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John Kiesewetter on the world of local and national TV

Senior Entertainment Reporter John Kiesewetter has been covering TV and media issues for 20 years. After joining the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1975 as a summer intern, he worked as a county government and suburban reporter; assistant city editor and suburban editor; and features editor supervising the Life section. He has a B.S. in journalism from Ohio University.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

"Music Professor" Jim LaBarbara Fired

Only two more days to hear Jim "The Music Professor" LaBarbara on WGRR-FM (103.5). After 38 years on the air here -- the last 14 at don't-call-us-oldies WGRR-FM -- LaBarbara was told Wednesday his contract would not be renewed. He will leave after his 2-7 p.m. show Friday.

LaBarbara, 65, will be replaced by program director Keith Mitchell. He says he was told that Cumulus corporate execs in Atlanta ordered the move, to put Mitchell back on the air. Mitchell was PD and morning personality at MOJO 94.9, until Cumulus sold the station in September.

LaBarbara told me this morning: "I'm just shellshocked now, trying to figure out what I'm going to do next. They said it had nothing to do with me, or my ratings, or my age. They said corporate wanted to make the change."

LaBarbara, who is listed in the Rock Jock Hall of Fame and a member of the Ohio Radio/Television Broadcasters Hall of Fame, says he won't do anything special on his show today or Friday -- because he hopes to land another radio job.

"I'm not going to say goodbye. I'm not ready yet to retire. I definitely want to stay on the air. I'm hoping and praying I can catch on somewhere. I love being on the air."

Mitchell, who subbed for LaBarbara over Christmas, says no other DJ changes are planned for the station. (So Rockin' Ron, Chris & Janeen are safe for now.)

So who might pick up LaBarbara? WDJO? Or could he do talk somewhere, as he did for five years on old WCKY?

Any you have fond memories of The Music Professor on WLW-AM, or his hundreds of interviews with rock musicians?


at 3/29/2007 1:11 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

In1973 I was stationed at Ft Polk. The Prof was my contact to home. He was on from 6-9 or so and The signal made it all the way to Louisiana. He will be missed.

at 3/29/2007 1:34 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an ex-broadcaster very close to the Prof's age bracket, I am saddened to read about this.

Radio is no longer a "career" profession. When Jim and I got into the business a good air personality or news person could make a very good living.

That's no longer the case. A young person aspiring to be a broadcaster can look forward to a career as a part-time (no benefits) board op for some syndicated show, and plan on making about $8.00 an hour.

And just like Circuit City, after a couple of pay raises, you get fired and replaced by someone else earning the starting rate. Circuit City didn't invent that, Jacor did it back in the 90's.

That's radio today. TOO BAD.

Good luck Jimmy. You won't be the last. There are a couple of people at WARM working without contracts and probably feeling a little more nervous today. And how much longer until Jim Scott joins Burbank in "retirement" alledgedly.

at 3/29/2007 1:39 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I started listetning to Jim when I was a teenager in Columbus, Ohio in 1965 and Jim was on the air in Cleveland on WKYC, and have been a fan throughout his career at WLW,WCKY and WGRR. As music induces memories, he is a huge part of my life. I will miss him greatly. I selfishly hope he's back on the air soon.

at 3/29/2007 1:50 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Jim LeBarbara's firing is not a case of Age Discrimination, then Age Discrimination doesn't exist anywhere. Jim is a knowledgeable, repected guy who deserves fair treatment in the workplace. ARE THERE ANY GOOD LAWYERS OUT THERE, reading this? (What, flight attendants are protected from age discrimination, but not DJ's?) Are there any LISTENERS out there who have had it with corporate radio? Congress deregulated radio on the promise from owners that programming would improve. THE OWNERS LIED. Congress: DE-regulate NOW. Contact Rep Kucinich for more details.

at 3/29/2007 1:55 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least he got two days. Ted Morro (18 years at Warm 98) got two hours.

at 3/29/2007 2:14 PM Anonymous michael grayson said...

