Iconic country music radio personality "Jaybird" Drennan passed away Sunday afternoon at the age of 78. AkronNewsNow, the news website operated by Rubber City Radio (owner of country WQMX/94.9) has more here.
Jaybird collapsed in front of a local store last week, and was in a coma until his passing.
For decades, Jaybird Drennan was synonymous with country music radio in Akron, if not most of Northeast Ohio.
His signature "Howdy, Partner" graced the airwaves for 27 years on Akron country outlet WSLR/1350, which was universally known as "Whistler". And in the years when Cleveland listeners had no access to country music on the radio, he served audiences in that market as well.
Jaybird did country music on AM radio well into the 1990's. He retired from his morning drive show in the mid-1990's, and continued for another year or so with a Saturday morning "classic country" show...until then-WSLR owner Barnstable converted 1350 to satellite-fed urban AC music as WTOU "The Touch".
Though the station is now today's liberal talk WARF, owned by Clear Channel, Rubber City Radio had a long-time connection with "Jaybird" due to the company's operation of a country FM station.
As such, Rubber City VP Nick Anthony calls the man known only on his birth certificate as Jerry William Drennan a "giant" in the industry, and says Jaybird had "a giant heart" as well.
Former WQMX programmer Kevin Mason, now working for Nashville's Rust Records, tells AkronNewsNow that Jaybird was "the essence of professionalism and dedication," and says "his impact on not only Akron radio but country radio was a real testament not only to broadcasting but also his humanity."
And Anthony and Mason, who say one of their "proudest moments" was when Jaybird was inducted into the Country Radio Broadcasters DJ Hall of Fame in 2004, placed a memory of him at the Akron Radio Center.
Rubber City news director Ed Esposito tells OMW that "a plaque commemorating Jaybird sits right outside the control room window at WQMX as a constant reminder to our staff of the contributions Jaybird made not only to the industry, but also to the community we call home."
And OMW hears that even now, a picture of Jaybird with a star graces the walls of Clear Channel's Akron/Canton HQ on Freedom Avenue in Jackson Township...a full 10 years after the end of the WSLR country format, when the company didn't even own the station.
The station which once broadcast Jaybird's golden tones, as mentioned, is now talk WARF/1350 "Radio Free Ohio". They've put up a tribute page to Jaybird here.
You might have to be of a certain age to really appreciate what Jaybird did in this region. Your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) isn't really a country music listener, but even we would check in with Jaybird from time to time just to hear "that" voice.
We missed most of Jaybird's years on Whistler. By the time we caught up with him, WSLR was in its final years as a country outlet.
But talented broadcasters don't fade away. To the end, Jaybird did voice work for radio clients. We heard a spot just a month or two back for a center catering to seniors.