Occasionally, what you don’t know can hurt you. For instance, if you grew up on classic R&B and weren’t aware that 1480 WDAS-AM was reactivated last November as “The Soul of Philadelphia,” you’ve been missing out on the Motown sounds and Philly grooves of your youth.
The broadcast day begins with Bobby Holiday, the pre-dawn purveyor of doo-wop, disco and classic soul who takes to the airwaves from 6 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday.
If the jovial jock seems vaguely familiar, it may be because this is the Chicago native’s second stint in Philadelphia. In the late ’90s, he was an on-air personality on 103.9, and literally made headlines when in 1999, he vowed to live on the roof of TGI Friday on City Line Avenue day and night until the Eagles won a football game. Amid the intense scrutiny of the media, not to mention rush hour traffic, Holiday spent 20 days and 19 nights perched on top of the restaurant before the Eagles finally put the Dallas Cowboys out to pasture for a win.
Holiday, a Chicago native, whose career spans more that two decades, was out of work and cooling his heels in the Windy City when he decided to return to Philly “off a hunch.” “It’s the first time I moved to a city without any prospects for a job,” said Holiday, during a recent visit to the Philadelphia Tribune offices. Why Philly? “I had the most fun in radio here,” he said without hesitation. “I had fun in other places, but Philly was where I became ‘Bobby Holiday.’”
“I got here and I tried to find some jobs at some radio stations,” he recalled. “I knew Ken Johnson, who was an operations manager. I had a meeting with him and he didn’t have anything at the time, but kept my name on file. Then, come December, he calls me and tells me, ‘They’re starting WDAS-AM again.’ I’m like, ‘That’s their Spanish station?’ He goes, ‘Yes.’ I’m like, ‘There better be more to it than that!’ He goes, ‘We’re going to turn it into an Urban AC (Adult Contemporary).” I’m like, ‘Thank you, ’cause I only have two sentences worth of Spanish, and after a while that’s going to get boring!’
“When they said what it was, it was ‘Best of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, I’m like, ‘OK!’ He goes, ‘So you can handle that much?’ and I said, ‘Yeah!’ Then when he said what I’d be doing, ‘I’m like, ‘So you want me to do mornings — come on before Butter?’ He goes, ‘Yeah,’ and I’m like, ‘I love my life!’ In January, it’ll be a year.”
Holiday indeed felt fortunate to have worked with Philadelphia radio icon Joseph “Butterball” Tamburro, calling him “a beautiful brother.” Tamburro, who was affectionately known as ‘Butter,’ followed Holiday from noon to 6:00 p.m. weekdays before passing away last July. “There’s only been three times when I’ve been emotional,” said Holiday. “When I announced the passing of Harold Washington, the mayor of Chicago, when I announced on November 4, 2008, that we have a Black president, and when I announced that Butter passed away.”
But for the most part, it’s been all good. Spinning such R&B gems as “Take This Heart of Mine” by Marvin Gaye, “You Haven’t Done Nothing” by Stevie Wonder, “Crazy” by the Manhattans and “Part-time, Party Time Man” by the Futures, with The Trammps’ “Hooked for Life” thrown in for good measure, Holiday, 44, loves to interact with his listeners and has regular callers, including “Peaches” and “Robert,” as well as a very special “fan” with the exotic name of Parella.
Judging from some of his on-air exchanges, the fun-loving Holiday, to quote the great Eagles’ safety, Brian Dawkins, another one of Philly’s adopted sons, still isn’t afraid to “act a fool,” much like in the days when he decided to participate in a celebrity boxing match against former heavyweight boxing champ, Jacqui Frazier, or audition for the Fox reality competition, “So You Think You Can Dance.” Apparently not ...
But above all else, Holiday, who felt that there was “something here” for him when he decided to return to the City of Brotherly Love, is proud to be a part of the WDAS legacy.
“I knew that Butter ran it, and I knew that ‘DAS was legendary — the AM and the FM,” he said. “So it’s one of the those situations where when I started in radio, when you dream of getting to a Philly or Chicago or New York, and you finally get here, and these people that you look up to are now your colleagues, that’s a trip!”
So if you love old school soul, and prefer a bit of local flavor to the nationally syndicated Steve Harvey and Tom Joyner morning shows, tune in to 1480 AM, and make every weekday a “Holiday.”