Tom Joyner, famous for the nickname “Fly Jock,” is an American R&B disk jockey who is notable for flying between a Dallas radio station in the mornings to a sister station in Chicago in the afternoons. He hosted the national TV program, The Tom Joyner Morning Show, founded Reach Media Inc., Tom Joyner Foundation, and the Black America Web website.
Tom, real name Thomas, was born on November 23, 1949, in Alabama. He is the son of Frances and Hercules Joyner, who were both graduates of historically black colleges. He and his brother, Alber, attended Tuskegee University, where he finished a degree in sociology. As a college student, Tom joined the fraternity Omega Psi Phi and the band, the Commodores (with the singer song-writer Lionel Richie). However, he has not been earning money in making music, so he decided to start a radio industry venture.
Tom started his broadcasting career in Alabama right after he graduated. He worked at several radio stations in Memphis and St. Louis before settling in Chicago in 1978. In 1985, he was simultaneously offered two positions – a morning show in KKDA-FM in Dallas and an afternoon show in WGCI-FM in Chicago.
Instead of choosing one job, Tom decided to take both positions. The DJ was able to work for both radio stations as neither of the two had exclusivity contracts. He commuted daily by plane between the two cities for the next eight years, reaching seven million frequent flyer miles. Luckily, he found a one-time payment fare of $30,000 that allows him to secure a round-trip seat for five whole years.
The Tom Joyner Morning Show
Tom, along with a team of comedians and commentators, joined together to host a nationally syndicated radio program called The Tom Joyner Morning Show
(TJMS) in 1994. They were assigned to report and discuss the latest news, sports, and trends and play popular R&B songs. The show also featured celebrity guests, “sky shows,” and on-air soap opera. Southwest Airlines heavily sponsored the said show and gave Tom free round-trip airfares to any destination that the airline flies to.
The TV version of the Tom Joyner show was launched in 2005. It was a one-hour comedy/variety show hosted by Tom and his co-host from the radio show. They featured talent contests and musical performances of Brian McKnight, Patti LaBelle, Toni Braxton, and many more.
The program achieved weekly top ratings for African-American viewers and attracted advertisers McDonald’s, Walmart, and Chrysler Corporation. However, it could not be scaled to a more inclusive audience (mainly white Americans), resulting in limited time slots and funds. A year later, Tom halted the program due to expensive costs. He came back to his established radio career, where he continued to be an influential radio DJ.
For the past 25 years, the TJMS has been a staple program for the Black community. Tom successfully used his talents and influence to support causes related to the Africa-Americans and contribute to Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
When TJMS was first aired in 1994, it became the top syndicated urban morning show in the country. It reached over 105 markets and eight million listeners nationwide. But as 2019 ended, the radio show will always end. The network has to retire the program because the radio industry does not generate profits as much as it used to.
Tom disclosed that he once earned $14 million while the program was on hype. That figure has then been slashed several times over the years. He said in an interview, “It got to a point where they would [say], ‘Alright, we’re gonna cut your salary in half.’ ‘OK.’ ‘And then in half.’ ‘OK.’ Because my salary was based on my results, and not only was I losing affiliates, but the radio industry as a whole was losing traction.”
When asked if he would prefer to stay in the radio industry if it was still thriving, he responded that his goal was to die on the radio and have his funeral on the radio.
In 1998, Tom Joyner became the first African-American to be inducted in the National Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago. In 2004, Tom received the NAB Marconi Radio Award. Marconi Radio Awards are presented to top radio stations and on-air personalities annually in the United States. In 2008, Tom was inducted into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame and was also inducted into The Official R&B Music Hall of Fame in 2013. Tom was also awarded the Humanitarian Award during the 2015 BET Awards.