliher, survivors include his mother, Frances Kelliher, sister Carol Flanagan and brother Duane Kelliher, all of the Los Angeles area; and brother Daryn Kelliher of Oregon.

A graveside service is scheduled for Friday at Maple Hill Cemetery in New Harmony, Ind.

Donations may be made to the David Kelliher (a.k.a. Dave Roberts) Scholarship at the University of Oregon, 1720 E. 13th Ave., Suite 410, Eugene, OR 97403.

A celebration of his life is pending for the springtime in the Bay Area.

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