TIR 75: J.J. Johnson Tells How KDAY Became the Vanguard of Black Radio in L.A.


Brought to you by FUNKNSTUFF.NET and hosted by Scott Goldfine — musicologist and author of “Everything Is on THE ONE: The First Guide of Funk” ― “TRUTH IN RHYTHM” is the interview show that gets DEEP into the pocket with contemporary music’s foremost masters of the groove.

Featured in TIR Episode 75 (2 Parts): An icon of funk, soul and hip-hop radio, on-air personality extraordinaire J.J. Johnson. First taking to the airwaves as a teenager in January 1968 at WABQ Cleveland, he then moved to KYOK Houston the following year. In 1971, Johnson was hired at WGRT/Chicago and later that year moved to San Francisco for a position with KFRC. After being promoted to program director at KFRC in 1973, in 1974 he was then hired by 1580 KDAY in Los Angeles. It was there with L.A.’s most prominent and progressive R&B/black/urban radio that he really built his legend, spending the better part of 17 years with the station.

For some two decades, KDAY’s ear-to-the-street music rotation defined Southern California R&B, funk and rap sensibilities, and its character and assortment of characters reflected the community and its mindset. In the 1970s, if you were within its signal footprint and were into funk, you kept your dial glued to 1580, and same goes for the 1980s if rap was your thing. Jackson also worked at other leading L.A. area stations, including KMPC, KJLH and KACE. His extensive credits as an announcer also include the radio special “The Music of Black America,” the “Budweiser Concert Hour,” 30 years with Motown including the Emmy-winning “Motown 25,” he was the segment announcer for “Real TV with Ahmad Rashad” and appeared as a ringside sports announcer in the movie “Penitentiary III.”

During his illustrious career, Johnson has had the pleasure of meeting various celebrities and icons in entertainment, for instance Marvin Gaye, Barry White, Marilyn McCoo, Albert King; Kool & the Gang; George Clinton; Patti LaBelle, Al Green; Al Jarreau; Babyface; the Jackson 5 and dozens more. In 2017, his book, Aircheck: Life in Music Radio, was made a part of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s permanent library and archives collection.

TRUTH IN RHYTHM speaks to Johnson about his rise within the radio industry, how the business has changed over time, his remarkable run at the equally remarkable KDAY, memories forever etched into his mind and what’s next for him. Keep that dial where it is for a fantastic journey through the 1960s, 70s, 80s and beyond — when radio ruled the music world — courtesy of the great J.J. Johnson.

Recorded December 2018