Former KDHX (88.1 FM) host Doug McKay, whose show The Juke Joint ran from February 2013 to May 2017, passed away on Thursday, February 15, after a battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS. He was 68 years old.
McKay was highly regarded at the station, known for his deep love of blues music and dedication to KDHX. His show, which specialized in blues, soul and R&B, ran on Fridays at 5 a.m.; McKay would take an Uber or a cab at 4 a.m. to show up on time. Despite the early wake-up, McKay always had a smile on his face and a great attitude, says Kelly Wells, KDHX's executive director.
"It's been interesting, the last few days as people have been talking about him through the building, I keep hearing people say over and over, 'You know, he was just one of the good ones,'" she says. "And it does kinda boil down to that, in the truest sense of the word. He was passionate about KDHX, he was passionate about the music that he played, and he was always so happy and joyful."
McKay's stint at the station came to an end on account of his 2017 ALS diagnosis. KDHX's music director, Nick Acquisto, says that the disease began to affect McKay's arms, making it difficult to complete the tasks necessary to run a show.
"He was just kind of losing agility with his fingers and his arms, and he was having trouble reaching — that was a big part of it, he couldn't reach up to the CD players," Acquisto says.
McKay underwent elective surgery in the hopes that it would fix the problems with his arms, Acquisto says — but they only continued getting worse. The station came up with a few different ideas to keep him on the air, including him doing the show with a laptop or bringing a second person into the station with him to help out. Ultimately, McKay decided it would be impractical to continue.
"It seemed like he really wanted to try to keep on doing it, but he was trying to kind of figure out a way that he would be able to," Acquisto says. "It kinda got to the point where he just decided he'd have to call it quits."
The Juke Joint's last show aired on May 12, 2017, with McKay saying he'd be taking a "sabbatical" while veteran KDHX DJ Pat Wolfe took over the time slot with the return of his program, Interstate. The song McKay signed off with was BB King's track "Bad Case of Love," from 1998's Blues on the Bayou. On the Spinitron page for the show, McKay included a note: "What a privilege to have my last show be working with Pat Wolfe for the May Drive. Thanks to all the many supporters during this drive and over the past five years. It has been a blast!"
McKay is survived by his wife Denise, son David and daughter Leah Jones, as well as his grandkids, six-year-old Carolena and nine-year-old Perry. According to a Facebook post by Denise, the family plans to host a memorial for McKay at the Stage at KDHX sometime in April. Though the details are not yet set, the setting is only appropriate, considering his love for the station.
"He didn't have a strong ego about him; he was always just really into sharing blues music with his audience, and was really passionate and knowledgeable about it," says Acquisto. "He just kind of exuded this love for music and this love for the station that was incredible. He was just a really nice guy. A really sweet guy."
One of the good ones, even. Rest in peace.
Watch video of McKay's final KDHX sign-off below:
Support Local Journalism. Join the Riverfront Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.