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Hawaii radio pioneer Ron Jacobs dies

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  • DENNIS ODA / OCT. 10, 2007

    Ron Jacobs hosts an on-line radio program from his home studio in Kaneohe.

  • JOHN BERGER / FEB. 28, 2009 Ron Jacobs poses for a photo in his home studio.

    Disc jockey Ron Jacobs talks with with Hawaiian slack key artist Gabby Pahinui.


    Tom Moffat (left) and Ron Jacobs are seen in this courtesy photo from 1989.

Ronald Herbert “Whodaguy” Jacobs, a famous Hawaii-born broadcaster who helped bring rock and roll music to the islands, died this morning at his home in Pearl City. He was 78.

A close friend and caregiver said Jacobs had been contending with bouts of ill health.

Born in Honolulu to Raymond and Shirley Jacobs on Sept. 3, 1937, Jacobs earned his Federal Communications Commission radiotelephone operator’s license at age 17 and started his career at the old KHON radio, as most broadcasters do, working the overnight shift.

“Words cannot express my sorrow at the loss of my great friend and former colleague, Ron Jacobs,” said longtime colleague and friend Tom Moffatt, former broadcaster and longtime Hawaii concert promoter.

“A true radio pioneer with a genius few could fathom, Jacobs broke new ground in the industry here in Hawaii, first with Henry J. Kaiser’s KHVH station, then KPOA, then KPOI with the “Poi Boys” and on the mainland as the brain behind the revolutionary and award-winning “Boss Radio” format at KHJ in Los Angeles,” Moffatt said, in a statement.

Jacobs, Tom Rounds, Mel Lawrence and Moffatt created Arena Associates and promoted the first concerts at the H.I.C. Arena, now known as the Neal Blaisdell Center.

Numerous sets of call letters in Hawaii and major markets in California fill his resume, and he was a founder of the company that produced the long-popular radio show “American Top 40,” hosted by the late Casey Kasem.

Kasem’s daughter Kerri posted a short tribute on her Twitter account Tuesday. “Some sad news Watermark co-founder and AT40 producer #RonJacobs has died. A member of the founding 5 who started “American Top 40.”

Jacobs is being hailed by many in broadcasting via social media for his pioneering work in the radio industry in the 1950s and beyond. He also was known as an ardent Los Angeles Rams supporter.

Information on services is not yet available.

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  • Ron Jacobs was ahead of his time. I remember listening to his broadcasts on KPOI radio and he was very entertaining. Anyone recall his 1958 Pontiac Bonneville? Rock and roll was in its heyday.

  • Farewell whodaguy,you will be fondly missed…..loved your show growing up listening to you and the rest of the POI boys…..thanks for the memories……

  • I used to listen to classical music until Ron turned me on to rock’n’roll. Fifty years later I’m still playing in a band. Thanks Ron!

    That said, I wonder whatever happened to Alan “Freakout” Allnight? His show was truly pupule!

  • *sigh*, another significant local personality to leave us in as many days. I remember listening to ‘Whodaguy’ on KPOI and KKUA with my transistor radios. Ron Jacobs, you made Hawaii a better place and you’ll be missed.

  • From the comments thus far he was the rock roll guru in Hawaii. Left the islands in 1951 and aside ftom periodic trips back home missed out on his contributions to the islanders. RIP.

    • Oh but you did get to enjoy his contributions to rock n roll radio nationwide.

      He and fellow Poi Boy alum Tom Rounds did the History of Rock Radio album series and then American Top 40 with Kasey Kasum.

      When he came back home in the 70s, he created the whodaguy persona that took his Poi Boy inventiveness to a new level.

      In my memory, it wasn’t the Brown Bags thing he started as mentioned above but Homegrown.

      His Friday show featuring local artists like Gabby and Melveen Leed and Rap Replinger were beautiful productions even though he just opened the mike and let it roll.

      And, even though he was the show, he always made like his sidekicks Keala Kai and Charley Espina were his partners.

      Thanks to Ron Jacobs (and Tom Moffat and such);
      you all are the reason a transistor radio is still stuck to my ear.

      God bless.

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