Bob Kingsley, a radio legend whose voice was synonymous with country music, died on Thursday, October 17, 2019, at his home in Weatherford, Texas while receiving treatment for cancer. He was 80.
One of broadcasting’s most beloved and iconic figures, Kingsley was a mainstay on radio for 60 years. His dominance in the country format began in 1978 when he took over as host of American Country Countdown after four years as the show’s producer for one of radio’s founding syndication companies, Watermark, founded by Tom Rounds. In 2006, he and his wife and business partner Nan Kingsley established Bob Kingsley’s Country Top 40, produced by their own KCCS Productions, still running on more than 320 stations.
Kingsley received many of broadcasting’s top honors and was named to the Country Radio Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1998 and the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2016. He is the namesake and was the first recipient of the Bob Kingsley Living Legend Award, presented each year since 2014 at the Grand Ole Opry House and benefitting the Opry Trust Fund.
They were among the many fruits of a career built on a simple premise. “I love the music and the people who make it, and I want our listeners to have as much insight into both as I can give them, and to make the experience as enjoyable as possible,” he once said.
Bob’s love for radio and music dated to his childhood, when polio kept him in bed and in near isolation for a year. “I would listen to the radio and certain shows became really important to me. It was complete escapism and entertainment. I didn’t realize the imprint it was making, but it obviously stayed with me,” he said.
At 18, Kingsley joined the Air Force and served in Keflavik, Iceland, where he jumped at a chance to become an announcer on Armed Forces Radio. That experience and his love of country music would carry him to legendary stations like KFOX, KGBS, KFI, and KLAC in Los Angeles, and to his role as the voice of Drake-Chenault’s Great American Country format, used by hundreds of country radio stations.
His role as host of American Country Countdown with Bob Kingsley made him a household name. He supplemented the weekly countdown with Christmas specials, album release specials for artists including Alabama, George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton, Taylor Swift, and Carrie Underwood, and for many years a daily artist spotlight called America’s Music Makers. With Kingsley at the helm, the show was named Billboard’s Network/Syndicated Country Program of the Year for 16 years in a row.
Kingsley received the Academy of Country Music’s Major Market On-Air Personality of the Year Award in 1966 and 1967 and was named the Country Music Association’s National Broadcast Personality of the Year in 2001 and 2003. He was voted National Air Personality of the Year five times by Country Radio Broadcasters and Country Aircheck and won the ACM’s 2007 National Broadcast Personality of the Year Award. He was chosen as the recipient of the 2012 President’s Award by the CRB. In 2017, Bob received the Mae Boren Axton Service Award in recognition of his dedication and service to the ACM, on whose board he served for decades. He was twice the host and emcee of Alabama’s legendary June Jam.
Kingsley served in 2004 and 2005 as Master of Ceremonies at the National Veterans Day Ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, one of many national and regional events to which he has volunteered time and energy, and he helped get information on benefits to countless veterans through vehicles like his Veterans Day 2005 radio special, “Bob Kingsley Salutes America’s Veterans.” He was the recipient of the Wounded Warrior Project’s Tony Snow Award for the significant difference he has made in the lives of injured servicemen and women.
His many charitable endeavors included work for Disabled American Veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Wounded Warrior Project, Careity Foundation, and the Palliative Unit of Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, among others.
An avid cutting horse enthusiast, he lived and worked with his wife of 30 years, Nan, on their Bluestem Ranch in Weatherford, Texas.
A celebration of life will be held in Nashville, Tennessee, on Thursday, November 14, 2019, at 1:00 p.m. at The CMA Theater at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Kingsley’s name to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum or the Grand Ole Opry Trust Fund.