Sunday, December 10, 2006

BREAKING NEWS: Jaybird Drennan Passes Away

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.

RIP, Jaybird....


Anonymous said...

when i went to the hall of fame dinners in akron...jaybird ws the emcee.

i always thought that if you ever wanted to know what it was like to be announced to saint peter at the pearly gates...all you'd have to do is listen to how jaybird would introduce the inductees...

r.i.p jaybird.....

Mike YOUNG said...

My prayers are with Jaybirds family and friends and how true the article that OMW wrote such a beloved and respected man. Jaybird was for country what Bill Randle was for WRMR radio,Jaybird joins the legends havin' I'm sure a grand old time up in Heaven. Jaybird your legacy that you left behind will continue at WQMX under Nick Anthony and Sue Wilson. Jaybird rest in peace and thank-you for the wonderful things you did at WHISTLER and for the community.

Tim Lones said...

Although I wasnt a country music fan till just the last 10-15 years or so, I loved hearing Jaybird's voice and listening to the classic Saturday Show. I was privileged to be at a Southern Gospel Concert at Canton's Palace Theater at which he was the emcee..He was a really classy gentleman who you could tell loved Country and even Gospel Music.

Another note:I found a couple of Record albums in a Canton Thrift shop that Jaybird recorded, one with the Cathedral Quartet and one by himself..appearently in the early 1970's. He will be sorely missed..Prayers going out to his family.

Anonymous said...

That's terrible. However, I thought this post was originally about "Jailbird Drennan."

Anonymous said...

Jaybird Drennan was indeed a very talented on air Akron area radio personality, who not only showed his talents through his work... but also lived those values....

I was a door-to-door salesman back in the late 70's and I happened to be selling in Jaybird Drennan's neighboorhood (unknown to me- until he came to answer the door)...

He had some family and friends over his house that evening for a pizza party... Jaybird Drennan didn't know me at all... and I only knew him from his radio show....still he invited me in for some pizza and to meet his family and friends. He purchased something from me.

Jaybird Drennan in my book was a man who not only talked the talk... He walked the walk. My prayers are also with Jaybird Drennan's family...

Anonymous said...

This is truly sad. Jaybird was one of the finest men I have ever met! He was a class act all the way. He never had a discouraging word for anyone! Years after I left WKDD I would run into Jay and it was like I was his long lost friend. AND that booming voice......there will never be another one like him. Radio no wait....humanity has truly has suffered a great loss today. So long old friend.

Tom Sullivan

Anonymous said...

After listening to him for many years, I met Jaybird in the mid-70's at the old WSLR storefront studios in Five Points, when the station was still owned by Welcome Radio.
I can only add to the previous comments that he was a true gentleman and a gentle man. Meeting him was the country equivalent of meeting an Alan Freed or Bill Randle.
Our prayers are with him and his family.
Perhaps someone knows of a link or a website that might have one of his airchecks on it, so those who never had the chance could hear how good he was.
He will be missed.

Anonymous said...

I have to concur that I also read that headline the first time as...Jailbird Drennan and thought it was Bruce!

Ed Richards said...

I am sorry to hear this. Jay was a total class act and I feel fortunate to have known him. I almost went to work for Jay as his newsguy when Howard Burlingame retired back in 74 or 75. I recall WSLR was owned by Plough Broadcasting back then and boy, were they cheap. We talked a lot and Jay was pitching for me but couldn't come to terms with Plough. I will always remember him as an almost fatherly type with style and class...And oh, those pipes!

74WIXYgrad said...

Jaybird was one of a dying breed of radio personalities who could hold an audiences attention by himself and did not need a "morning zoo". He could get by with telling "corny" jokes and did not need blue humor.

Rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

I had the good fortune to work with Jay Drennen in 1968 when WSLR was at Main & Mill Streets. I hadn't seen him again until one month ago, and he still remembered my face. He spoke to me first, and made me feel like the most important person in the world, just as he did when he mentored me almost 40 years ago. I'll always look up to him. He really is as great as everybody says.
Larry Rehman

Anonymous said...

I was lucky to have to honor of working with Jaybird and he taught me that's it's not about listening to your own voice in your headphones (he didn't wear any) or doing stunts; instead it's about building a relationship with your listener and telling a good story. Thank you Jay.

Randy Richter said...

Jaybird's kindness will always hold a warm place in my memories.
When I was 15, my father passed away.
Jay heard (through a mutual family friend) that I was interested in a Broadcasting Career, and invited me to join him, during his show!
That helped ease some of the hurt I was experiencing.
Several yeasrs later, I actually did On-Air week-ends and fill-ins at WSLR!!
Jaybird was a real inspiration! I learned more from him, than I ever did in school!! ("Hand gestures help your delivery!")
I wound-up doing the the Morning Drive, and producing commercials (among other things), at WTOF-AM, in Canton!!
Everything that has been my priviledge and honor to be a part of, is connected to that invitation, to a lonely 15 year old, back in 1971!
I will always remember Jay's smiling trademark "Howdy, Partner!", or "Mercy!!". And who could forget, "Well, that's as funny as that's gonna get!!".
Well, Jay, I leave you with what has become my tag-line, over the years:
"Get out there and make it a Great day Today! Good Lord bless you, real big! And... Sunshine To Ya!"
You did... He has... And it always will!!!

Anonymous said...

Jaybird Drennan - I will never forget your annual hosting of the Akron Derbytown Chorus' Parade of Quartets, at the Akron Civic Theatre. I am convinced that the audience came to hear you more than the quartets and chorus. I will also never forget how during one of those performance rehearsals you introduced yourself to me as "Jay Drennan", with that signature, velvety smooth voice, and were just as down to earth, and friendly as any man can be. The show won't be the same without you. My sympathy to your lovely spouse and family. You are, and will always be missed.
AC Fraley, Akron

kougarkar said...

So many memories of waking up and hearing Jaybird doing his morning show on WSLR-1350 a.m. The constant request for music and his knowledge and friendship with so many country western artist. Jaybird sipping his coffee and trying to get everyone up and going for the day is something I will never forget. We love you Jaybird!! We always will. Your style and grace and fun with radio and taking calls was awesome. Something that is now long gone with the older music. All the legends from country western music when I was growing up in the 60-70's and hearing Jaybirds stories of meeting or talking with them is also such a wonderful memory. Going to remote that he was at and going to see him one time in person at the radio station was a dream come true. Oh, Jaybird how sad to here of your passing with that wonderful voice both in announcing and singing. Rest in peace my friend. A totally unforgettable man Say hey to all those country western stars that we all so admired and you'd play for us as a request that no other station would play. Thanks Jaybird. Thanks Partner. You truly were the best dj. And never to be forgotten!! :)
Kim Sanducci