The passing of an urban legend

Jerry Boulding

Jerry Boulding

Jerry Boulding, a giant of urban radio in America who left his mark on three Chicago stations, died Thursday in Westwood, Calif., after a brief illness. He was 75.

In a career spanning more than 40 years, Boulding programmed 16 major market stations, developed the first satellite-delivered urban format (known as “Heart and Soul”), headed a major label for a division of MCA Records and oversaw all entertainment programming for American Urban Radio Network.

In Chicago, he programmed black music powerhouse WVON in the 1970s, where he was credited with bringing an unknown 27-year-old disc jockey named Tom Joyner to Chicago in 1977. Boulding also had a role in programming WJPC and WBMX.

“His spirit, enthusiasm and passion for life, for radio and music were but just some of the reasons that we loved having Jerry with us, and it’s what brought Jerry so many friends and fans over his amazing life and career,” said Joel Denver, president and publisher of AllAccess.com, where Boulding served as urban editor for more than 10 years. “Rarely do you come across someone so gifted, so talented, and so warm an individual — full of love for his family, friends and the industry — as Jerry.”

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: “The Doctor of Radio.”

Chicago programming guru Jim Smith said Boulding was a pioneer at taking Top 40 concepts and applying them successfully to black radio.

“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.”

A highly respected consultant and a beloved mentor, Boulding came to regret the declining standards of the business, telling Shannon: “So much of what PDs do now is geared to the bottom line, with one programmer trying to keep his eye on three stations or even more. No one can watch over three stations and do the job correctly.”

He is survived by his wife, son and granddaughter. Funeral arrangements are pending.