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Legendary radio host Jim Santella to retire

Santella, Jim.jpg

Jim Santella, a Buffalo Broadcaster Hall of Fame inductee who is known as the “Father of Progressive Radio” in Buffalo, will retire from his blues program at WBFO-FM 88.7 as of Dec. 1.

Jim began his radio career as a student DJ at the University at Buffalo’s WBFO-FM 88.7, hosting five hours of jazz. Forty-five years later, he has come full circle to conclude his career at WBFO, now owned by Western New York Public Broadcasting Association.

In January 1969, he began his professional career as one of the first underground rock radio DJs at WYSL-FM. Notably, Santella was on the startup staff of four album oriented stations, WYSL/WPHD, QFM-97/97 Rock, WZIR and  the free-wheeling WUWU, where  he was program director.

He dramatically walked off the air on April 24, 1972 (his birthday) in a dispute with management about drastically reducing the music library. Santella left Jefferson Airplane’s “Lather Turned 30 Years Old Today - They Took Away All of His Toys” spinning on the turntable.

Told by a program director that he would never work in radio again, he was soon hired at WWOL, a country music station, under the name Joel B. Williams — a tribute to his underground radio hero, B. Mitchell Reed.

He returned to WPHD in 1974, where he was part of an all-star staff headed by Program Director John McGhan. Santella described them as “savvy music fanatics who combined personality, FM radio smarts and intelligence,” qualities that would set the standard for the Lee Abrams consulted Classic Rock formats, which dominated the mid to late 1970s.   

Always a purist about the music, Jim hosted a special retro show on 97 Rock for 15 years called “Radiation Theatre,” which featured underground music and lost classics. His knowledge of country, jazz, pop/rock, Broadway and blues music is extensive in a career that has spanned 45 years.

He began hosting his blues show on November 22, 1997. The popularity of the blues increased under his programming from four hours on Saturday to 10 hours on the weekend. His program currently airs from 7-11 p.m. on Saturday.  Like many of his peers, Jim will be working on his autobiography.

Jim’s final blues show will air on Saturday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. He will continue to be part of “Theatre Talk” with Anthony Chase, which airs Fridays during Morning Edition on WBFO.

While Santella’s contributions to WBFO-FM 88.7 and the radio industry in general have been invaluable, a search for his successor is underway. Blues programming will continue on Saturday and Sunday evenings.