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Longtime DJ has seen it all

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Steve Carlson, alias "Steve O," has been around Utah radio for almost 34 years — all of that time at KRSP.

Although many times overlooked among Utah's radio personalities who have been 30 years or more at the same station, including Tom Barberi and "Country Joe" Flint, Carlson is the longest-surviving "Rock/Arrow 103" DJ.

During that time he's done the graveyard, afternoon, night, morning and weekend shifts. He's also been a program director, operations manager and now assistant program director on the air from 2-7 p.m. on FM-103.5.

"I've seen it all come full circle," Carlson said.

As a kid growing up in Salt Lake City, he created his own neighborhood radio transmitter.

"Radio has always been a passion for me," he said.

A son of Ralph Carlson, who started KRSP (AM-1060) in 1967 and KRSP (FM-103.5), you might think he had an easy way into radio, but he didn't.

"I did have a foot in the door, but I still had to prove myself," he said.

At age 14 in 1967, Carlson was working for his family at the radio station emptying the trash and working as a board operator on Saturdays.

"I was running the station one night and decided I should do the news. So I cracked the mike and read the news, much to my father's dismay," he said. "He and my mom were on the way to pick me up at the station and heard it. Needless to say, my dad was not happy about my radio debut that night."

By 1970, as a student at Brighton High School and working the weekend graveyard shift on the air, he had begun to prove himself. (Vinyl 33 and 45 rpm records were used in those days.)

He began his full-time on-air work in May 1972, going middays and then finally evenings against "Skinny Johnny" Mitchell on KCPX. He also spent some time working at KUER but otherwise got his radio experience on air, not in college.

Usually a pretty tame DJ where playing the music has been the priority, Carlson did one of his most outrageous radio stunts in 1974 when he spent a week living inside the Trolley Square water tower to raise money for a charity.

Carlson said he didn't feel he really proved himself as a DJ until about a decade ago when KRSP was sold to the Simmons Radio Group and all family ties were severed.

Besides his long radio career, Carlson has found time for the Naval Reserve; he loves classic cars, baseball and all kinds of music and is "married with a bunch of kids."

The demise of vinyl records, the advent of more radio stations in Salt Lake City and the consolidation of most of them into large groups of ownership have been some of the biggest changes he's seen in his career.

"It's been fun, and KRSP and has been very consistent over the years," he said. "I've been able to work with some great people."

Deseret News radio editor Lynn Arave can be reached by e-mail at lynn@desnews.com or by phone at 237-2168.