I am greatly distressed to hear that jim is leaving.

commercial radio continues to destroy itself in the name of greed and excessive profit and cumulus appears to be the leader in that department. with the onslaught of alternate entertainment choices you would think they could see beyond the immediate quarterly profit. my daughters (20 & 18) don’t listen to radio anymore- (except NPR- we raised wonderfully nerdy kids!) they have ipods, CDs and things I don’t even recognize. terrestrial commercial radio is on its deathbed.

I have appreciated jim's knowledge, skill, professionalism, attitude and (in our brief personal encounters) spirit of camaraderie.
I will miss hearing him on the air. if nothing else there should already be a call in from WDJO…!!!

I am so blessed to be working here in public radio at WNKU…. from a radio and music lover’s point of view it’s radio heaven. I just hope some corporate accountant doesn’t mess this up!

thanks again, jim, for your contribution to Cincinnati radio and in advance for all that’s still to come.

at 3/29/2007 2:36 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

yet another brick in the wall has been chipped away. This is another milestone in the death of radio as many of us knew and loved it. It will very soon become an anachronism. Good luck, Prof, I am sure you will land on your feet, but you will be missed.

at 3/29/2007 3:39 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

How sad! It would seem that the powers that be should let the Music professor retire on his terms. Even at 65 he still has a lot of good years.... but now who is going to hire him. Age discrimination in this market is getting out of hand.
Some of the folks we grew up with would have been long gone if they were still around(Remember Ron Brittan, Steve Kirk and John Randolph(at home)
from the neighborhood

at 3/29/2007 4:26 PM Blogger BMurdock said...

Too bad for the professor... Hopefully Dusty will take care of him and put on WDJO.

at 3/29/2007 7:16 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

is Bobbi Maxwell (Warm 98 DJ) working without a contract?

at 3/29/2007 7:38 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Radio has been absolutely decimated and destroyed by massed corporate ownership. Thank you for nothing, Randy Michaels.

at 3/29/2007 8:52 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have always liked Jim LaBarbara and he was one of the reasons why I listened to WGRR. This may be the last straw for me ever listening to that station again. I hope Jim finds a job and it is sad that the state of radio had come to this.

at 3/30/2007 7:46 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sad....but just another sign of the times in corporate radio....

Looks like a golden opportunity for WDJO!

at 3/30/2007 10:05 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's time for us little listeners to stand up to BIG CORPORATE and turn off commercial radio and totally move on to the next level of ipods, podcasting, and satellite radio.....That is where the Professor's next Gig ought to be...on satellite radio just like the Truckin Bozo and other WLW DJs have gone.

at 3/30/2007 12:44 PM Anonymous A girl on the westside said...

Professor - you were one intelligent, silly, and entertaining DJ. You will certainly be missed. :(

at 3/30/2007 1:19 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Radio is no longer trying to attract listeners over 30 yrs old. This is why WGRR sounds different and no longer a oldies station and a clone of 92.5 The Fox. WGRR will fail and probably have a new format a year from now.

at 3/30/2007 2:44 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best of luck to Jim. He will be missed. Hopefully a different ownership will have the sense to pick him up. After working with Jim for several years, I can attest to the fact that he is a knowledgeable professional with a killer list of credentials intent on entertaining the public, which is what it is all about. He always had the station's best interest in mind - too bad broadcasting companies no longer take care of their employees.


at 3/30/2007 6:35 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

The writing was on the wall when the station suddenly went from playing great oldies of the fiftys and sixtys to the trash they play now. jim go to WDJO were you will be apreciated. Good luck from your fan Steve Miller

at 3/31/2007 12:37 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...




at 3/31/2007 9:42 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was shocked to hear that the Prof. was leaving. GRR doesn't really have a format anymore. I was all for adding more 70's to the mix, but most of it seems to be disco, dance, and urban hits from the 70's and even early 80's. It doesn't fit. Good luck Prof. and we will hear you soon I'm sure.

at 3/31/2007 4:35 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

God! Now we have to listen to terribel Keith Mitchell in the afternoon time slot?

