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Mike Callaghan Dies; Was Longtime Engineer of KIIS-FM

Known for his professionalism, friendship, sense of humor and mentoring

Text has been updated with additional information.

Colleagues are remembering radio engineer Mike Callaghan, 72, who died Nov. 5.

The longtime chief of Clear Channel station KIIS-FM in Los Angeles had retired in 2013. His wife of 44 years, Dr. Gayle Callaghan, tells Radio World that he died early Saturday after having been hospitalized late Thursday. He had coped with diabetes-related illnesses for some 15 years. Survivors also include their three children, John, Kelly, and Caitlin.

When I profiled Mike three years ago, he told me that he got started by taking the electronic curriculum at Pasadena City College after leaving the Army. His teachers included Donald K. Wilson.

“One of the classes was to prep you for the First Phone,” he told me then. “If you passed the exam before the class ended, you got an automatic ‘A’ and didn’t have to come to class anymore. That made a lot of sense to me, so I studied like mad and passed the exam. Two weeks later, I found that KPPC(AM/FM) in Pasadena was looking for an engineer. I applied and was hired. It was a baptism by fire, believe me!”

Later he went to KWST(FM) in Hollywood, then on to KKDJ(FM), which became KIIS-FM. He worked there for four decades. He was also transmitter engineer at KEZY(FM) in Anaheim, and he continued as chief for KPPC(AM) after it was spun off from the FM. And he taught broadcast technology and advanced circuit analysis for 12 years at Pasadena City College.

His friend Stan Coutant wrote in a tribute this week that over the years he had “encouraged, cajoled and almost begged Mike to write his memoirs.” It would have been a good book. Callaghan told me that among many projects, he was most proud of building the transmitter plant for KTLK(AM) in Industry, Calif., a 50 kW station with five-tower DA-2 array. But he was always full of stories with color and fun. For instance he recalled being part-owner of an automated station in Camarillo. “We had the girls at the answering service taking the meter readings, and I invented automatic rewinders for the reel-to-reel decks so we had infinite ‘walk-away’ time.”

Colleagues who posted comments to our 2013 profile story mentioned Callaghan’s professionalism, friendship, sense of humor and mentoring. Got a favorite memory of Mike? Share it below.