Black History Month: Patty Jackson on a South Philly girl's journey to radio legend

As February comes to a close, we wrap up the month with Philly.com’s final Instagram Takeover to honor Black History Month. Several black figures from our city have taken over the account to share their stories and to reflect on what the month means to them.

On Wednesday, Philadelphia radio legend Patty Jackson took control of the account to share just how appreciative she is for the long career she has enjoyed on Philly’s airwaves.

“Who would have thought that a young, fast talking girl from South Philly would end up here,” Jackson wrote. Her reaction to everything she’s gotten to do in her 35 years in radio … “Just WOW.”

Jackson explained that she’s honored to be a part of radio history at WDAS-FM, Philadelphia history and black history.

Radio personalities help to provide the soundtracks to our lives. We have pictures in our minds of what they are like because we hear their voices everyday, sometimes to the point of feeling like we know them.

If you lived in Philadelphia, listening to artists like Frankie Beverly and the iconic music of Gamble and Huff, it was probably teed up for you by Patty Jackson. That presence might make her feel like family. It certainly did for Kevin Hart.

Jackson told the story of the first time she met the Philly native and self-proclaimed “Comedic Rockstar.”

She said Hart’s words to her were “I feel like I know you. Like I feel like you’re my auntie,” because his mother would always listen to Jackson on the radio.

“I’m truly grateful that listeners bring me into their homes everyday by way of radio,” Jackson said. She added that being told people feel like they already know her just from hearing her on the radio is the greatest compliment she gets.

Our closeness to Jackson made a number of Philadelphians susceptible to pain at the news of Jackson’s stroke in 2015. The event turned her life upside down.

“One minute, I could see fine. The next minute, everything was doubled and my eye just went in a whole other direction,” Jackson told my colleague Jenice Armstrong after the stroke. “Sometimes we won’t listen to a whisper but we’ll hear a roar,” Jackson pointed out. “God always has to get my attention through drastic measures.”

Jackson shared a moment that brought her “pure joy” through this difficult period of her life – a time that also included the death of her mother just two weeks before the stroke.

Jackson said she always considered singer El DeBarge her ‘husband in her head.’ Jackson was originally supposed to host an event that included DeBarge but was in the middle of her recovery. That didn’t stop him from bringing her “a glimpse of sunshine.”

Along the way to becoming one of Philadelphia’s top radio personality’s, Jackson found herself in the presence of a number of people she always looked up to – people who also became important parts of the history of music in our city.

That statement is never more true than when referencing Gamble and Huff.

“I always have a pinch-myself moment when I’m around these two,” Jackson said of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. The iconic pair of The Sound of Philadelphia have had a profound impact on music as we know it today and on Jackson.

She recalls listening to their music as a child and now enjoys bringing it to people on a daily basis on the radio. “What a full-circle journey,” she said.

When it comes to pioneers of the Philly sound, it doesn’t stop with Gamble and Huff. Philly native, and the voice responsible for the soundtrack of countless Philadelphia barbecues and family reunions, Frankie Beverly was also highlighted by Jackson.

“Before I Let Go … such a timeless classic!” Jackson wrote.

For Jackson’s fans, a timeless event is a summer concert hosted by her at the Dell Music Center. “To be able to host the summer concert series is a privilege I don’t take lightly,” she said.

Jackson said that her hope is that she lives up to the history of the venue and the stage when she is hosting.

The stage also serves as a reminder for Jackson of her strength and perseverance. After months of rehab and physical therapy, she was faced with taking that stage once again despite the anxiety that came with stepping before a crowd again.

All of my feelings of self consciousness were eased when my entrance was welcomed by so much love. She calls the Dell her second home after WDAS.

For many Philadelphians, Jackson is a voice that reminds us of home. Whether it’s easy to believe or not, the girl from South Philly made it and made memories along the way.

 

More Black History Month Instagram takeovers:

Alex Holley

Chill Moody

Rahel Solomon