[Masthead] Overcast ~ 41°F  
High: 54°F ~ Low: 43°F
Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Former Storm Lake DJ still on the mike at 75

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

'Old Blue Eyes is still number one ...

She always starts with Frank Sinatra. 'Ol Blue Eyes has been kicking off Pat Chrischilles' radio programs for over ten years now. Just as the music starts to fade, Chrischilles' chimes in with her glossy voice to introduce the day's show.

At 75-years-old, Chrischilles is quite possibly the oldest woman DJ playing songs from the 20s, 30s and 40s.

The history behind Pat Chrischilles' life and love of music is an interesting one, stretching from Winnepeg to Algona, parking for an extended stay on the KAYL radio waves in Storm Lake.

She was born in Winnepeg, Canada. Her parents were called back to the Iowa Great Lakes in 1929 when her grandfather drowned in the boating accident between The Thriller and The Zipper.

Chrischilles' was only a year old when her family returned to Iowa to manage the farm her grandfather had left behind. Her mother and grandmother couldn't stand the memories that resided in the lakes after Chrischilles' grandfather died, so the family moved to Fort Dodge.

She was 8 years old when she started vocal lessons. She had a soprano voice that landed her an audition with the Metropolatain School of Music in Chicago. Although she was not accepted into the program, the judges wanted Chrischilles to move to Chicago to further her vocal talent. At that time moving to Chicago wasn't an option and Chrischilles headed back to Iowa.

Through her childhood, Chrischilles sang for many occasions and played classical music on the piano.

After graduating from high school, Chrischilles went to St. Catherine's College in St. Paul, Minn. to study music. She transferred to the University of Iowa and got into the Big Band and jazz sounds. She had been a collector of Big Band music for years, but her parents didn't approve.

Her senior year, Chrischilles met and fell in love with a military man. Mr and Mrs. Julian Chrischilles were married in 1949. Chrischilles opted to forego graduating from college and moved to Algona with her husband.

Together they raised a family, and for years they operated a cable company. They moved back to the Great Lakes area in 1986.

Chrischilles had been making tapes of music from the 20s, 30s and 40s for her friends when she took a shot in the dark.

She made a tape and gave it to Paul Herberg, who owned all of the radio stations in the area. Chrischilles was asked to be a guest on Rambo's show Sunday morning on KUOO.

"I guess they thought I put together a good mix of music," Chrischilles said. "After the guest appearance they had a chance to see how I would handle being on the air."

Chrischilles was given the live Sunday morning slot on KUOO from 7:30 a.m. to noon.

"When I was on it was very well accepted," Chrischilles said. "I got letters and phone calls from the listeners saying how much they liked it."

In 1991, her husband Julian retired and they wanted to travel south for the winter. So Chrischilles quit DJing at KUOO and went back to making tapes for her friends.

While spending the summer in Florida, she found a piece of DJing equipment and decided she wanted to give it a try. So she started making tapes with her narrative in between songs.

In 1997, Paul Herberg heard her latest tape and put Chrischilles on KAYL in Storm Lake. She taped all her shows and sent them to the station to go on air.

For the past six years, Chrischilles has been at KLGA in Algona. She tapes her shows in advance so she can leave town or get away for awhile.

"You have to be in the right mood to DJ," Chrischilles said. "If I'm not in the right mood, the songs I play are slow, sad and depressing."

Some people may think disc jockeys don't do a whole lot more than push a few buttons and throw together a few songs. It's a lot more than that. DJs need to know how to work the boards, but most importantly they need to know how to keep people interested.

Chrischilles only plays five minutes of commercials in her hour show.

She knows her listeners would rather hear music. It's all about keeping her audience interested and happy.

Obviously she is doing her job well. Chrischilles has managed to keep the same four sponsors all six years she has been with KLGA.

In her shows, Chrischilles talks about the music and the musicians. Her husband, Julian knows a lot about Glenn Miller and even makes a guest appearance on Chrischilles' show occasionally.

"You have to love music," Chrischilles said. "I love everything about this music and being able to keep it alive is the primary reason I am a disc jockey."

Some of Chrischilles' favorite songs include "It Had to be You," "You Made Me Love You," "Moon Glow," "The Way You Look Tonight," "At Last," and anything Sinatra does.

She plays a little bit of everything though. Sometimes she will throw in some Beatles for the younger generation and will play old songs that new artists remake.

Chrischilles will celebrate her 76th birthday in June.

"As far as I know, I am the oldest woman disc jockey playing music from this era," Chrischilles said.

For a while she was thinking of syndicating her shows. But it would mean a lot of work to get started and even more to maintain a syndicated show. Chrischilles is content in the makeshift studio in the corner of a bedroom in her home.

"When you feel good and you're doing something you love, it doesn't matter how old you are," Chrischilles said. "I've noticed a few more wrinkles that weren't there last year, but it doesn't bother me."

In her bedroom studio, a white dresser sits in the comer. In each drawer are hundreds of tapes.

Chrischilles has a copy of every show she has done and there are thousands.

Each ends the same way: "Join me next week for more Big Band, blues and all that jazz. So long everybody!"

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: