John spent more than forty years in commercial radio, mostly in New York City at all three major networks as a news correspondent. But he began his radio career in Tampa in 1955, first at WHBO, a country station, and then at the “good music” station WPKM-FM.
He remembers WPKM’s owners, Frank and Eloise Knorr, as true professionals and a class act. When he landed a job at the Tampa Daily Times’ CBS affiliate, WDAE AM/FM in 1956, the Knorrs took him out to dinner to celebrate after he turned in his notice. While at WDAE, his job was control room operator for morning drive’s ‘Salty’ Sol Fleishman, who also did a fishing show.
One morning staff announcer Mark Swingley told John that a new man, Pat Chamburs, would be taking over mornings, and he was thrilled beyond measure because he had listened to his idol, Chamburs, for years on WFLA. He also recalls WDAE’s PD and afternoon drive voice, Vince Meloy, hired Bob Hoffer from St. Pete’s WTSP for afternoons at about the same time. Chamburs eventually put the young broadcaster on his show doing weather and other features, and was instrumental in getting him a weekend jazz show on the station.
After a few formative years at WDAE, the Tampa native left for New York around 1958 and settled on Long Island where he became morning drive host at WBAB AM/FM, Babylon, and then morning drive host at WGBB in Freeport. Neither station exists today. After about 15 years at the local radio level, he moved on to New York City and joined ABC Radio as a news correspondent, then NBC as a correspondent on “Monitor,” the network’s weekend news service, and on to CBS. During his time with NBC, he was also assigned to the network’s flagship station, WNBC, where he became the first news anchor for Don Imus. At CBS in 1980, he broke the story of the murder of the Beatles’ John Lennon.
In 1991, after more than 25 years as a network news correspondent, John retired from commercial radio about the time General Electric sold NBC Radio to Westwood One. Today (2013), he hosts “The Jazz Café” on New York’s WRHU-FM (the Hofstra University radio station on Long Island) Monday afternoons from 1pm to 4pm (WRHU can be heard online at wrhu.org). He is the author of "Kickers," "All The News That Didn’t Fit," and a novel, "Abracadabra, You’re Dead" and has written numerous articles and humor columns for national magazines and newspapers. He’s a magician, a member and former president of the NYC chapter of the Society of American Magicians, and a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.
Reflecting on the old days, he says he doesn’t think he would have been as successful in the business without his time spent at WDAE, particularly with Pat Chamburs. He has many fond memories of the station and, of course, his old hometown, Tampa.
John passed away at the age of 81.
1955 - 1958 Other Tampa Bay Area Stations (On Air Personality)