Kevin Hilley

Kevin John Hilley (born December 11, 1958) is a morning radio personality. He co-hosts the daily “Hilley & Hart” program on in Jefferson City, Missouri.
Radio career
College broadcasting
Hilley’s first experience as a disc jockey was during his freshman year at Houghton College in 1977 when he walked into WJSL, the campus radio station. The station’s format was Contemporary Christian music and, at the time, the station was merely broadcasting over local electrical lines (“carrier current”). It later went on the air at 90.3 FM under the name “WJSL Stereo 90”. Hilley admits that during his time at Houghton College, he spent more time in the studio then he did in class, one of several reasons for a barely passable grade point average and ultimately leading to his leaving school without a degree. It was this radio experience, however, that would launch Hilley into the career that he says he was born to do.

Professional career
In February 1980, Hilley accepted the 7 pm-Midnight slot at WSLB (1400 AM) in Ogdensburg, NY. The stint was short-lived, however as he was hospitalized a month later with aplastic anemia, a usually fatal blood disorder. Hilley never returned to WSLB. In March 1980, he received a lifesaving bone marrow transplant from his brother Keith and spent the next year and a half recovering at home in New Jersey.

Following his recovery, Hilley resumed his radio career. In 1981 he began doing mornings at WKQV in Vineland, NJ. The station was in significant financial trouble following the divorce of its owners, so much so that the DJ's would often bring in their own records to play on the air. The unprofessional conditions soon wore on Hilley and in 1982, he was offered and accepted the night slot at crosstown WWBZ (1360 AM). The station was in the process of switching from Adult Contemporary to an Oldies format and Hilley was excited to be a part of the transition. It was at this station that he was introduced to much of the music and artists of the format.
In 1984, Hilley began working weekends at WZZD (990 AM), Philadelphia. His time at the Contemporary Christian station provided him some much needed experience while he looked toward the next phase of what he felt was a somewhat stalled career.
In the spring of 1985, Hilley packed his car and headed further from home than he had ever been, traveling to the deep South to take the afternoon slot at Adult Contemporary WNAT (and doubling as a News reporter) and then doing overnights at WQNZ (95.1 FM) "95 Country" in Natchez, MS. While the move was the adventure of a lifetime for the 26-year-old, the new and unfamiliar surroundings, his inexperience and lack of a support structure soon had Hilley turning his eyes homeward once again. He returned to New Jersey in July, just months after leaving.
The next several years marked life outside broadcasting for Hilley as he found work far from the career he had known thus far. He held several jobs, most notably as a printer’s assistant at Pioneer National Press in Ambler, PA for about 2 years. While running the day to day operations of the print and copy shop, he held on to hope that he could one day soon return to what gave him the most pleasure, the world of radio.
In 1989, his wife-to-be Donna realized that Hilley would never be content until he was back in radio and encouraged him to pursue that goal once again. Just one month before they were married, Hilley accepted the night on-air position at Adult Contemporary WATS (960 AM)/WAVR (102.1 FM) in Sayre, PA. In December 1990, he moved into the Morning slot at the station following the departure of morning personality Todd Bowers.
September of 1991 saw Hilley return to his native New Jersey and the morning show at WVLT (92.1 FM) in Vineland, NJ. The station was the latest incarnation of the former WKQV where Hilley had worked a decade earlier, After a disagreement over an off-the-air incident, Hilley and the station parted ways in 1993. However, he kept his hand in the business with part-time work at Oldies station WTKU “Cool 98.3” in Ocean City, NJ.
In 1994, Hilley accepted an overnight position at Harrisburg, PA Oldies giant WWKL “KOOL 94.9”. It was a turning point in his career as, just a short time after taking the job, he met up with new Morning personality R.J. Harris. Harris, a seasoned veteran who had enjoyed success in New York, Chicago and other major markets, became the professional mentor that Hilley needed. After working his overnight slot each evening, Hilley would stay on as Harris’ producer and member of the popular “RJ Harris In the Morning” show, watching and learning from the legendary air personality. From Harris, he honed skills that would serve him the rest of his career.
The greatest success that he had known thus far began in June 1996 when Hilley took over Mornings at WJYY (105.5 FM) in Concord, NH. “The Kevin Hilley Wake-Up Show” was lauded by locals as fun and family-friendly. It was the first Top 40 station that Hilley had ever worked at and, together with co-host Suzanne Lewis, the show and the station enjoyed ratings success.
In 2000, Hilley was offered a large contract (“more money than I had ever seen in my life”) by Tele-Media Inc. to move to Albany, NY and take the morning reigns of struggling WCPT (100.9 FM). Tele-Media was the parent company of Concord Oldies station WNNH and industry rumors whispered that the company had offered the position to Hilley as a result of his success and to get him out of the Concord market. The move turned out to be a bitter pill to swallow for the now 41 year old morning man. He and his new boss saw eye-to-eye on almost nothing and daily criticism of his work soon began to wear on him. The day-to-day on-air routine, once a joy to Hilley, became a burden and he left after only 5 months in Albany.

