By Howard Campbell, Jamaica Observer
Broadcaster Gil Bailey, a pioneer of Caribbean radio in New York, died yesterday at age 84. His daughter, Jacqueline Bailey-Faulks, told the Jamaica Observer that he died from cardiac arrest resulting from the novel coronavirus disease, at Long island Jewish Hospital.
Known as the Godfather, Bailey launched The Gil Bailey Show in New York in 1969. He and his wife Pat co-hosted that programme on Caribbean radio stations such as WHBI, WNWK and WPAT, catering to listeners in the tri-state (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) area.
The show played reggae, calypso, soca and gospel music. Pat, whom he married in 1969, died in December 2016 at age 77.
Bailey, who was from the town of Bath in St Thomas, migrated to the United States in the late 1960s.
He was never formally trained as a broadcaster but the lack of Caribbean content on New York radio, made him a sensation in the Big Apple where there was a growing Jamaican population.
“Back then, you could count on one hand how many of us were on radio. I was able to corner and capture the Caribbean audience since folks from back home was dying to hear anything ‘yaad’ talk and ‘yaad’ music,” Bailey recalled in a 2018 interview with the Observer.
Clinton Lindsay of the Foundation Radio Network in South Florida started his broadcasting career in New York during the 1980s. He credits the trailblazing work of Bailey, and Jeff Barnes, for paving the way for him and his contemporaries.
“He was definitely the Godfather. I used to listen to him every day while I was in college and say, one day I will join him,” said Lindsay.
He remembers Bailey being abused by callers to his programme for playing island music.
“He got a lot of blowback because he brought Jamaican music and culture to America, and for that I respected him even more.”
Last August, organisers of the Merritone Family Fun Day recognised Bailey’s contribution to Caribbean broadcasting with a Golden Mic award during its annual event at Heckscher Park in Long Island, New York.
Pat Bailey, Barnes and Lindsay were also honoured. One month before the Merritone event, Bailey launched The Gil Bailey Show on YouTube. Gil Bailey is survived by two daughters, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.