As we all get older, we reach a stage of life where we start losing friends and family. So it is with one of the best performers the Radio business has ever seen…or heard.
The first time I met John Anthony was on the station request line at WSGN, Birmingham. He was about to finish High School and aching to get on the radio. I was just a couple of years older and had landed in Alabama for my first job outside Florida. Jon would call consistently with an invite to come over and check out his DJ setup at home and after a while, I headed on over to meet him and his family. What I saw was a microphone, turntable and recorder that he would use to practice talk-ups going into songs. After listening to a few of these, I knew he had the passion, love of music and talent to be successful. All he needed was one of those ‘lucky breaks’ we all had at one time or another. I was able to provide that by getting him into a production studio at the station after hours, have him do a pretend radio show and turn it into an audition tape. This was against station policy because the Production Dept was unionized…only Production engineers were allowed to record things and as DJs, we couldn’t even splice tape. The risk was easily worth it and I was happy to see him score his first job just a few weeks later in a small market in Mississippi. He had taken the stage name, Jon Anthony, after a member of Wet Willie, one of our favorite Southern bands. It didn’t take him long to work his way back into Birmingham and just over a year later, Jon and I were together at WSGN. Another year and we would both move on…Jon took a full time position across the street at WERC with Scott Shannon, I headed to St. Louis for more money and better opportunities. Jon and I had no idea we would work for the same company again and even wind up competing with each other down the road.
In the 70s and 80s, there was a ‘Southern Invasion’ of the radio biz by people who had their roots in the South. This was where the new, young and exciting programming and air talent was coming from, bringing an energetic, non-conventional presentation to the larger, more competitive cities around the country. This feeding ground produced some really legendary names like Mason Dixon, Scott Shannon, Bill Tanner, Rick Dees, Jay Thomas (Mork and Mindy), Bob Pittman (main founder of MTV), Gerry Peterson (The Mississippi Hippie) and many others. Jon and I both rode that wave into larger markets and found ourselves in the Midwest, working for great radio stations just 2-3 years after Birmingham. Below is a pic taken when Jon Anthony came to visit us at KSLQ, St. Louis, circa 1975. He was working for the same company at legendary sister station, WOKY in Milwaukee. (L – R, JoJo Kincaid, Jon Anthony, front: The Boogie Man and Screamin’ Jay (Phil) Hawkins)
Jon went on to work at several industry giants including WAVA, Wash., DC, WZGC, Atlanta and by the mid 80s, was with WZOU, Boston, directly against me at KISS-108. Indeed, he had come full circle, competing with his mentor in a top 10 market. I was so proud and happy for him and of course, it was great to see Jon Rock and Roll around town for seafood and listening to aircheck recordings of us and others, just like we used to do back in the Alabama days.
Next, Jon Anthony and I would work for the same company yet again. After Boston, Jon headed to Q105/Tampa Bay and I went westward to help start up a brand new sister station to Q105, San Diego’s Q106. Below, pics of Jon in Tampa with the Q105 All Star Band. He had been a great drummer from a very early age.
Jon made Tampa his permanent, long time home, starting his family and forming a high velocity production company. He spent time with WFLZ on air and as their Production Director for over a decade, finally dedicating himself to his company and family in Valrico around 2000. In the Fall of 2008, I left California and came back home to Fla after 35 years to be close to my mom in Gainesville, who had come down with 2 forms of cancer. After joining Q105, I spent my first Christmas in Tampa Bay with Jon and family.
Jon Anthony was incredible at collecting Rock and Roll memorabilia. Videos, pictures and audio recordings filled his home studio and when Michael Jackson passed away in 2009, Jon’s place was the perfect destination for the local news media. He was included in the lead story that night on Channel 8.
On the evening of December 30, Jon Rock and Roll Anthony passed away peacefully at home with his wife, Belinda and son, Ryan, near to him. Since then, many Radio luminaries and legends have paid respect both in person and via social media. His passion for Radio and the energy he brought to broadcasting are truly legendary. He inspired many, many people, got some into the biz and acted as a model for many more. He will certainly be missed but his legacy will last forever. Jon was one of those who knew what he wanted to do, never looked back, never let someone else tell him what was possible and what was not, and made a huge impact on the Industry and many people within it. A collective thank you, from all of us, Jon. Rock and Roll TRULY is your middle name.
You can make a donation anytime to the Moffitt Cancer Center in Jon’s name. Thank you so much.