POLAND, Ohio (WKBN) – After 49 years dedicated to keeping Youngstown’s radio stations operating, Thomas John has retired.
He was a disc jockey, a promotions manager, movie reviewer, commercial writer and even a general manager. But in the end, it was the corporatization of radio that forced him out.
Thomas John’s office in his Poland home is lined with 2,200 albums. He even has vinyl discs of Casey Kasem’s American Top 40.
“These are greatest hits alphabetical to the end,” he said. “They would throw these away, and I said you gotta be out of your mind. We’re going to throw them away? No, please.”
Now 71 years old, Thomas John started at WHOT in 1972, but his popularity soared during the six-year run of WSRD the Wizard, an album-oriented rock station that ran from 1977 to 1983. He was known for the “4 o’clock high.”
“There’s a Facebook page now for the Wizard that has more people than any of the current radio station Facebook pages. There are that many people that remember it,” he said.
After the Wizard, TJ became WHOT’s promotions director, becoming a regular at charity functions. He did a Sunday night cruise show for 23 years, featuring doo whop music and for while did a daily music of your life show featuring singers like Frank Sinatra.
“What I wanted to be was the son-in-law that everyone wanted to have but didn’t. So, it was the young guy who knew about movies, knew about sports but loved Frank Sinatra,” TJ said.
He was also a regular at bars and weddings, playing music and doing trivia.
“During those five bars and wedding nights, I was making $50,000 a year on the side. I was only making $30,000 at the station,” he said.
In 2000, Thomas John settled into what is now the iHeart radio building on South Avenue in Boardman. It was a big change.
“When we moved into that building in 2000, we had 129 people for six stations. Right now, they have those same six stations – they have 12,” he said.
As the pandemic dragged on, iHeart media made mass furloughs at its radio stations and Thomas John was among them. It was at that point he decided that after 49 years it was time to retire.
“That really is my only regret that I couldn’t get to 50. You only get one chance. My God, how close can you be?”
Watch the entire interview in the video below.