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  • Born

    20 August 1929

  • Born In

    New York, New York, United States

  • Died

    22 November 1995 (aged 66)

Tom Clay (20 August 1929, New York, New York — 22 November 1995, Los Angeles, California) (born Thomas Clague) was an American radio personality and disc jockey.

In the 1950s he was popular in the Detroit area on WJBK-AM both as a DJ, and for his on-air comic characterizations; he became a local celebrity. In the mid 50's Tom moved to Cincinnati and was a smash hit. He was considered by many the best DJ in town and had a huge following on WSAI's night show. He used music and records to build a radio "image", and signed off with a signature "That's All".

He was caught up in the payola scandal of late 50s, and openly admitted to having accepted thousands of dollars for playing certain records. After being fired from WJBK, Clay worked at short-lived Detroit Top 40 station WQTE (now WRDT) only to be fired again when the station changed format to easy listening music in 1961. After moving to Los Angeles and becoming a popular personality on KRLA, Clay returned to the Detroit area and found work at CKLW in neighboring Windsor, Ontario, at the time one of the foremost Top 40 AM stations in North America.

According to the book Rockin' Down the Dial, a history of Detroit Top 40 radio of the 1950s and 1960s by David Carson, Tom Clay became friendly with Marilyn Monroe during his time in Los Angeles working for KRLA. Clay's daughter, Kimberly, told Carson that her father never revealed much about his friendship with Monroe, but would only say that she seemed very lonely.

Riding the wave of early Beatlemania he again rose in popularity, met and interviewed The Beatles, but was once again the victim of his own avarice. This time, he was fired over a scheme in which he invited listeners to send in one dollar for membership in a "Beatles Booster Club", an essentially non-existent organization which had no benefits beyond a promised membership card or decal. According to fellow CKLW DJ Dave Shafer (also now deceased), Clay also promised each listener who sent in a dollar a personal item used by one of the Beatles; these "personal items" turned out to be disgusting items like cigarette butts and used tissues, and other listeners claimed to have received nothing. However, since over 80,000 fans responded, Clay was able to live comfortably for a time on the cash that appeared in his personal post office box, the equivalent of almost half a million dollars today. Dave Shafer told David Carson in Rockin' Down the Dial that Clay skipped town in the wake of the Beatles Booster fiasco, leading to Shafer's being briefly jailed on charges of international fraud. Clay eventually returned to work at other Detroit area radio stations, including WWWW-FM, and also worked at WCBS-FM in New York.
The cover to the 1971 LP What The World Needs Now.

To national audiences, Tom Clay is perhaps best remembered today for his single record on Motown's Mo-west label "What the World Needs Now Is Love/Abraham, Martin and John" (Mo-west MW5002F), a compilation of clips from the two popular records, interviews, and speeches of Jack and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King emphasizing tolerance and civil rights. Inexplicably, the record shot to number eight on the charts. A follow-up album had respectable sales, but another single, "Whatever Happened To Love" (Mo-west MW5007F), flopped, and Clay found himself on unemployment. Both songs were featured on the Mo-west album What The World Needs Now (MS 103-L - released August 1971).

Clay finished his career doing voiceover work. He died of stomach and lung cancer at age 66 in Los Angeles (Valley Village), California in 1995.

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