So long as my mother is in New York, Saturdays aren’t Saturday if her radio is not tuned in to WPAT from as early as 6am to listen to the Gil Bailey Show.
This seems to be the trend for many Caribbean New Yorkers. For more than 42 years, Gil Bailey, “The Godfather” has been the voice of Caribbean radio in the tri-state area. With his wife Pat always there by his side, Gil’s brand is a household name.
The duo is a perfect example of what a husband and wife business team should be like. More importantly, however, the number of years they are together as husband and wife is the icing on the cake.
I saw these lines on a friend’s facebook page, “Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction.” I bet Gill and Pat Bailey lived the latter part of this statement. They have branded themselves with people of all ages. This is as a result of the situation I find myself in. I am a loyal listener because of my mother and that is the case for many other Caribbean descendants.
Here is how the show is structured, from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. it’s gospel, this kicks off the day for my mother. From 9:00 a.m. to noon it’s Oldies but Goodies, during this session I literally have to listen to mom tell us about each song and how our father and her enjoyed them back in the days. I guess it therapy for her. From noon to 12:30 p.m. it’s Soca, of course I am on high at this time. I love me some Soca.
Mrs. Bailey and their assistant, Sharon, have their popular talk segment, “Let’s Hear It,” from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. The show then wraps up from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. with a mix, where the more popular reggae songs are played.
Doing a little research about the man, I found that Gilbert Bailey was born in the town of Bath, in the parish of St. Thomas, Jamaica. However, he will be the first to tell you, “Me never like country.” After moving around in Kingston, staying with different uncles, Gil left Jamaica for London in 1958 to live with an uncle.
He was motivated to come to America because of the way the American GI’s profiled at the Q club, with their sharp suits and the wads of money. “I used to say WOW, that’s how it is in America!”
In 1966 Gil arrived in America but he was very disappointed. “All you did was stay in the house, you had nowhere to go.”
He worked as a valet, waiter, even as a short order cook but it was his stint at driving a limousine where he was finally able to make some good money. Gil drove for celebrities like Stevie Wonder, Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne and many other celebrities. He was making good tips and while his co workers would take their tips and spend it at the liquor store around the corner, he would save his and soon he had amassed a nice stash of $3,000. “I used that money to open a record store on Southern Blvd. in the Bronx” says a proud Gil Bailey.
From the moment Gil and Pat met, it was love at first sight. Gil said, while he was in Jamaica waiting to pick up in visa in 1968, he met Pat’s sister who was dating his cousin. She gave him Pat’s number and when he got back to the New York, he called her. She spoke to him as if they had known each for years. Gil and Pat got married in 1969. Together they worked hard and saved their money. Today, they are respected as pioneers in New York’s Caribbean Radio.
“I like what I do and the respect is there,” he says. Gil’s popularity is as much today as it ever was and his advice to those considering a career in broadcasting, “Be yourself, don’t try to be anyone else, you can’t be a Caribbean person on a Caribbean station trying to act like an American, it won’t work.”
He recalls that when he first started, they would diss him, saying he can’t talk on radio. However, Gil says, “I’ve stayed true to myself and that’s how I’ve won people over and see now today, I am highly respected and I am proud of that, (Sharon Gordon, Godfather of radio celebrates 40 years, 2010.)
I agree with his sentiments totally, in addition those of us from the rest of the Caribbean can relate to the accent, the music, the discussions and that like. So, thank you Gil and Pat for making my mom’s Saturdays meaningful.
Information gathered from http://www.caribbeanlifenews.com/stories/2010/12/2010_12_02_gordon_gil_bailey.html
Here is the man sharing with the world his journey to the show’s 40th anniversary.