Another Maui “Radio Man” has ascended to the Great Studio in the Sky.
No, wait, that’s not right. Take two: THE Radio Man has ascended . . .
Ron Vaught deserved the title of Father of Maui Radio, having built and managed three of the first four radio stations on the Valley Isle. Had he been around (and of age) in 1947, I’m sure he would have had a hand in creating KMVI as well. He did, eventually, serve as station manager there, after starting KNUI, KAOI-FM and KHEI.
KMVI was the only game in town until 1963, when Ron and another Maui radio legend, Rick “The Carabao” Medina, built KNUI in an Olinda pasture. A decade later, Ron started up Maui’s first FM station, KAOI, before moving on to KHEI, which began broadcasting in 1980.
Amazingly, although I’ve been on staff at all of the above-mentioned stations, I never got to work directly with Ron. Both my first and last husbands did, however. Unfortunately, Jim Collins and Barry Shannon have also passed on and thus are unable to share their recollections for this column. Barry, especially, had many fond memories of producing parody commercials and live on-air comedy with RV, as he called him. Barry’s favorite was a hilarious telephone “interview” in which Ron played a Russian submarine commander lost in Kahului Harbor. Sadly, the recordings of those bits have been long lost.
I tried to get a job with RV when I was a 16-year-old senior at Baldwin High School. My fellow Drama Club members excitedly told me about the radio station that was being built just up the road from campus. I stopped in after school one day to find Ron, literally, building the KAOI studios in a small office space between Kentucky Fried Chicken and Maui Recapping, right above the Aloha Lanes bowling alley.
The only radio experience I’d had at that point was a couple of turns on KMVI’s weekly high school news feature, on LD Reynolds’ nighttime Top 40 show. Ron informed me that KAOI wasn’t yet in a position to hire any talent. He gently advised me to finish school and, perhaps, set my career goals a bit higher. “Come back and see me in a few years, if you still want to work in radio,” he smiled.
I followed only a little of his advice. I did finish high school, then went to work for KMVI less than a year later. When I jumped over to KAOI in 1979, Ron had already moved on, probably to start KHEI.
Another of Ron’s colleagues — and a local radio legend in his own right — Michael McCartney posted a beautiful, eloquent tribute on Facebook last week. Inexplicably, FB deleted Mike’s post, stating that it was considered spam. I wish I’d taken a screenshot before it disappeared, because I would have liked to quote from Mike’s moving testimonial for this column. He, too, had wonderful stories about working for and with RV.
Ron had many other talents and attributes, of course. He was a loving husband, father and grandfather as well as a publisher and businessman, a tireless community volunteer, and a gifted singer and actor. Folks who knew him in any of those capacities will join in celebrating his life this Saturday at Waiola Church in Lahaina. Family time is scheduled for 8 to 9 a.m., visitation for the public starts at 9 a.m., followed by services at 11 a.m.
It has been nearly two weeks since The Radio Man passed on. I imagine he’s already begun building the ultimate station and staffing it with Maui radio alumni like Barry, Jim, Thom McGarvey and Bob Frost. I hope he saves a slot for me.
* Kathy Collins is a radio personality (The Buzz 107.5 FM), storyteller, actress, emcee and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.