“Jolly” Jerry Boulding, also known as “The Doctor of Radio”, was a radio industry pioneer who started the country’s first urban format for satellite delivery called “Heart & Soul.” As a program director, Boulding has programmed 16 radio stations in over 6 major markets throughout the country.
A former radio personality, Boulding referred to himself as “Jolly Jerry B” while on the air at Washington D.C.’s WOL radio station. Boulding made black radio thrive during a time when white stations were the only ones to play blues and soul. He brought life and flavor to Chicago’s WVON radio station in 1977 when he hired a young 20-something-year-old disc jockey named Tom Joyner. By giving Joyner a chance, Boulding set the stage for his multi-million dollar empire, reaching millions on the radio today.
Raised in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, Boulding started with Pittsburgh’s WILY radio station. Boulding remembered being told that he didn’t sound black. His response, “What is black supposed to sound like?”
Interested in the other side of music, Boulding accepted an offer to head the black music division at MCA records. In the book “Turn It Up, American Radio Tales 1946-1966” by Bob Shannon, Boulding said, “I believe in what radio is, and what I know it can be.”
Boulding, who initially made great strides in radio programming in the late 1960’s and 70’s, saw radio transform with the changing civil times of America. The music and commentary on the air reflected the changing climate of the black community and the struggle for equality and civil rights.
Jerry Boulding later founded Urban Network Magazine, a Los Angeles-based urban media company with two online radio shows, and served as Senior Vice President of Entertainment Programming for American Urban Radio Networks.
At 75 years old, Boulding passed away in Westwood, California on Thanksgiving Day.
Read the full transcript of the Little Known Black History Fact below.
TOM JOYNER: Every day we celebrate a Little Known Black History Fact. And today’s Little Known Black History Fact is about a good friend of mine who died Thanksgiving day. And a Little Known Black History Fact is always presented by McDonald’s, deeply rooted in the community 365 days a year. This is the story of Jerry Boulding.
SYBIL WILKES: The Doctor.
TOM JOYNER: The doctor of radio. A radio industry pioneer who started the country’s first urban format for satellite delivery called Heart and Soul. As a Program Director was Jerry Boulding programmed 16 radio stations in over six major markets throughout the country. A former radio personality Jerry Boulding referred to himself as Jolly Jerry B, while on the air at Washington, D.C.’s WOL and he brought and he brought me to Chicago.
SYBIL WILKES: He did.
TOM JOYNER: And turned my career around. And then we both got fired from the same …
SYBIL WILES: But that was okay, that’s okay.
TOM JOYNER: You want me to tell my, we got …
SYBIL WILKES: Can you tell your story?
TOM JOYNER: It is funny.
SYBIL WILKES: Okay, I would love for everybody to hear this.
TOM JOYNER: Okay, so we had WVON, and Jerry hired me from Texas to come to WVON and replace a legend. Do you remember the Soul Train announcer goes, in a real high pitched voice, it’s The Souuuul Train?
SYBIL WILKES: Yeah.
TOM JOYNER: His name’s Joe Cobb. Jumping Joe Cobb. And Joe Cobb, I was replacing Joe Cobb.
SYBIL WILKES: And that’s what people in Chicago were saying too.
TOM JOYNER: Yeah, right. It was a big, it was a big step. Well, everything was going along well and then the station got sold. And when the station got sold they fired everybody. Everybody. Everybody. One of the legends was E. Rodney Jones.
SYBIL WILKES: Rodney Jones.
TOM JOYNER: E. Rodney Jones. He had a big bass voice, like that.
SYBIL WILKES: Uh-huh?
TOM JOYNER: And he was like the station manager and Jerry was the program director. They fired me and I went to Rodney, I said; “Rodney, they fired me.” “Oh, yeah, Youngblood? They fired you?” And then here comes Jerry. “Rodney, Rodney, Rodney, they fired the doctor. They fired the doctor of radio. I had the patient on the operating table, I had him open, wasn’t even using anesthesia. And they fired me.” “They did? Wait a minute.”
SYBIL WILKES: He got on …
TOM JOYNER: (Mocks dialing a phone with a rotary dial)
SYBIL WILKES: That was a phone with a rotary dial.
TOM JOYNER: (Mocks dialing a phone with a rotary dial). “Velma? Yeah, is he up there? Tell him I’m coming up.”
SYBIL WILKES: Okay, so things are gonna happen now.
J. ANTHONY BROWN: Now who’s up there? Who’s he gonna talk to.
TOM JOYNER: The man who’s firing everybody.
SYBIL WILKES: The new manager.
TOM JOYNER: The new manager of the station, he’s firing everybody. “Velma, I’m coming up.”
SYBIL WILKES: So?
TOM JOYNER: So while we waiting on Rodney to come back, Jerry’s just pacing. “They fired me, Tom. They fired me. I’m the Doctor. The Doctor of radio. I had the patient on the operating table. Wide open, no anesthesia.” And he’s just pacing. And Rodney comes back in the room. “Rodney, Rodney, Rodney, what happened?”
SYBIL WILKES: And he said?
TOM JOYNER: “They fired me too, Jerry.” (Laughter)
SYBIL WILKES: Oh, my gosh.
TOM JOYNER: Yeah. WVON.
SYBIL WILKES: The voice of the negro. And the unemployed negro.
J. ANTHONY BROWN: Yeah
TOM JOYNER: “Rodney, Rodney, what happened? He fired me too.” (Laughter)
SYBIL WILKES: The great Jerry Boulding.
TOM JOYNER: He died Thanksgiving Day.
SYBIL WILKES: What a man.
TOM JOYNER: Yeah, turned my career around.
SYBIL WILKES: Wow.
TOM JOYNER: And I thank you, Jerry. God bless.
SYBIL WILKES: God bless you.
TOM JOYNER: Yeah. A Little Known Black History Fact, always presented by McDonald’s. McDonald’s, deeply rooted in the community 365 days a year.