Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane’s Kent Jones a classic hit for 49 years

By Cynthia Reugh For The Spokesman-Review

Years ago, Kent Jones dreamed of making it big in motion pictures.

“I really had an interest in becoming a film actor. I wanted to go to Hollywood and be in the movies and be on TV commercials and all,” Jones said.

A music-loving teenager, who once wired his entire family home with speakers, Jones recently bid farewell to a 49-year broadcast career that included a position as weekday morning show host for Spokane classic hits station, 101.1 KEYF-FM. His path into radio was partly inspired by a memorable encounter with WABC New York idol, Dan Ingram.

“He had such personality. He was the only DJ that I know of that could actually talk during the commercials and make fun of them and get away with it. He was just hilarious,” said Jones, who wrote a heartfelt letter to WABC program director, Rick Sklar, asking to meet Ingram and present an audition tape. Sklar agreed.

“He played my little tape on a reel-to-reel deck and then had somebody show me around the radio station and that included a studio visit with Dan Ingram while he was on the air. I was in heaven,” said Jones, who recalled being greeted by throngs of young listeners as he exited the station with Ingram.

“There were probably 30 or 40 kids waiting to get his autograph. That just doesn’t happen anymore,” he added.

Working as a DJ out of college, Jones carefully studied the phrases, pauses and inflections of radio personalities he admired, later molding those mannerisms into his own distinct on-air style.

“You need to be a real person that relates to the audience,” Jones said.

His diligent focus on that quintessential delivery was rewarded in 1988 when he was hired as morning show host and program director for 92.5 KOMA, a powerhouse station in Oklahoma City, where he launched a highly successful oldies format.

“To come in and program this radio station with such heritage was such a neat opportunity,” said Jones, who later created and hosted two shows, “Totally Awesome ‘80s” and “80s Vault,” while also co-founding Fishnet Syndication, which markets and distributes 35 programs to over 500 radio stations.

After losing his 31-year position with KOMA due to widespread broadcast industry layoffs in 2020, Jones prayed and knocked on doors. The one that opened widest was located right here in Spokane.

“I would not have left KOMA had it not been for the layoff. I was ready to ride that one out until my retirement,” said Jones, who later presided over the operation of six radio stations owned by Stephens Media Group and hosted his KEYF morning show live from a South Spokane studio.

“Live radio is just so much fun for me, because you interact with the music, the listeners when they call, it just isn’t the same to do it any other way,” he said.

Regardless of those early shifts, Jones insists his job never felt like work.

“It feels more like a hobby, because I’d be playing music anyway,” Jones said. “To get on the air, it’s really kind of a rush to be able to perform like that and get feedback from listeners either in person or on the phone and feel like you did a good job.”

Through his work as a DJ, Jones has traveled extensively and met members of legendary bands, such as Chicago and Three Dog Night, but when asked about his favorite broadcast moments, he quickly recounted charitable missions, including the Spokane Salvation Army Backpacks for Kids event and a pair of KOMA campaigns that delivered banners filled with well wishes to injured troops at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Despite his busy schedule, Jones managed to land a bit role in a Matt Damon film a few years back, temporarily curbing that lifelong acting bug. With a heart still focused on media, he now plans to spend more time with his own company, Kent Jones Productions, which has recorded dozens of singers and produced over 300 music videos across the United States.

As the broadcast industry continues to evolve, Jones has high hopes for radio.

“A lot of people think, ‘Oh gosh, streaming and podcasts and all of that, radio’s dying,’ No it’s not. Radio will be here for a long, long time to come, just like TV is still here. Radio still has the largest share of ear of any medium,” said Jones, who praised the merits of station personality or what he referred to as, “stationality.”

“It’s not just the songs. It’s not just the DJs. It’s everything combined for flow, like a good movie,” he said. “A good radio station has all of these elements combined, and flows in such a way that it becomes an entertaining experience for the listener and you can’t get that from Spotify.”