A Personal Remembrance
By Mike Adams
Jerry Gordon was my long time friend. Jerry died on December 22, 2022. He was 84.
I first met Jerry on the air in Columbus, Ohio, as he prepared to turn over the broadcast studio to the Mike Adams show. He was a brand-new hire, and because we met at the transition from the end of his 10 am-2 pm shift to the beginning of mine, 2 pm-6 pm, I got to know him socially, a life-long friend.
There is a funny story: Jerry was hired over the phone and when he showed up with a beard, the Program Director went into shock, crying out, “We’ve never had an employee with a beard!” What to do? This was 1968. Jerry turned out to be an excellent DJ, so the beard stayed as long as Jerry did.
Seeing this photo of him (above) from 1969, and hearing his stentorian voice, you would identify him as a Greenwich Village Jazz DJ. Jerry was also a biker; I never asked, but he probably never owned a car!
After a few years in Columbus, Jerry moved on, first to WMEX in Boston and then several other gigs in Florida, then Sacramento. Such was the career trajectory for the itinerant radio announcer. Just about the time I left Columbus for Los Angeles, Jerry had landed at KSFO, a truly legendary station.
Jerry did the night shift, introducing old radio shows and Big Band music. I spent some time in the old Fairmont Hotel studio, talking with Jerry about the state of radio. It was a trip through time.
Fast-forward to the end of that format, early 1980s. Seeing the grim future for format radio, I had found a permanent job – radio professor and faculty advisor to the school’s FM station, KSJS at San Jose State University. You could say (and you would be correct) that I was the only tenured AM DJ in the California State University system.
It is now the end of the 1980s. I was at San Jose State, Jerry was Traffic on KGO, a station with a monster signal, south to Mexico, north to Canada. It was on that fateful day, October 17, 1989, that the Loma Prieta earthquake struck. It just so happened that on that day Jerry was in the KGO helicopter flying over the World Series that he suddenly became a live on-the-air news reporter. Jerry and I would come together on KGO to talk on the air about college radio. Being as Jerry was very versatile, he was also a fill-in talk host.
Now for something very different. Here’s an idea: why don’t we get a KGO radio news reporter, put a black bag on his head and put him on Channel 7 as “The Shadow.” He would do movie and event reviews. Jerry had the perfect voice for TV. It was very popular – running on the 5 pm KGO (Channel 7) news from 1984-1988.
In the end, Jerry retired to Las Vegas, bought a retirement house, but continued in radio on K-NEWS until a sale and format change automated it. Jerry was 84 and was preceded by wife Phyllis, son Lee David, and survived by daughter Kasha.
Rest in peace, radio brother.
Mike Adams, who wrote this remembrance, is the Board Chair of the California Historical Radio Society (CHRS) and Professor Emeritus in Radio, Television, and Film at San Jose State University. Among his many accolades for historical radio research and publication, he received the Antique Wireless Association’s Houck Award, the Southern California Historical Radio Society’s President’s Award, the Tube Collectors of America’s Stokes Award, and the Radio Club of America’s Ralph Batcher Award. He was named a CHRS History Fellow, and was inducted into the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2011.
Special thanks to ColumbusMusicHistory.com, which provided the WCOL (Columbus, Ohio) Hitline music survey images from 1968 featuring Jerry Gordon and Mike Adams.
I worked as an intern in the spring of 1983 for Sunday Thompson in the promotions department of KSFO. It was such an honor and privilege to be there before the station was sold. I typed the internal daily newsletter we called “KSFO Today” that on-air personalities would sometimes read to inform the audience about upcoming Oakland A’s game broadcast times, etc. Thanks for this remembrance.
I remember Jerry had to calm down Paula Poundstone and another comedian arguing with each other in the studio. I would listen to Jerry playing comedy records. I can’t remember if it was on KSFO or KGO where his show came from ?
Very sorry to hear of Jerry’s passing, but what a great remembrance from Mike! Although Jerry was humble to a fault, he did tell me once that he was one of the voices of Disneyland or Disneyworld. (“Please stand on yellow line,” or something like that.) He always had a smile on his face and in his voice.