Jay Thomas passes
Most people know Jay Thomas as an accomplished actor, with roles on such shows as Mork and Mindy, Cheers, Murphy Brown, and more. But I know him as the second morning man on Power 106 (KPRW, 105.9 FM), replacing Tommy Jaxson and Deborah Rath in October, 1986 … nine months after the initial dance/top-40 format made it’s debut on the station.
Born Jon Thomas Terrell, Thomas died of cancer on August 24th; he is survived by his wife and three sons.
He began his radio career as a sports announcer for high school football and college basketball in Charlotte, North Carolina. His career goal was to be a stand-up comic, which he accomplished while he stayed on the radio in addition to his appearances on television.
By the time he arrived at Power 106, he had a solid resume. The combination of acting, DJing and comedy made him a perfect choice for Power, as the station looked for someone to take on perennial morning leader Rick Dees who seemed unstoppable at competitor KIIS (102.7 FM).
Through a combination of mis-steps by KIIS and momentum of the new format at Power, it worked. Thomas was the first person to knock Dees out of 1st place since Dees started dominating in 1983.
Thomas left the station in 1993 when management took Power into a different direction, replacing dance with rap. He continued with acting, but until his death was still connected with radio most recently through an uncensored talk program on SiriusXM.
Andy Barber — that is his real name — grew up with radio heroes like The Real Don Steele, Robert W. Morgan and stations like the original KRLA (now KRDC, 1110 AM), KHJ (930 AM), KFWB (980 AM), listening from his home in the Los Angeles area as he studied to become an actor.
Acting never really happened, but he got hooked on radio, working his way to Los Angeles on the AM top-40 version of KROQ (1500 AM, now off the air) in the mid 1970s where he worked with one of his boyhood heroes, Charlie Tuna, and later at high-energy Ten-Q (KTNQ, 1020 AM) where he worked with another, Steele.
Steele, in fact, brought him his biggest thrill on the air when introducing him for the first time on Ten-Q. “He said, ‘and now on the air from Glendale, California, Little Andy Barber … a-ha Andy, I have a connection … he’s on Ten-Q!’
“I about peed my pants. He called my Dad to find out any idiosyncrasies and my Dad said ‘yeah he used to be called Little Andy.’ He used that and I was more shocked that he knew that than he was actually introducing me next.”
Interestingly, while he grew up locally, outside of KROQ, Ten-Q and later K-WEST (now KPWR), he’s spent most of his career outside of Los Angeles. “I always wanted to make it to LA; when I finally did, it just wasn’t like the other cities,” he explained. “It’s as different vibe.” He’s been in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the past 24 years and loving it.
Barber began his 50th anniversary on the radio airwaves last month Tulsa, still sounding great. You can hear him via his current station stream at www.929thedrive.com; if you want to hear the interview I (and Mike Stark) did with Barber, head over to LARadioWaves.Com and look for podcast #185.
Our own Woody Show, heard mornings locally on Alt 98.7 FM, has expanded to Portland Oregon via Alt 102.3 (KKRZ-HD2) … a secondary HD channel receivable on digital HD radios.
I’m not sure which is the bigger news — Woody syndicating in Portland or a major station using the secondary channel to run a viable format. Are the major broadcasters finally taking note of the success broadcasters like Saul Levine have had with HD streams? Could more interesting formats be moving to HD? Or is this just a blip? Time will tell.