Remembering My Beloved Friend, “Jolly” Jerry Boulding, also known as “The Doctor of Radio”
“Jolly” Jerry Boulding, also known as “The Doctor of Radio”, was a radio industry pioneer who developed the country’s first urban format for satellite delivery called “Heart & Soul.” As a program director, Boulding has programmed 16 radio stations in over 6 major markets throughout the country.
After growing up in Beaver Falls, Penn., Boulding got his start at WILY in Pittsburgh. By the time he joined WOL in Washington, D.C., he began using the air name “Jolly Jerry B.” His success there led to a series of programming jobs across the country and to another nickname:
"Over the course of his career, Jerry picked up the nickname "The Doctor of Radio" -- because he always made the ratings better, and healed sick stations."
Boulding made black radio thrive during a time when white stations were the only ones to play blues and soul. He brought life and flavor to Chicago’s WVON radio station in 1977 when he hired a young 20-something-year-old disc jockey named Tom Joyner. By giving Joyner a chance, Boulding set the stage for his multi-million dollar empire, reaching millions on the radio today.
Boulding remembered being told that he didn’t sound black. His response, “What is black supposed to sound like?”
Interested in the other side of music, Boulding accepted an offer to head the Black Music Division at MCA records. In the book “Turn It Up, American Radio Tales 1946-1966″ by Bob Shannon, Boulding said, “I believe in what radio is, and what I know it can be.”
“The white guys taught us formatics, but we taught them hipness,” Boulding told Bob Shannon, author of Turn It Up! American Radio Tales 1946-1996. “Beyond the music, it was the hipness that a lot of white folks came to black radio to hear.”
Chicago programming guru Jim Smith said Boulding was a pioneer at taking Top 40 concepts and applying them successfully to black radio. Jerry was a man who was one the greatest pioneers in both Urban & American Radio Broadcast.
Ike and Tina Turner with Jerry Boulding
The Ike & Tina Turner Revue
WWRL station in New York City
Boulding, who initially made great strides in radio programming in the late 1960’s and 70’s, saw radio transform with the changing civil times of America. The music and commentary on the air reflected the changing climate of the black community and the struggle for equality and civil rights.
Jerry Boulding co-founded, Black Radio Exclusive and later founded Urban Network Magazine, a Los Angeles-based urban media company with two online radio shows, and served as Senior Vice President of Entertainment Programming for American Urban Radio Networks.
As I reflect back and as I write this in 2021, we saw the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 remind us that we still have a lot to learn. The terms "urban" and "Black Music Division" that Jerry headed at MCA Records are no longer terms that are used today. Industry executives railed against those words which are born out of racial stereotyping of black communities.
Living Legends Foundation, a charity Boulding co-founded to recognize and honor music and radio industry professionals.
I had the immeasurable pleasure of working with Jerry at All Access in Malibu, California. At that time, Jerry also continued his consultancy specializing in network syndication and ratings analysis for major market stations including KJLH/Los Angeles.
At 75 years young, following a short term illness, my beloved friend, Jerry Boulding passed away in Westwood, California on Thanksgiving evening, November 28, 2013.
Jerry's beloved wife, Maggie remarked, "Jerry was a very special man. We've always known that, but we really found out when Jerry became ill. So many folks spoke of him as their mentor. The outpouring of support was amazing."
I remember that Thanksgiving Day so vividly. I was with my parents and brother in Massachusetts at my brother's in laws house, when I got the text from my boss telling me about Jerry. I could not stop crying. Jerry was just one of those amazing people that if you are lucky enough to meet in this lifetime, you should without a doubt consider yourself blessed.
I felt blessed to be with my parents, brother and nephew on Thanksgiving and yet at the same time, Jerry's passing truly tore me apart. I cannot for the life of me hold in my emotions and all I wanted to do that day was be upstairs and just think about Jerry and remember all the amazing times we shared together. I took some time to myself in the guest room upstairs for a bit, but that day, all I could think about was Jerry.....his smile, his voice and his sunshine ray of light personality.
Jerry was always inquisitive about what I was working on as he saw my passion for interviewing music artists and we would swap all kinds of stories and he would give me invaluable pointers and feedback. Jerry always took the time everyday to ask me about myself, my family......life. And I in turn, would ask him about....life. He was always sharing so many wonderful stories about himself, his son, Aaron his granddaughter, Sage and his lovely wife, Maggie. When he talked about them, his face and smile would shine even brighter than it already did.
When I returned back to Los Angeles from the Thanksgiving holiday the reality of not seeing Jerry's face began to really set in. A few months later on January 10, 2014, my co-workers and I went to West Angeles Church of God In Christ on Crenshaw Blvd. in Los Angeles. I sat at Jerry's Celebration of Life service next to my co-worker, Matt who was nice enough to let me have all his tissues. All of a sudden, he nudged me on the shoulder.
He gently whispered something....."What?," I whispered..."It's Stevie," he said. I looked up, puffy eyes and all, squinting my eyes to see a man being walked down the aisle. It was Stevie Wonder paying his respects to Jerry.