Michael Jackson (radio commentator)

Michael Robin Jackson (born 16 April 1934)[1] is a British-American talk radio host and occasional actor. He is based in the Los Angeles area. Jackson is best known for his radio show which covered arts, politics, and human interest subjects, particularly in the Los Angeles and greater Southern California area in the era before "shock jocks". His show originally aired on L.A. radio station KABC and briefly aired on KGIL.

Michael Jackson
Michael Robin Jackson

(1934-04-16) 16 April 1934 (age 86)
London, England
Known forRadio host and interviewer
Spouse(s)Alana Ladd, deceased
WebsiteMichael Jackson Talk Radio

Early lifeEdit

Jackson was born in England and experienced the Blitz as a child.[2] After the war, during which his father served in the RAF as a navigator trainer, his family moved to South Africa where he became a radio disc jockey. The Jacksons were appalled by the apartheid then dominant in South Africa, and they moved to the United States in 1958. Jackson had always wanted to be on the radio in Los Angeles, but first, he worked in cities like San Francisco, where he did a Top-40 show for station KYA.[3] He made an appearance on the US television program What's My Line? on 7 August 1960.[4]

Listeners reportedly loved his British accent, but he didn't especially enjoy being a rock deejay. In fact, he hated rock music and ended up getting fired. When he was hired in the early '60s at KEWB to do an overnight shift, he gradually phased out playing records, and began chatting with callers. He got the reputation of being a problem-solver, and comedian Mort Sahl, a big fan of his, jokingly called him "the all-night psychiatrist".[1] The police regularly monitored his show, with his permission, so they could trace the calls of the occasional listener who expressed suicidal thoughts and make sure the person was okay. Time magazine praised him for his ability to maintain a calm demeanor no matter what the subject turned out to be.


The Time article and other favorable publicity earned him some offers, and Jackson was finally hired in Los Angeles, where he briefly did the 7 p.m.-to-midnight shift at KHJ. Radio and TV critic Don Page of the Los Angeles Times took notice of him almost immediately, saying he was a "good talker and a patient listener," with an "elegant and flexible" command of the language.[5] But when his ratings weren't what KHJ hoped, he was fired. Fortunately, the CBS affiliate KNX picked him up, but he found their format very confining.[3] Finally, in 1966, heritage talk[clarification needed] station KABC hired him, and it was a perfect fit. The station was having great success with their talk radio format, and they gave Jackson the 9 a.m.-to-1 p.m. (later 9 a.m. to noon[6]) spot. Jackson remained with them for the next three decades, with critics continuing to compliment him for being "cultivated and enlightened".[7] At that time, KABC broadcast the Joe Pyne show, and in the mid-1970s, when Jackson beat him in the ratings, he told a reporter that this proved "you do not have to be rude to be successful."[8]

Jackson liked to book his own guests, and he became well known for talking to interesting news makers from all around the world, ranging from Richard Nixon's former counsel Charles Colson to economist Milton Friedman to Israeli military leader Moshe Dayan. He also talked to celebrities, psychologists and comedians, but he seemed to enjoy talking about current events. On the other hand, he was sometimes criticized for being too nice with his guests and not asking enough tough questions.[9]

Later yearsEdit

Jackson continued to be successful into the 1980s, but radio was changing. Although regarded by many as a liberal, he was not alone in that point of view: KABC had several liberal hosts, as well as several who were conservative. Rush Limbaugh was Jackson's competitor, on the air at crosstown KFI, and Limbaugh had little difficulty defeating the veteran KABC talk show host. KABC's management ultimately felt Jackson's style no longer fit with the modern "in your face" talk shows, the vast majority of which were conservative. On 3 July 1997, Jackson did his last daily talk show for KABC, to the dismay of his fans and a number of critics. Said one, "Jackson has served as one of the radio dial's last passionate voices of liberal politics…."[10] The timing was especially bad given that Jackson had just won an award as "Radio Talk Show Host of the Year" from the Los Angeles Times. He was moved to weekends and ultimately let go in November 1998, after more than 32 years with KABC.[citation needed]


Jackson would return to radio, finding employment at KRLA (1110 AM), where he secured good ratings, but was still not able to beat Limbaugh. KRLA was pleased, however, because he increased the size of their audience. They had recently changed their format from oldies to all-talk, and station management felt that because he was so well known in Los Angeles, Jackson would be able to attract new listeners.[11] Jackson found himself out of work again when KRLA was sold in October 2000.[citation needed]

In addition to changing hands, KRLA would also change its programming, becoming a sports station. He was then hired at KLAC, only to be placed out of work again in 2002 when the station changed its format back to music. In 2003, Jackson was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame; he was still a talented announcer, but at that point, he had no station to work for. The Englishman did some freelance work, producing interviews for all-news radio station KNX and doing some work as a news analyst. But he chose not to renew his contract, citing a lack of a regular time-slot as well as frustration when his long and thorough interviews were edited down into two-minute snippets.[12]

Jackson would join the new KGIL 1260 AM; it had been playing classical music, but now the owner, Saul Levine, wanted to change formats, and Jackson was one of the talk-show hosts he hired. His first show for KGIL was on 29 October 2007, and he remained there for almost a year. His show was two hours in length, and his interviews of political guests with frequent call-ins were highly respected. Still courteous, still non-combative, Jackson was then 73 and as he told Steve Carney of the Los Angeles Times, he hoped that this time, he could settle in and work until whenever he chose to retire. That was not to be, as he was let go without explanation on Friday, 12 September 2008 upon his return from vacation two days earlier. He was not allowed to say a final farewell to his long-time listeners. The station reportedly decided to switch to syndicated programming.

