Tom Joyner signed off from his nationally syndicated radio show for a final time on Friday (Dec. 13). For the last 25 years, The Tom Joyner Morning Show has entertained and informed listeners with a mixture of music, commentary, comedians, celebrity interviews and more.
Joyner’s intention with his show has been to empower and entertain, he said in an interview with CBS News. “Our thing has always been to empower people. But to empower, we have to first entertain. If I’ve got you laughing, I’ve got you listening.”
The Tom Joyner Morning Show, which debuted in 1994, is the top rated urban radio program in the nation, airing in 105 markets nationwide, with eight million daily listeners. Joyner, who became the first black radio personality to land a syndicated radio show, credits his success with “super-serving” the black community.
“Don’t worry about crossover,” said Joyner. “Just super serve, super serve, super serve. Anything that affects African Americans, that’s what you do. Just worry about connecting to people and their needs.”
A native of Tuskegee, Ala., and graduate of Tuskegee University, Joyner got his start in college radio. Having grown up in a town centered in the civil rights movement, Joyner didn’t hesitate to protest the lack of black artists receiving radio play, and doing so landed him a job.
“So I’m out there protesting the fact our radio station in this all-black town didn’t play any black music,” he recalled. “And this guy who owned the radio station, which was inside a Ford dealership, came out and said, ‘I don’t need this. I’m trying to really sell some cars.’ Tell you what, it’s a sun up, sun down station, every Saturday, I’ll let one of you play all the Aretha and The Temptations that you want.”
After college, Joyner jumped from different radio stations around the South and Midwest, one of which was owned by Ebony and Jet magazine owner, John H. Johnson. In the mid-80s, Joyner held down jobs in Chicago and Dallas, which earned him the nickname “Fly Jock.”
Joyner made $14 million a year at the height of his radio career, though his salary began to drop. “It got to a point where they would – ‘All right, we’re gonna cut your salary in half.’ ‘Okay.’ ‘And then in half.’ ‘Okay.’ And then in half two years ago,” Joyner said. “Because my salary was based on my results, and not only was I losing affiliates but radio industry as a whole was losing traction.”
When asked if he would have stayed in radio for a higher paycheck he replied with a laugh, “Heck yeah. Shoot, my goal was to die on the radio. Have my funeral on the radio.”
Watch Joyner’s full interview in the video below.