Past & Present RJR Crew: In Their Own Words

In order to get the slightest inclination into the history of Jamaica post 1962 there is no more a reliable source than the island’s local radio stations.

So it is welcoming to our ears that Radio Jamaica’s Beyond The Headlines has a segment on Friday evenings (6 05pmish) where host Dionne Jackson-Miller interviews current and former staff of RJR (now known as Radio Jamaica) who have worked for this influential radio station that started operations in the 1950s.

Over the past 12+ months listeners have heard Jackson-Miller interview a raft of journalist and broadcasters including Emily Shields, Cliff Hughes, Winston Williams, Erica Allen, Francois St Juste, Patrick Anderson, Dadrian Gordon, Lance Whittaker, Ed Barnes, Alan Magnus, Barry “The Boogie Man”  Gordon and numerous others including Marie Garth, a voice many of us transistorites had not heard on Jamaican radio-land since the early 1980s.

These 40+ minute interviews provide the listeners with a rare insight into how Jackson-Miller’s guests were initially hired by RJR – some applied, some were headhunted after leaving CARIMAC (University of the West Indies), some through word of mouth and another said she contacted RJR and told management that she had something that the company needed.

We also learn how these journalists/presenters honed their journalistic craft, developed a real passion for excellence and a love for their work and colleagues.

One of the consistent themes made by all of Jackson-Miller’s guest is the appreciation and support they received from many unsung heroes at RJR in  background  whether it be management, production or engineering e.g. Holford “Hol” Plummer, Jennifer Delisser-Lyons, Janette Mowatt, Courtney Sergeant and Dorothy “Dotty Dean” LaCroix.

We also learn from Jackson-Miller’s guests about some of the legendary colleagues that influenced their time at RJR; some of whom sadly are no longer with us today such as Uncle Neville Willoughby, Dorraine Samuels and the irreplaceable Hugh Crosskill Jr.

Jackson-Miller’s interviews with Cliff Hughes and Winston “The Whip” Williams were two of my favourites.

Hughes has a way with words and its delivery that made his conversation with Jackson-Miller  compelling listening such as his description of a near death experience during his coverage of Hurricane Gilbert (1988) with 3 other colleagues.

I did not know that it was Hughes – when at the publicly funded Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) – that first commissioned Entertainment Report/ER  3 decades ago as a 5-minute programme  presented by Anthony Miller. Today, ER (now 45 minutes) is required Friday night TV viewing by many with Miller still in the hot seat.

Williams (“Winston from Kingston”) from his early media days in the 1970s and 80s was electrifying backed up by his elocutionary remarks. Williams brought that same vigor and exuberance to his chat with Jackson-Miller. I loved the story of Williams fixing his big afro into perfect position and slapping on some cologne ahead of reading the news – on radio.

These interviews by Jackson-Miller are so essential in capturing the history of Jamaican media from those who were and still at the heart of its development.

For decades Jamaica had 4 radio stations – RJR, RJR-FM, Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) and JBC Radio 2. By the 1990s more stations came on board including Nationwide (launched by Hughes), Klas, Hot 102, Love FM, Kool FM,  Power 106 and IRIE FM.

Today, there are 25-30 radio stations (I’ve lost count) including some that are solely online. Many of the presenters across the current radio stations can trace their media roots and inspiration (directly or indirectly) back to RJR.

There is not a more poignant example of the importance of these interviews than when Jackson-Miller spoke to Michael Sharpe  -who sadly left us earlier this year – especially when Sharpe described detail his trailblazing eyewitness coverage of the US invasion of Grenada (1983).

I am sure there are podcast of these interviews somewhere on Radio Jamaica’s One-Spot Media platform.

Respect to Jackson-Miller for this excellent and very revealing segment.

 RJR 65th Anniversary Magazine – 2015

About africanherbsman1967

Funking all over the globe
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