In fall of 2009 Jackson returned to KABC as the co-host of an investment-oriented show called "The Financial Insider with Michael Jackson" airing Sundays from 11 am to noon. As of February 2010 the program was still on the air. Jackson filled in for regular host Patt Morrison on her KPCC (National Public Radio, Pasadena, CA) show on 18–19 July 2011.


He was repeatedly voted Outstanding Radio Personality of the Year. His peers have recognized his entertaining and probing style with four Golden Mike Awards for excellence in radio broadcasting. In 1997-98, he was voted Number One Radio Talk Show Host of the Year. He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2003. He is a Member of the Order of the British Empire and of France's Ordre national du Mérite. He holds an honorary Doctorate of Laws from California Western School of Law.

His star is proudly included on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. When the pop singer of the same name died on June 25, 2009, the singer's star on the Walk of Fame was blocked off due to the premiere of the film Brüno at nearby Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Fans of the late singer started a makeshift memorial at the (identical) star belonging to the radio personality instead. Jackson posted on his website: "I am willingly loan[ing] it to him and, if it would bring him back, he can have it. He was a real star. Sinatra, Presley, The Beatles, and Michael Jackson."[13]


In 1965, Jackson married Alana Ladd, daughter of the late actor Alan Ladd and his agent, Sue Carol. Alana died in 2014. The couple had three children, Alan Jackson, Alisa Lipton, and Devon Jackson, and five grandchildren.[citation needed]


Year Title Role Notes
1964 The Munsters TV Announcer Episode: "Low-Cal Munster"
Goodbye Charlie Michael Jackson
My Living Doll Dr. Karandas Episode: "Foreign Relations"
1966 Camp Runamuck Arnold Benedict Episode: "Look Out, Here Comes Arnie"
Way...Way Out Roger Carlyle, BBC TV Announcer
1971 Julia The M.C. Episode: "Swing Low, Sweet Charity"
The Love Machine Newcaster
1972 The Rookies Bevins Episode: "Dead, Like a Lost Dream"
1976-1978 Police Story News Commentator / TV Host 2 Episodes
1977 Switch TV Interviewer Episode: "Dancer"
1978 The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries Newscaster Episode: "Sole Survivor"
1988 The Serpent and the Rainbow Newcaster
1998 Moby Dick Shantyman 2 Episodes
2006 Commander in Chief BBC Anchor Episode: "The Elephant in the Room"
2011 Green Lantern: Emerald Knights Ganthet (voice) Direct-to-video
Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters Video game
2012-2013 Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Alfred Pennyworth (voice) Direct-to-video


  • James Brown. "Talk of the Town". Los Angeles Times, 4 December 1979, p. H1.
  • Steve Carney. "Jackson Seeks to Reclaim his Place." Los Angeles Times, 29 October 2007, p. E2.
  • Cynthia Littleton. "Jackson's ratings good at KRLA-AM." Daily Variety, 18 May 1999, p. 3
  • Page, Don (25 October 1964). "Radio Too Talky? It's Debatable". Los Angeles Times. p. B1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  • Ray Richmond. "Jackson Exits KABC Slot." Daily Variety, 3 July 1997 Thursday p. 1
  • Myron Roberts. "Yackity Yackity Yack About Talk Shows", Los Angeles Times, 25 July 1967, p. C7.
  • Hilly Rose. But That's Not What I Called About, Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1978.
  • William Trombley. "LA Turns On to Talk Shows", Los Angeles Times, 25 August 1975, p. A3.


  1. ^ a b "Radio: The Ail-Night Psychiatrist". Time. 21 September 1962. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012.
  2. ^ Morrison, Patt (31 October 2009). "Michael Jackson: Sir radio". Los Angeles Times.
  3. ^ a b (Rose, 1978, p. 56)
  4. ^ "What's My Line? - Arnold Palmer; Dina Merrill; Martin Gabel [panel] (Aug 7, 1960)". YouTube. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  5. ^ Page 1964, p. B1.
  6. ^ https://www.americanradiohistory.com/Archive-Other-Documments/LA-Radio-Guide/LA-Radio-Guide-1996-11-12.pdf
  7. ^ (Roberts, 1967, p. C7)
  8. ^ (Trombley, 1975, p. A3)
  9. ^ (Brown, 1979, p. H1)
  10. ^ (Richmond, 1997, p.1)
  11. ^ (Littleton, 1999, p. 3)
  12. ^ (Carney, 2007, p. E2)
  13. ^ Jackson, Michael (25 June 2009). "M J Journals". MichaelJacksonTalkRadio.com.

External linksEdit