Goodbye WGRR.

at 3/31/2007 9:41 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a recent listener to WGRR ( in the last year), I have come to love two things about it: the drive in the morning and coming home listening to Jim. He was engaging, extremely knowledgeable and always interesting. This all in addition to playing a great mix of music. My fondest memory will be my 4 hour drive home the afternoon/evening of the "big" snow storm. His sense of humor, comman sense and caring program that night kept me from going stir crazy in my car. I actually arrived home happy. I will switch channels again in the afternoon as I am angered by this firing. Did anyone consider the listeners?move. Maybe it is time to buy an IPOD.

at 4/01/2007 4:27 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

....I have to agree with the previous posting. Keith Mitchell is terrible. Probably a firing entirely up to him just so he could get some airtime again. Corporate decision - yeah right!

Goodby Mr. LaBarbar we will miss you and while I'm at it goodby WGRR.

at 4/02/2007 12:02 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Should have been Jim Scott....

at 4/02/2007 1:04 PM Blogger Linda said...

Jim LaBarbara's firing:

Cincinnati Reds, Skyline Chili, Mtg.Inn Ribs, Greater's Ice Cream
and The Music Professor! What is this all about anyway, outsiders
telling us what we can and can't like. Not everyone is under 35 and
in rehab for something!!!! So, are
you saying his listeners aren't worth anything.....well, we do have
money and spend money. It's so nice to turn on the radio and hear
a familiar voice. As a transferred
Ex. type, one of the first thing we
did upon are return to Cincy was to
look for The Music Professor on the
radio. It may not be Baseball, Apple pie, and Cheverolet anymore, but it is Baseball, Apple Pie and The Music Professor!!! Rethink it WGRR and we'll listen to your station again.

at 4/02/2007 1:10 PM Blogger Linda said...

Jim LaBarbara's firing.
Cincinnati Reds, Skyline Chili,
Mtgn.Inn Ribs, Greater's Ice Cream
and Jim LaBarbara. That's Cincinnati.

Stop coming in from outside our city and telling us who we can and
can't have on our Radio & TV's!!!
It's not your city.


at 4/02/2007 7:09 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

this firing makes me and a ton of people mad. Jim please joing dusty and play real oldies.
Im 20 and I have listened to the Prof ever since I bought my first car at 16. This saddens me. Well wgrr is coming off my preset.

at 4/02/2007 7:10 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

rumor has it bobbi maxwell is on her way out the door at WARM.

at 4/03/2007 3:40 PM Anonymous Lu said...

I've lived out of town for a couple of years, and still am outraged to read that Jim LaBarbara ultimately has been so underappreciated by his employers. Who else knows as much about the area's radio and music history? What a crime that local radio is losing its local flavor.

at 4/03/2007 7:30 PM Anonymous John Jordan said...

Music Professor,
You were the only reason I continued listening to WGRR after the format change (what it is NOW, I have no idea). Drives home were entertaining and interesting because of you.
Good luck to you! I hope you know how much you've meant to Cincinnatians and surrounding area fans over the years.

at 4/04/2007 4:44 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live just south of Cleveland and my parents live In Tennessee and I timed my drives down to see them to make sure I could catch Jim Labarbara on the air [even though it added about 3-4 hours onto my trip]. He's been out of the Cleveland market for about 40 years but you know he's a great DJ when people STILL talk about him and the other DJ's of that era. Let's hope some other station makes a smart move and hires him ASAP!

