BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – The music was blaring from the roof of Cantina Laredo.
On Friday, people were dancing and singing at the Uptown restaurant in the hours leading up to the Magic City Classic. People from across the country had come to Birmingham in the last few days for the game, many wearing their alma mater’s colors, whether they be Alabama State University or Alabama A&M.
The next day, they would cheer on their teams, but that night, they were going to party. Despite a wet evening on the rooftop, the party went on, yet Tom Joyner was nowhere to be found.
Joyner, the host of the nationally syndicated radio show, “The Tom Joyner Morning Show,” had become a regular presence in Birmingham over the years. Despite his home base being in Dallas for the show, the Tuskegee native has come back to Birmingham every year for the Classic, often broadcasting his show from Birmingham.
The party Friday was the kind Joyner would have enjoyed. After all, it was the DJ who coined the term “Party with a Purpose.” Joyner was running late because his flight had been delayed due to weather, bringing back memories of his early days as “The Fly Jock” for the way he used to fly back and forth every day to do a morning show in Dallas and an afternoon show in Chicago back in the 1980s.
Tom Joyner was scheduled to meet with fans at Laredo, then go over next door to the BJCC to host the Magic City Music Fest. Before long, a black car pulls up to the front of Uptown. Joyner stepped out from the back, dressed in black and wearing round glasses.
Joyner took one step through the door before he was approached by a fan.
“Can I take a picture with you,” one woman asked.
“Sure he said,” he said.
Before long, several people were coming up to him, shaking his hand and taking their picture with him. For Joyner, the first black man to have a nationally syndicated radio show, the adoration never gets old.
“Every day, I’m amazed,” Joyner said. “People come up to me and hug me, praise me, give me awards. I’ve gotten so many awards, I need another bookshelf, but it’s been great.”
Joyner’s voice has been a mainstay in Birmingham radio for decades. For over 25 years, Joyner’s show has been broadcast on 98.7 KISS FM. According to Darryl Johnson, program director at KISS, Joyner had been the highest rated show in Birmingham up until the last few years, mainly due to the changing way people get entertainment now, whether it be the Internet or other hosts that have come up over the years, such as Steve Harvey or Birmingham native Rickey Smiley.
To Johnson, Joyner has done so much in his career, not just in radio, but in the black community.
“He has championed African American issues for so long and has done his best to bring them to the forefront,” Johnson said. “He’s the epitome of a champion.”
To Joyner, the Magic City Classic has been a constant presence in his life, even before he went into radio. Joyner has brought his show to Birmingham for it since 1996 or so.
“It’s a great party,” he said. “It attracts all these different people from around the country. It’s the best. Any HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) Classic is the best.”
At the end of the year, Joyner will retire from radio, marking the end of “The Tom Joyner Morning Show’s” 25-year run. On Jan. 2, Smiley will take over his timeslot. However, don’t think this is Joyner’s last Magic City Classic.
“I’m not going to stop coming,” Joyner said. “I’m retiring from getting up early in the morning to go do my radio show, but I have not retired from partying.”
When Joyner first announced his retirement back in 2017, he told his listeners through his blog that over the next two years, they were going “to reminisce, go down Memory Lane and talk about all the things that we’ve done for the past 25 years.”
Surprisingly, there is a lot over the last 25 years that Joyner himself has forgotten about.
“Every day that we do a feature we call ‘TJMS25’ where we look back, it’s new to me because every day of the ‘Tom Joyner Morning Show’ has been amazing and I don’t even recall a lot of the stuff I’ve done until I’ve heard it,” he said. “It’s a great feeling.”
Talking to Joyner, it becomes clear how much he loves what he does. Currently, “The Tom Joyner Morning Show” is broadcast on 95 affiliate stations across the country and has an audience over over 7.4 million per week, according to Joyner’s publicist Marty Raab.
“You hear basketball players say the best times of their lives were when they were on the court,” he said. “Well, the best time of my life every day is when I’m on the air. It’s the most fun.”
Despite what he has done on radio, Joyner does not consider his time behind the mic as his greatest success. That honor would be reserved for The Tom Joyner Foundation, a nonprofit organization he started that helps students pay for college at HBCUs. Over the last 25 years, the foundation has raised over $65 million dollars and provided 29,000 scholarships for boys and girls across the country.
“I am going to concentrate on running the Tom Joyner Foundation and putting money in the hands of students who are trying to stay in school at HBCUS,” he said. “That’s what I’m going to be doing when I’m not on the beach, doing this (motions drinking).”
After a few minutes meeting with fans, Joyner would soon make his way upstairs to the party, one he hopes to keep coming back to for years to come.
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