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The Power of Asking for Help featuring Little Tommy Sablan (DH 013)

The Power of Asking for Help featuring Little Tommy Sablan

Early on, Tommy Sablan learned the power of asking for help.

During his senior year of high school in 1982, Tommy was spotted by a counselor as he was about to skip school. The counselor asked him to stay instead and listen to a talk about the radio industry by Jonathan Lang.

After jumping at a chance to answer music trivia questions during the career talk, Tommy Sablan got an invite to the KBEST 95 station the next day. It was just the help he needed to be pointed toward his destiny.

The future radio producer was born and raised in Chula Vista by his mother. Going to a radio station seemed like a huge deal for him at that age.

Shawn Walchef talks to Tommy Sablan“I was just a poor kid from Chula Vista. I remember my mom drove me in a 1977 Ford Maverick and took me to the radio station. I got a tour and I’ve been there ever since,” Tommy Sablan said on the Digital Hospitality podcast about getting a boost of help at the start of his career.

It was a big break that came because others were looking out for him and inspired him to be his best.

“They gave a kid a break.”
Tommy Sablan, Allie Wagner, and Shawn Walchef during Breaking and Entering Christmas 2019

A Hall of Fame Producer and Person

The media producer and San Diego radio legend is someone we feel like we’ve known a decade, even though it’s only been a year since we first met Tommy Sablan at KUSI. In no short time he became a part of our extended Cali BBQ Media family.

The KUSI and iHeartRadio producer has a long history in media, and the accolades to show for it.

“Little Tommy” was the first producer inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame, for example. That’s a feat that only about 300 other industry personalities have accomplished.

“First and only. And radio’s been on for a very long time, from Bob Hope to Red Buttons to Burns and Allen to Casey Kasem,” Tommy said on Digital Hospitality. “I say that with lots of pride.”

Tommy Sablan was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2016 for his work as an on-air producer on the Jeff and Jer Show. He first started on that program in 1988.

Tommy is now in an elite class of radio legends, including Howard Stern and Rick Dees.

He currently produces the Coe Lewis show, which airs from 3-7 p.m. on 101.5 KGB in San Diego.

“The reason why the Jeff and Jer Show was so successful was our relationship with listeners,” Tommy Sablan told Shawn Walchef on Digital Hospitality. “Everything we are known for, everything people think of us for, it was listener related.”

Breaking and Entering Christmas 2019 was a big success and helped a family in needTommy’s career is inspiring, not just for what he’s accomplished in the industry, but because he’s used his platforms to help others.

For example: In only three hours, the Jeff and Jer morning show raised $1 million for the Red Cross to help fire victims.

That’s just one of so many different ways that Tommy has tried to help others.
Tommy Sablan is interviewed on KUSI during Breaking and Entering Christmas 2019

Breaking and Entering Christmas

Each year, his Breaking and Entering Christmas campaign helps a family in need during the holiday season.

Cali BBQ was happy to help his efforts by providing our slow-smoked barbecue for the gathering of goodwill during Breaking and Entering Christmas 2019.

It was an emotional and impactful December morning. Watching Tommy Sablan orchestrate it all was beautiful and inspiring.

Tommy Sablan also gives back to others by sharing stories of his family’s past to help kids at Juvenile Hall, people in prison, and more.

“Yes, my brothers were heroin addicts and they got strung out on heroin, but they were good people. And that’s the message I tell, and that’s why I’m believed when I talk to kids at juvie or families,” Tommy Sablan said.

The struggles of addiction touch most everyone in some way. Tommy himself is 12 years clean, which he discusses on Digital Hospitality.

“I’ve been there and I’ve seen it. … It’s not their fault that addiction from heroin, from that opiate, got to their soul.”
Tommy Sablan being interviewed on Digital Hospitality podcast

Old Media meets New Media

The Tommy Sablan Digital Hospitality episode was recorded from the iHeartRadio studios in San Diego. It was old media meets new media as we recorded our podcast and YouTube show from the iHeart media group’s studio.

Tommy Sablan has seen a lot of change in the broadcasting industry during his decades working in it. Nowadays the definitions of what it means to be a journalist, broadcaster, and entertainer are blurred. That’s why Cali BBQ Media exists and why Tommy knows that broadcasting is not dead, just evolving.

Cali BBQ has a long history with the iHeartRadio studios. The building is where we began our media career, so to speak.

The Cali Comfort BBQ team first started visiting what was then Clear Channel’s Rock 105.3 to do radio promotions with The Mikey Show, hosted by Mikey Esparza.

Being a BBQ Media company means we’ve gotten to meet, and learn from, many talented people in the media industry. We’re constantly impressed by the work that Tommy has done, and continues to do, as a radio and television producer and all-around great human being.

“I’ve been in San Diego all my life. I was on a morning radio show for just about 30 years, the Jeff and Jer Show, and we made it in the Hall of Fame, yes. But it has also given me the wisdom and the relationships to be able to book guests…” Tommy Sablan said about his experience.

Shawn Walchef interviews Tommy Sablan on the Cali BBQ Media podcast, Digital HospitalityAs with many things, being a good producer often comes down to building connections with others.

“It’s because of relationships. To be a successful business it is about relationships,” Tommy Sablan said. “For any business, for any company, you can be a success if you just build those relationships.”

Tommy Sablan wants his legacy to be that of continued goodwill.

“I want my kids to carry on Breaking and Entering Christmas. I want my kids and granddaughter to understand the things that I have been involved with and got lucky to be involved with, from Beckys House, to Breaking and Entering Christmas, to talking to kids. And I think my kids will carry on,” Tommy Sablan said.

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Thank you for watching and listening to Digital Hospitality, a Cali BBQ Media production. If you would like help on your own digital evolution, please get in touch with us by emailing

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