at 4/07/2007 4:46 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the mid 70s I was attending Columbia School of Broadcasting in Cincinnati. I loved radio, and was looking forward to all the excitement ahead for me. During this time, the Music Professor had the top rated afternoon drive program in the city as he plied his enormous talent at WLW Radio. Jim was such an inspiration to this up and comer. There were other stalwarts at WLW at this time—JFPO, Chuck Dougherty—just to name a couple. But it was the Prof. that gave me the most inspiration and drove me to be the best broadcaster I could be! I even tried to emulate his very personable style and delivery. I spent many years away from Cincinnati, mostly radio related. When I finally came home in 1999, I was thrilled to find the Prof. gracing the airwaves at WGRR. As ironical as it may seem, I worked my last gig at WLW as a News Anchor/Reporter, hanging up my headphones on my birthday in late 2000. I would oft’ times sit behind the mic at WLW and remember those good old days, many years prior, when the Prof was holding afternoon court there, lighting the fires of enthusiasm for a certain young radio legend-to-be. Radio has changed so much over the years, and not for the better! Chalk that up to greedy radio executives that don’t give a damn about what you and I want to hear on the radio. They are killing commercial radio and setting the stage for its ultimate, inevitable, demise. Satellite radio is fanning the funeral pyre even as we speak…..So thank you, Prof., for all that inspiration, all those years ago! I hope to turn on the radio one day and hear that old familiar phrase, “thank you for listening, and love somebody tonight!

at 4/07/2007 6:45 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lived in North Texas in the late 70's and I remember listening to the Professor in the evenings. It brought me back home. Enough of GRR for the drive home.

at 4/09/2007 7:48 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is not fair. Jim LaBarbara IS Cincinnati Radio. I will not listen to Keith Mitchell on the drive home. GOOD LUCK Music Professor! I certainly hope someone in Cincinnati Radio takes advantage of this and hires the best DJ in the USA. No one can come close to Jim LaBarbara, the MUSIC PROFESSOR!

at 4/18/2007 10:16 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I am a little behind the times as I just found out Jim got fired. I had been wondering where he was. I have listened to him for well over 30 years. he even outlasted my 30 year marriage. I am done with WGRR. I can't stnd most of the stuff they play now. Jim I wish you the best. I hope you resurface somewhere real soon. I will be listening.

at 4/25/2007 4:59 PM Blogger Terry said...

Jim is the best DJ cincy has ever known. Radio is a cut throat business.

at 5/09/2007 6:45 PM Anonymous Brenda said...

I was totally shocked and saddened to hear that the Music Professor is gone from WGRR. At first I thought he might be sick or something before I heard he was let go. WGRR's loss! I won't be listening on the drive home from now on. Whoever is responsible for this must be nuts!

at 5/31/2007 10:38 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to tune into WGRR because I loved mocking the "Music Professor's" name dropping and pompous comments. But then I realized the music he played was feel good music and can't we all use a little more of that. Goodbye, WGRR, Goodbye, Professor. We'll be looking for you in another classroom...maybe Harry Chapin's WOLD.

at 6/04/2007 10:53 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember the day that I wrote to Keith Mitchell about the change in music from oldies to whatever it is. Mitchell said, and I quote, "We will never go back to playing the oldies." I knew then that Jim was destined to be gone. I think that the day Jim told me that he had not heard any hip hop music on the elevator, he, too, knew that his time was about used up at WGRR. As others have said, the "new" WGRR is destined to fail. Too bad for the few good people they have left.

at 6/19/2007 10:31 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Longtime listener of Jims from Cleveland in the 60s' and when travelling thru Cinci...Hope he lands soon...

at 8/20/2007 1:42 PM Blogger Steve said...

In 1977 I entered UC-CCM for grad school, in broadcasting. There were only six of us. And one of those was Jim LaBarbara. There wasn't a nicer guy around. Although my work was in using video with mentally and emotionally handicapped adolescents, I had a strong background in college radio and camp radio. Jim made me feel like a colleague and invited me to WLW numerous times.
I'm so sorry that I've just heard what happened, but I wish him all the best!

at 10/20/2007 12:42 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I first heard Jim on WKYC listening from North Carolina in 1966. He quickly became my favorite DJ. I have followed his career ever since. I listened to him on WGRR driving thru Cinti in 2002, and saw that they had made him automated even then. Let's face it, the world is changing as always, and we are being left behind.

at 3/31/2008 4:39 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...


Please go and talk to the folks at WDJO!
At least they understand the "old" way of running a station.
I'm sure you would be at home there, with the guys and the audience.

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