The undisputed king of oldies radio in Hampton Roads "loves the ladies, and the ladies love me."
Robert Jackson, known to listeners as "Bobby Jay," holds forth on his Oldies But Goodies program most evenings on WSVY-FM (105.3) in Norfolk. When Bobby J gets talking, the music takes a back seat. "This is your Bouncing Baby Boy Bobby Jay," he purrs, dishing out sass and sweetness to his female callers.
"Do it, Bobby, do it," they holler back.
Bobby Jay says his role as a communicator, not just a DJ, accounts for his staying power in the changing radio business.
He traces his over-the-top delivery back to his grandfather, a preacher in the small Florida town of Noma, where he was born. His family moved to Portsmouth when he was young, and his first exposure to radio came during his sophomore year at Norcum High School in the 1960s. Then he started working on a Saturday morning radio show hosted by "Daddy Jack" Holmes on the old WRAP-AM (1350).
Geared to high school students, the show was patterned after American Bandstand and played everything from gospel to R&B.; It was a great start for this young radio performer who continued working at the station part-time into the 1980s while supporting himself with sales jobs.
In 1985, Bobby Jay launched his first oldies show Sunday nights on WRAP. He reached back into the 1960s and 1950s, playing the music of Chubby Checker, Al Green and other R&B; artists. It's still the music audience members like to hear when he hosts oldies nights on Spirit of Norfolk cruises and at other locations.
At WSVY, his oldies show has been updated to the music of the '70s and '80s. Bobby Jay has learned to adjust to the times, leaving the programming to the experts who have become an increasing part of the changing radio industry. He won't play "that gross stuff," his definition of rap songs with foul language and sexually explicit lyrics.
WRAP eventually changed formats and was acquired by Willis Broadcasting. But Bobby Jay continued on sister station WSVY-FM until he was let go in 1998 over an undisclosed clash with the station's management. Ironically, he landed a job at WKJX-FM in Elizabeth City, N.C., where he continued to pull in listeners from Hampton Roads.
Bobby Jay says the move was good for him: "It made me strong." The response from listeners in the Elizabeth City area also taught him that his oldies program wasn't just for African-Americans.
"It opened my eyes that my show could be not just for the black brothers and sisters, but for the blue-eyed ones as well," he says.
Two years ago, WSVY management asked him to return. Bobby Jay says his oldies show was reinstated to go head to head with other oldies stations in the market.
Now, the ladies in Hampton Roads can shout, "Do it, Bobby, do it," and Bobby Jay is happy to oblige.
Today's "Staying Tuned" is the last of a five-part summer series profiling disc jockeys whose on-air talent continues to enrich the local radio scene.
ROBERT "BOBBY JAY" JACKSON
Job: Hosts the Oldies But Goodies program on WSVY-FM (105.3), 6 to 9 p.m. weekdays and 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays.
Associate Producer for TJL Productions Doo Wop shows on PBS
Frequent in studio host for Public Broadcasting stations WNET/Channel 13 and WLIW/Channel 21, New York City
Singer/Producer/Actor – Lead appearance in Off-Broadway productions of “Leader of The Pack,” “Just Once,” and "A Christmas Gift For You."
New York Emmy Award winner as co-host of 1987 magazine talk show show “First City” on WNYC-TV, New York
Host of national cable television music and interview show “Heart And Soul”
Narrator of film documentaries “Sweet Talking Guys” Rhino Productions and “Peace Through Understanding-The 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair” BBQ Productions
Made appearances on the “Guiding Light” CBS, “Late Night with David Letterman” NBC, “The Late Show with David Letterman CBS, “Today Show” NBC, “Good Morning America” ABC
1977 Billboard Magazine’s “Major Market Air Personality of the Year”
Taught vocal group harmony at the New School University for Social Research in New York City for 18 years