It was back to New Jersey in the summer of 2000 for Hilley as he began mornings at WCZT (96.7 FM) in Cape May, NJ. While it was a relief to be out from under the oppressive atmosphere of his former employer, Hilley soon found himself missing the professional challenge at his new station, one that was very small and especially catered to a seasonal seashore audience.
In 2001, Hilley was contacted by Mike Kaplan, the Program Director of WJLK (94.3 FM) “The Point” in Asbury Park, NJ to be reunited with his former WJYY co-host Suzanne Lewis. Kaplan had heard an audition tape featuring the two and was impressed by their chemistry. Hilley initially rejected the overtures, deciding that he did not want to make another move so soon after taking his present position. However, Kaplan’s persistence and the appeal of the larger market soon changed Hilley’s mind and, in May 2001, he and Lewis were working together again.
On June 7, 2002, Hilley and Lewis were informed that WJLK parent company Nassau Broadcasting had sold its stations to Millenium Radio Group and that the morning team along with other staff were being let go by Millenium. It was a day later referred to by Hilley and his colleagues as the “Friday Morning Massacre”. Nassau dismissed Hilley with a generous severance package while he searched for new employment.
That search led to a call from radio consultant Tim Moore in July 2002. He told Hilley that he was consulting a station that he thought would be "a perfect fit" for him. That station was Adult Contemporary KPLA (101.5 FM) in Columbia, MO, owned by a group of local businessmen. They flew Hilley out to interview and to introduce him to his new morning show partner, Sarah Hunter, herself a long-time local air personality. On August 19, 2002, “Hilley & Hunter” debuted on KPLA. The show was a hit with listeners and a ratings winner throughout its run but the station was sold to Cumulus Media in March 2005. Personnel and budget changes soon began, including the announcement just two months later by Hunter that she was retiring from radio. Hilley was assured by management that there was a “nationwide search” on for a replacement co-host. However, in June, he was informed that he was being taken off KPLA and sent to do the Morning show (along with program director duties) at Oldies station KJMO (104.1 FM) "Cool 104.1" in Jefferson City, MO.
In early 2006, Hilley left Cumulus after being invited by friend and former colleague Karen Dye to join her on Contemporary Christian station KMFC (92.1 FM) "Joy 92" in Centralia, MO. The “Karen and Kevin” morning show was born. Their off-beat sense of humor and family-friendly approach endeared them to listeners who turned to the duo for a daily dose of encouragement and laughter. The station was struggling financially, however, and owner Jerry Clair found it necessary to put the station up for sale. Dye left the show and station in 2007 to pursue ministry opportunities and Hilley was informed by Clair that, due to the station’s financial ills, it would be in his best interest to seek work elsewhere as well.
On February 25, 2008, Hilley took over mornings at Zimmer Radio Group station KATI (94.3 FM) “KAT Country” in Jefferson City, MO. He was initially teamed with Carissa Cole as “Kevin & Carissa”, but she was shortly thereafter put on the morning show at sister station KCLR (99.3 FM) “Clear 99” in Columbia, Missouri. It was about that time that Hilley, as a customer at a local spa and salon, met Erin Hart while she was working the front desk. Impressed with her voice and conversational skills, he asked her if she would be interested in filling in on the Morning show on a part-time basis until he found a permanent co-host, to which she agreed. Zimmer Radio management was pleased with the job she did and in July 2008, she was offered the job full-time, marking the official start of “”. The show has steadily grown in listenership and is the currently longest running morning show on a music station in the Columbia/Jefferson City market.
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