Revealed! The truth behind No Name!
On today's Rock Report: the story (and real identity) of a legendary bad boy disc jockey.
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"He was funny, loud, and not normal," remembers Carson Daly, then a deejay at the station, and now a host of NBC television's late-night show Last Call with Carson Daly. "He needed to be on-air."
In short order, Nelson got a chance at hosting the graveyard shift with one stipulation: He could only speak from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. By his senior year, he was under contract, a deejay working in the country's fourth-largest market.
It's not all been smooth sailing. In 2008, he was unceremoniously fired from his six-year gig co-hosting the morning show on Alice 97.3—after he helped make the station a Bay Area institution. Nelson shrugged it off. The perils of the business have been clear since his first program director tried to talk him into doing something more sensible with his sociology degree.
With no job, he toured the country on his Harley bagger, riding Route 66 with Daly, a trip that was televised on Daly's show. And Nelson hung out with his family, especially his two young sons.
"I probably spent more time with my two boys than most people do in a lifetime," he says.
The family side of Nelson is a fair contrast to the beer-guzzling party animal he serves up for public consumption. But the guy raving on the radio is the same one who met his wife, Christi, on his 19th birthday, married her 11 years ago, and credits her for saving him from the downfalls of the rock-n-roll lifestyle.
"If you're a knucklehead, marry a smart, smart woman," he says. "She definitely kept the train on the tracks." (The priest who joined the pair in holy matrimony was SCU's Paul Soukup, S.J.—who may be the only Jesuit to get a shout-out on the No Name Show.) Nelson's duality seems fairly summed up by the bright tattoo on his right forearm. It is one of many inked images over a body that, while doughier than in his football days, is still sturdy enough for him to challenge Mexican wrestlers in arm-wrestling bouts on Cinco de Mayo.
The tattoo features an anvil and lightning bolt below the words "One hundred nails," a stock rock-n-roll montage that turns out to hit very close to home. When Nelson's oldest son was born, the infant's belly became so distended with gas that the doctor said the pain was like an adult swallowing 100 nails. The tattoo Nelson had inked is a reminder that parenting, childhood, and life in general aren't easy, but we're equipped to overcome—as his son did.
"We come into this world able to deal with the worst adversity," he assesses. "But somehow over time we forget that."
Certainly Nelson dealt with getting fired. After a nine-month vacation, he was hired by Live 105. Still, he knows the next day on-air could always be his last.
Back when he had his first contract offer at KOME, he asked his dad, an industrial roofing contractor, what he should do. His dad in turn asked Nelson if he liked what he was doing and could pay his bills. When Nelson said yes, the older Nelson offered advice his son has been following ever since. "He said, 'You have the rest of your life to get a real job. Do it for as long as you can,'" Nelson recalls. "That's what I've been doing." What he's also been doing, when a drive brings him through the South Bay, is tuning in KSCU and requesting a song or two. Maybe something from punkers Jawbreaker, circa 1994.