By Lyle Gregory
LOS ANGELES — Legendary KABC radio and Los Angeles talk radio personality Michael Jackson died today peacefully at his home in Los Angeles with his beloved children at his bedside, according to a family spokesperson.
One of the most treasured media personalities in Los Angeles, Jackson’s radio career spanned five decades. With his British accent, playful demeanor and keen intellect, Jackson was respected by his peers, politicians, and celebrities and admired by his vast radio audience.
During the 32 years as a talk radio personality at KABC Radio in Los Angeles (1966-1998) and syndicated on the ABC Radio Network for nearly a decade, Jackson had interviewed hundreds of public figures, including Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush along with heads of state, governors, senators, A-List movie and TV stars, authors, musicians, singers and artists.
“The world knew and adored our Michael Jackson. But Michael’s home was California, Los Angeles, America. For that we are grateful,” statement issued by Barbara Boxer, former California senator (1993-2017) and frequent guest on the “Michael Jackson Show.”
TALKERS founder Michael Harrison (who served as a talk show host on rocker KMET in Los Angeles between 1975 and 1986) issued the following statement: “Michael Jackson was one of the all-time greats – a founding father – of talk radio. During his 32-year run at KABC, his very presence gave the station prestige and national stature as one of – if not THE – first very rare commercial outlets fully committed to the spoken-word format. Michael Jackson and KABC were synonymous with the phrase ‘talk radio.’ It should also be pointed out that his heyday in the format began prior to the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 which, in my opinion, marked the beginning of the modern era of talk radio. That made him the member of an exclusive club of radio performers whose historical relevance and influence on things to come in the broadcasting industry are incalculable.”
Born in England (April 16, 1934), Jackson lived through World War II and The Blitz bombings of the British Isle where his father served as a Royal Air Force Navigator Trainer. On rare occasions on the radio, Jackson would recount the fear and uncertainty of those seemingly endless bombings he experienced as a child and the constant worry about his father’s fate.
After the war, the family moved to South Africa where Michael started his career in radio as a disc jockey. In 1958, appalled by apartheid in South Africa, the Jackson family decided to move the United States. Once in the states, Jackson continued his career in radio working as a DJ in San Francisco (KYA and KEWB) and then moving to Los Angeles to work at KHJ, and later at all-news station KNX. In 1966, Jackson moved to KABC where he prospered as a talk show host for 32 years. After leaving KABC in 1998, Jackson worked at various radio stations hosting talks shows at KRLA, KLAC and KGIL until his retirement at the age of 73.
Throughout his career, Jackson received numerous accolades and awards including: induction into the Radio Hall of Fame (2003), star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (1984), four Golden Mike Awards, “Talk Show Host of the Year” award given by TALKERS magazine in conjunction with the National Association of Radio Talk Show Hosts (1997), honorary Doctorate of Laws from Western School of Law, presentation of the French Legion of Merit Award, the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE). In addition, more than two thousand of his iconic historic radio interviews housed in the Library of Congress.
“It was a testament to Michael, that so many of the guests and celebrities preferred to actually come in studio, rather than do phoners,” said Lyle Gregory, Jackson’s show producer of 30 years and close family friend. “With his British accent and boyhood charm, Michael made people comfortable, they opened up. That was his gift. Michael molded an interview into conversation, news and information. Like two people sitting at a kitchen table talking. A table, an open window, where millions tuned in daily across the nation, so many of them referring to Michael as their personal university.”
In 1965, Jackson married Alana Ladd, daughter of movie star Alan Ladd. She passed in 2014. Together they had three children and five grandchildren. Jackson is survived by his children Alan Jackson, Alisa Magno and Devon Jackson, their spouses, Heidi, Tom and Sarah and his grandchildren Taylor, Emily, Adeline, Amelia and Hugo.
Jackson’s children asked, “Everyone honor his time-honored legacy by being polite and good to one another. To unite as one people and to uphold Democracy in the America that our father so cherished and promoted though out his life on-air and at home. We are grateful for our loving father and to those of you who loved him too.”
For the past decade, Jackson has endured Parkinson’s Disease. For those who want to pay tribute to Michael Jackson, the family asks that donations be given to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research in “Memory of Talk Radio Broadcaster Michael Robin Jackson” at www.michaeljfox.org.
Lyle Gregory served as Michael Jackson’s producer for 30 years. He can be emailed at: LyleGregoryEarth@gmail.com.